Scenic Drive along 20 Mule Team Canyon Road

Scenic Drive along 20 Mule Team Canyon Road


Location: Death Valley National Park, CA
Length: 2,8 miles
GPS Coordinates: N 36 24.570  W 116 47.680
Contact Information: Death Valley National Park
P.O. Box 579
Death Valley, CA 92328


One of the best-known “historic symbols” of Death Valley is the Twenty Mule Teams. Such “teams” were comprised of 18 mules and 2 horses, pulling huge wagons filled with borax, bringing it from mines located in Furnace Creek area to the railhead which was at that time near Mojave. That was an exhausting trip which lasted for 10 days, during which the “teams” had to pass 165 miles along the primitive roads.

Approximately a mile in the southeastern direction from Zabriskie Point and a little bit more than 5 miles along Hwy 190 from Furnace Creek, a scenic road is located with the name Twenty Mule Team Canyon Road. It starts just off the Hwy 190, and coming from the side of Zabriskie Point, you will see the sign indicating this road to your right.
This is a one-way road, which is unpaved and consisting of packed sand, meandering for almost three miles through a beautiful landscapes of the 20 Mule Team Canyon.

What is interesting, this windy road regardless of its name, has never been used by large 20-mule teams, as its width allowed passing for only much smaller “teams”. Being so narrow, the road may accommodate only one car in a row, with almost no space to bypass. That is why it is highly advisable not to stop amidst the road, if you saw a perfect spot for taking a photo, in case if there are cars behind you.

But there are several pull-offs scattered along the road, so that you may stop there and leave your car to explore the fascinating territory and admire the striking scenery of the Death Valley region. It’s all surrounded with very deeply eroded hills which are composed of colorful sediments. Long time ago these territories were the basin of a lake that once extended north-west across what they call now the Central Death Valley. The basin was bounded along its southern shores by volcanoes which slowly eroded taking all the mud and gravel into the lake. It took about 5 million years for this process to continue and because of this the mud of the lake-bottom has been very rich in minerals like borax. If you are attentive during your ride, you may see the old mine-shafts on your way.

The 20 Mule Team Canyon Road comes back to Hwy 190 approximately one mile from the point where you started riding this road off the highway.

Photo: Roman Khomlyak
Photo Editing: Juliana Voitsikhovska
Information: Svetlana Baranova
Pictures taken: 2/26/16

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