Ubehebe Peak & The Grandstand at the Death Valley Racetrack

  • Updated: November 20, 2016
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

November 20st, 2016
The Grandstand (3,760')
Ubehebe Peak (5,678')

We'd come across Hunter Mountain Road from Saline Valley the day before stopping at a few cabins and mines along the way but today was the main attraction with two easy peaks in a really spectacular area.

The Racetrack Playa in Death Valley is located a fair distance away from Furnace Creek and the main Death Valley attractions.  The road to get out there loops north of Tin Mountain and is rather notorious for how bad it is.  The park recommends a 4WD which is a little silly since it's really just the washboarding but it's pretty extreme levels of washboarding.  As long as you go slow and don't mind the occasional piece popping off your vehicle there's no reason to rent one of the expensive Jeep available.  We of course were in the Party Jeep and it was still painful since I was rather attached to all those little bits.

There's no camping anywhere near the Racetrack which was a problem for us dirty car camping types.  You have to be almost back to Teakettle Junction before camping is even allowed and even then there are no good turnouts.  (See my slightly miserable trip to Tin and Dry a few years back.)  The best solution we came up with this time was to stay over in Hidden Valley near the Lost Burro Mine.

Teakettle Junction

We stayed at one of many pullout campsites on the road in the middle heading to the northeast

Looking back down towards Lost Burro from near where we camped

The road leading northeast from the junction to Lost Burro was easily passable and had numerous pullouts with campsites and even firepits though you're not supposed to use those here since it's in the park.  You could also stay at Lost Burro I suppose but you're more likely to get company.

The Racetrack

The Racetrack is one of the main attractions in Death Valley most well known for the rocks which move across the giant dry lake bed when ice forms.  It's been in the news several times recently due to people damaging the lakebed and defacing the rocks which is a real shame.

Note the pole knocked down says no dogs.  In even the short time we were there a guy with two dogs wandered in.  Because rules are for other people obviously

I'd been in this general area and seen the Racetrack from a distance but this was my first time actually going out on it and I was surprised how impressive it was.  It's almost 3 miles from tip to tip and the sense of scale is hard to describe when you're in the middle of it.

Most of the sailing rocks were on the southern tip but we managed to find a few to amuse ourselves.

There was also this interesting formation which had the only vegetation we saw out there.  My guess is it's the lowest point where the water flows when it rains or ice melts.

The transition area and the current background of my phone
We wandered around playing tourist for a bit before returning to the mound of rocks that sticks up out of the playa named The Grandstand.

The Grandstand

The Grandstand is a pile of rocks sticking out not far from the northern parking area.  Some places list the route up to the highpoint as 5.2 and you can find pictures of people roping up online but we decided to just poke around and see what we thought.

This is the interesting bit.  There are foot placements and handholds though it's not the sort of thing you'd really want to fall off of since you'd go down at least another 20 feet or so off the side.  I went up first and then down climbed to take pictures while Kristen went up.

Downclimbing was a little more interesting than going up but it felt solid to us.

Looking down the crux of The Grandstand

Grandstand on the left, Ubehebe Peak on the right

It was getting a lot busier now and we had another peak before we had to start driving home.

Ubehebe Peak

Ubehebe Peak is west of the Racetrack and a relatively modest 5 miles and 2500 ft.  Summitpost described it as 3rd class but there's a pretty clear use trail the entire way and if you stick to that it's pretty much easy 2nd class as best.

We didn't start until after lunch since we were playing around on the Racetrack.

The trail apparently dates back to when there were copper mines on the peak.

Once on the ridge it gets a little less clear and we deviated from the ducked trail a few times.

It always ended up being easy fun 3rd though.

The summit had nice views of the entire racetrack and the storms sweeping around us made for things rather photogenic.

At the summit we had rain coming down in pretty much every direction but we weren't getting wet.

We debated going back out over Hunter Mountain Road but as it was raining we elected to go the long way out via Stovepipe.  The road to Ubehebe Crater feels like an eternity.  And once again my Death Valley weather luck came into play and it was raining on us.  At first just a few drops but it wasn't an insignificant amount by the time we reached Stovepipe Wells.

We stopped for gas and decided to eat at Tollroad Restaurant which was...food.  The ice tea was some bizarre abomination of a beverage but our hamburgers were decent.  It was open, we were hungry, and it wasn't like we were going to get back to civilization in time for anything else.  It was decorated rather nice.

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