Death Valley 2016 -(Day 3) The Racetrack, Lost Burro Mine and Hunter Mountain

Homestake Camp
Homestake Camp

Our camp was so enjoyable at Homestake that the idea of getting an early start quickly turned into enjoying the morning view. We Hiked to the top of the ridge west of our camp where we were able to overlook the Saline Valley and Lippincott Road where we had come from the previous day.

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View over the Saline Valley
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Homestake Camp from above

Soon we were on our way to the Racetrack to see those famous “moving” rocks. It turns out no one really ever sees them move but they leave their tracks in the playa to prove that they did. The Racetrack was about a mile from camp down the tooth jarring, washboard covered, Racetrack Road.

Racetrack Playa
The Racetrack
Racetrack Playa
Racetrack Playa

The playa is like concrete when dry and forms rough hexagons as it bakes in the heat of the sun. In the winter it becomes wet and slippery. In fact, when the correct confluence of water, ice, and the wind conspire the rocks continue along their journey and lengthen their tracks.

Racetrack Playa
Racetrack Playa
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Racetrack Playa
Racetrack Playa
The Grandstand

It was time to move along, we had spent about an hour on the playa, taken some photos, made a sketch or two and in the end agreed that the trip to this remote place was well worth it. But we had the goal of getting Lone Pine and finding a campsite in the Alabama Hills. Teakettle Junction about 6 miles from the Grandstand parking lot would be our next stop.

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Teakettle Junction

This unique landmark lies at the junction of Racetrack Road and Hidden Valley Road. Our lunch stop would be at the Lost Burro Mine about 3 miles from the junction and then about 1 mile along the mine road to the mine itself. Hidden Valley Road is a much better road than the Racetrack Road which covered with its infamous washboards.

Teakettle Junction
Teakettle Junction

We needed 4 wheel drive to traverse some sections of the washed out areas of Lost Burro Mine Road. Low ground clearance vehicles would have difficulty with this road.

Lost Burro Mine
Lost Burro Mine – Remaining
Lost Burro Mine
Lost Burro Mine – Main Cabin Interior
Lost Burro Mine
Lost Burro Mine – Mill Structure
Lost Burro Mine
Lost Burro Mine – Inground cabin
Lost Burro Mine
Lost Burro Mine
Lost Burro Mine
Lost Burro Mine

There is a view from the small ridge to the south of the mine down into Hidden Valley.  From there we could see where we headed after Lunch. After exploring the mine area a little more and eating lunch, we headed back to Hidden Valley road toward Hunter Mountain Road.

Lost Burro Mine
Lost Burro Mine – View down to Hidden Valley Road

Hidden Valley Road is a well graded easy road to travel with some areas of sand and few spots with minor washboards. The drive is fast down this broad valley with views of the Cottonwood Mountains to east and Hunter Mountain straight ahead to the south. Once you make a little climb into Ulida Flat in about a 1 mile, you will get to a junction and go straight continuing south. At the next junction, bear right to Hunter Mountain or go left for a short (1 mile) and scenic trip to Goldbelt Spring.

Hunter Mountain Goldbelt Spring
Hunter Mountain Goldbelt Spring

After visiting Goldbelt Spring, we backtracked to Hunter Mountain Road and began our ascent of Hunter Mountain. This very scenic road that climbs quickly from about 5000 feet in elevation to over 7000 feet. Once you reach this elevation the road traverses through Pinion Pine covered mountaintop.

Hunter Mountain
Hunter Mountain Road
Hunter Mountain
Hunter Mountain Road
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Hunter Mountain Road

Frequently the view opens up to valleys below offering dramatic vistas into the vastness that is Death Valley National Park.

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Hunter Mountain Road – Panamint Valley Overlook
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Hunter Mountain Road

After descending from Hunter Mountain, you will arrive at the junction where to the right Saline Valley road drops into Grapevine Canyon back the Saline Valley.

Saline Valley Road
Saline Valley Road

We headed straight and continued south along the Saline Valley Road descending into Lee Flat where the Pinion Pines are replaced by Joshua Trees.

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Soon we were leaving Death Valley and on our way to Lone Pine and our camping spot in the Alabama Hills.

Death Valley National Park is an expansive place and offers many opportunities for remote camping. Extra fuel and water are a necessity. The roads can be very unforgiving, and there is no cell reception in the park so you must be able to self-rescue if required.

For more information on how to safely explore this beautiful park visit the Death Valley National Park website.

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