Death Valley – Ibex Dunes and Saratoga Springs


What? : Probably the most beautiful sweetwater marsh areas in Death Valley National Park and a nearby secluded sand dune area.


Where? : Saratoga Springs is located in the most southeast corner of Death Valley National Park. It esest access is not from the park itself but rather a short drive from highway 127 (not so far from Dumont Dunes OHV Area).

Google Map Link


When? : The recommended time to visit here is late fall, winter and early spring, summer is just too hot.


Due note 1: Always have enough water with you !


Due note 2: The road from the nearby highway 127 to the spring is usually in good dirt road condition and can be done with any class of vehicle. After winter can create a damage to the road or even have streams of water to cross so you will need high clearance 4x4 vehicle.


Due note 3: Do not take lightly any off-road driving in this environment, for most places there is no cellular reception.


Due note 4: This is third largest marsh habitat in the Death Valley National Park, Saline Valley marsh and Cottonball Marsh are much larger but do have salty water, here the water are fresh.


Due note 5: There is very little shade anywhere in Death Valley so use Sunscreen even in winter months.


Due note 6: when visiting or hiking at the Death Valley use several layers as clothing. You can start your day with cold temperatures during early morning sunrise to a very hot midday (even at fall, winter, and spring). At the afternoon it can warm but at sunset temperature plumage and it can be near freezing.


Due note 7: Pets are not allowed on any trail in Death Valley National Park, even if carried. Do not leave your animal in your vehicle. You may walk your pet on dirt roads.


My thoughts: I visit here are early winter morning, it was so quiet out here… Large, sweet water ponds are probably the last thing you expect to see at the hottest place on earth.


The visit:

The large ponds at Saratoga Springs are fed by several underground springs that creates the Saratoga ponds, 6.6 acres in size.

The pond is located near the mountain side, hidden from the main valley opening.


The drive:

From highway 127:

The easiest access is from California Highway 127. This dirt road is located 29 miles north from Baker or 26 miles south of Shoshone.

From this point, the route follows a well-marked and maintained dirt roads, Saratoga Springs Road. When I visit here (winter 2022) there was no need for high-clearance vehicle.

From highway 127 drive east 5.8 miles until you will see a clear marked rod on your right.

The one that are driving the opposite direction, see below, will reach this spot.

Turn right and start to drive north, soon you will pass a sign stating you are entering the Death Valley NP.

Overall, from the junction you need to drive additional 2.8 miles until you will reach a road junction. Turn left. If you will turn right (straight) you will reach near the sand dunes.

Additional short drive of 1.4 miles and you will reach the end of the road.

From Death Valley main Badwater road:

This drive can be done only with high clearance 4x4 car.

Although overall the road is in good condition, it is long, going into remote desert locations of the park, sand can cover the road and when I visit here (March 2022), I had to cross one running water river bad.

Start your drive at Badwater road when it turns into Jubilee Pass Road, here you clearly see the dirt road. drive on this road 26 miles, keep left in any fork until you will see the turn left into Saratoga Springs Road, keep driving as explained above.


From the end of the road parking, you will not see the ponds, but you will start to see the dry vegetation supported by the underground water.

A short hike over the hill and you will see the ponds area from the other side.

Few large open ponds surrounded by a lot of vegetation.

This oasis in the desert support migrating birds and even its own unique species of pupfish that is found only here and nowhere else in the world.

Overall, I did not spend here a lot of time, mainly admire the source of clean water in this area. There weren’t many birds. I also did not want to get close to the ponds themselves because I did not want to hurt the fragile vegetation.


Saratoga Springs has a long history of human occupation.  Archeologists have uncovered evidence of prehistoric human existence here, this place was used by local Native Americans, as well as western travelers, all knew Saratoga Springs as a source of year-round water in this dry desert environment.



Ibex Dunes:

Ibex Dunes are not visible from the paved road and are nested by rocky desert hills.

The dunes are located not so far from Saratoga Springs.

When approaching the springs and you turn left to the spring, turn right, and drive additional mile to the duns nearest location.

Park your car on the side of the road and hike to the dunes, you will probably be the only one over there …

I did not had time to hike to the dunes, so I took some pictures from the road and went to see the Saratoga Springs.