Racetrack Playa

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley, home to the hottest, driest and lowest spot in North America, is home to "The Racetrack," a dry lakebed known for its mysterious sliding rocks. Although no one has actually seen the rocks move, the long meandering tracks left behind in the mud surface of the playa attest to their activity.

Erosional forces cause rocks from the surrounding mountains to tumble to the surface of The Racetrack. Once on the floor of Racetrack Playa, the rocks move across the level surface, leaving trails as records of their movements. Some of the moving rocks are large and have traveled as far as 1,500 feet. Throughout the years many have tried to explain the mystery of these rock movements. One research project suggests that a rare combination of rain and wind conditions enable the rocks to move. A rain of about half an inch will wet the surface of the playa, providing a firm but extremely slippery surface. Strong winds of 50 mph or more may skid the large boulders along the slick mud.

The trails left by the restless stones can last for up to seven years before a rainstorm washes the tracks away.

GPS:

N36° 40.878', W117° 33.762'

Getting There:

The road to Racetrack Valley begins near Ubehebe Crater, just beyond the Scotty’s Castle Visitor Center and Museum. From Ubehebe Crater, take the unpaved Racetrack Road 28 miles to Racetrack Valley. To see the moving rocks, drive two miles south of the Grandstand parking area. Walk at least a half mile toward the southeast corner of the playa for the best views of rocks and their tracks.

Road Conditions:

The road is often rough; a high clearance vehicle is recommended. Off-road driving is prohibited.

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