Dirt Tracks – Titus Canyon in Death Valley National Park

During the winter of 2020 (before the covid…) we were looking for a place to log some downtime in-between southern ride zones. Scanning the weather apps, maps, and our list of places and routes to hit up, we opted to migrate toward the southern portion of California’s Highway 395 corridor and do a bit of dirt touring. Our planned route was to head west from Rhyolite toward Death Valley via the Titus Canyon Backcountry road.

DVNP Info from start of Titus Canyon Road near Rhyolite NV.

Titus Canyon is a 27 mile one-way (East to West only) maintained dirt road that starts just south of the ghost town of Rhyolite NV. Rhyolite is a gold-rush era ghost town with a few remaining structures and a number of quirky contemporary art installments by German sculptor Albert Szukalski. The history and sculptures make this a great stop before jumping onto Titus Canyon.

Along Titus, there a couple of short side trips or stops along Titus Canyon Road including the ghost town of Leadfield and petroglyphs, but the naked and seemingly endless Mojave Desert landscape is what captivated us on the drive through. It included fast tracks through open desert, up massive alluvial fan features, narrow and exposed canyon roads, expansive views from the summits, and finishes with a bit of “vanyoneering”. Thats right, a slot canyon for the van. Pretty rad. We compiled a bit of video footage of the trip to give you a flavor of the experience below:

Definitely a great backcountry route to get into Death Valley NP. Overall, the Titus Canyon road took us about 4-5 hours in good conditions as the road had been recently maintained. Generally, Titus Canyon would not require anything more than a moderate clearance 2wd with good AT tires, however, due to the volcanic soils, steep grades, and long sections in the drainage-way, it would definitely not be a place we would go during or shortly after a storm.

How do we prepare and what gear is onboard for our overland / backcountry travels?  The DarkStar Van has a Vancompass Terrain Lift, Falken WildPeak AT3W tires, and is equipped with an ARB selectable locking rear differential for spicy backcountry travel. We have an assortment of shackles & attachment points, a recovery strap and vehicle recovery boards, upgraded recovery jack, and an air compressor to re-inflate after lowering tire pressure for off-highway travel.  Check out our Backcountry Travel and Recovery Gear Amazon Ideas List  for other gear to consider throwing in the van.

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