Death Valley – Striped Butte Valley 4x4 Drive


What? : I drove from Badwater Road to Striped Butte Valley, on my way I stop and visit Warm Springs Camp and at the end of my drive I visit Geologist Cabin. From there I went back to the Death Valley main road.


Where? : Located at the south west section of Death Valley. The 4x4 offroad drive start at Badwater Road 25.5 miles south of Badwater parking and 3.8 miles north of Jubilee Pass Road.

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: This drive is for high clearance 4x4 vehicle, the first section up to Warm Springs Camp is in good condition but as you drive deeper up the trail some sections do need high clearance 4x4 drive.


Due note 2: Do not take lightly any off-road driving in this environment, for most places there is no cellular reception.


Due note 3: Always have enough fuel before heading into the drive !
Although this is easy to navigate with a clear road you always need to plan for more fuel than needed. From off-road driving perspective this is 51 miles drive but you must take into account its remote location in the park, far from any gas station.


Due note 4: As in any other desert area activities, always bring enough water with you. I do not recommend doing such drive at 120-130f in the summertime…


Due note 5: This drive is in remote park section. When I visit here, I saw only few other cars on the road and met only one group of campers in Geologist Cabin.


Due note 6: There is very little shade anywhere in Death Valley so use Sunscreen even in winter months.


Due note 7: At my trip I had to drive from and back to the Death Valley. I do recommend a different way to explore this area. Start your drive at the west entrance to the rote (Manly Peak Wilderness Area). From there drive east using Coyote Canyon Rd (or Goler Wash Rd), pass Mengel Pass and get into Striped Butte Valley and Geologist Cabin.


Due note 8: 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.


My thoughts: my main motivation to visit this section of the par was to see Striped Butte from its south side. I saw a picture of this unique butte and really want to see it. I visit here are early winter morning, it was relatively quiet out here. it was interesting to see the remaining of Warm Springs Camp, the Talk mining activity, and the spring in the middle of the desert. Another interesting aspect is the secluded cabins that are available for travelers as a place to spend the night.


The Drive:


I will describe the 25.5 one way drive all the way from the Badwater road to Striped Buttevally and Geologist's Cabin.


Start your drive at Badwater and West Side dirt road. From here drive west and after 3 miles turn left into Warm Spring Road.

The road will start climbing the hills located to the west of the main valley, you will cross few dry riverbeds until the road will climb and get into Warm Spring Canyon.

After driving 8 miles on Warm Spring Road in the canyon you will start to see all the Talk mining activities, you can stop here in the different locations and explore the diggings and tunnels on both sides of the canyon.

Soon you will see a left fork that will lead you to Warm Spring buildings, park your car and explore this location, interesting to see the houses and the spring in the canyon.

Drive back to the main road and keep driving up the canyon. The road here starts to be more challenging but overall, it is very easy for high clearance car.

5 miles after Warm Spring the road get to an open valley (this is 18.5 from your drive start), from here drive additional 8 miles (taking the left fork) all the way to Geologist's Cabin (total of 25.5. miles).

On your way after passing to the next valley you will see on your right the Striped Butte (it is not impressing view from this direction) and at the far side of the valley at the end of the road you will see the Geologist's Cabin.

Drive all the way to Geologist's Cabin, turn around and admire the butte view.

After enjoining the view give yourself some time to explore the cabins.


Once you finish with your cabin’s exploration (I visit 2 cabins, but I know about at list 3 operational cabins here) you have 2 options to keep with your trip.

1.      Drive all the way back down 25.5 miles to the Death Valley the same road you went up.

2.      Keep driving west on the same road over Mengel Pass and drive down west outside of Death Valley. This will be additional 10 mile drive to the exit of Coyote Canyon, from there it is additional 16.5 miles drive north to Ballarat Ghost Town.


Talc mines:

The talc deposits in Warm Spring Canyon attract miners at the 1900. World War II increased the demand for talc, and the Warm Springs Canyon mines boomed. You can still see the many mining activities and oar leftovers in the main canyon on both sides.

After many ownership changes, the talc mines closed until a Preservation Foundation purchased them and donated them to the National Park Service in 1992.


Warm Spring:

The waters of Warm Spring created an oasis within the vast desert environment. This fresh water source attracted human activity; Panamint Shoshone had their winter camp at the springs. Warm Springs became a home base for miners and prospectors. This mining camp was established in the 1930s by Louise Grantham, who located and mined eleven talc claims here.

They build few large buildings, and they even had a small pool that was filed by the stream flowing out of the spring.

Today a short side road will bring you to the yellow stone houses. You can walk among the buildings and walk up into the creek to the spring source itself.

Interesting to see that the houses are relatively in good conditions, clean and operational as a night shelter.


Death Valley Cabins:

In this area of Death Valley, you can find few old cabins that are still maintained as operational cabins that travelers can use for their night stay.

The Geologist's Cabin, Russel Camp and his cabins are open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.

The stone-built Geologist's Cabin is usually taken first.

Please read warnings posted at the cabins and decide if it is safe for your stay. If you decide to use the cabin for a day or more and park, here use the flag and raise it so other can see this cabin is being occupied.

Although I saw several YouTube videos about the cabins, I was really impressed from the good state the cabins are kept. Clean and in good condition, all windows are intact, fireplace to get you warm at night (bring your woods), kitchen, and books.

Many people visit here, and all are doing their best to keep it as they found them.

I visit only 2 cabins, one, Geologist's Cabin, was already occupied by a group of people staying here for few days, the other cabin was empty.

Near the cabins there are few fresh water sources to maintain the people that live here.


Striped Butte:

The twisted large rock butte rises about 700 above the valley floor out of Butte Valley. Steeply tilted limestone beds of the Permian Anvil Spring Formation. A major fault separates the butte from the mountain ridge behind it, this creates this unique view.


Another interesting story related to this location is known as “The Death Valley Germans”.

This family of four tourists from Germany, 2 adult and 2 kids, went missing in this area in July 1996. After some extensive search, their sedan car was found stack on the trail, but for many years there was no trace of the people. In 2009 a body was discovered in the mountains and later it was identified as the adult male, no one know what happened to the rest of the group.





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