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Racetrack Playa - Death Valley National Park

Summary: A unique geological area in the northern part of the park with a 2 x 3 mile playa (mud flat) and racing rocks. Not to take away the mystery, but the most widely held theory about why the rocks move is that during rain, heavy fog or dew, a slick, mud surface forms on the surface of the playa which allows the rocks to slide around during heavy winds. Other theories include that the rocks are alive or something about little gnomes playing shuffleboard. Some of the racing rocks are as heavy as 700 lbs and have been tracked as moving as far as 790 meters (2600 feet).
Directions: From Scotty's Castle, drive south towards the park. Turn right at the signed intersection just outside the Park's entrance and drive 5 miles to the signed road for the Racetrack near Ubehebe Crater. Drive 26 miles (stay right at Teakettle Junction) to the Racetrack.
Road Conditions: High Clearance Vehicle
Note: If driving this route in the summer, make sure you have a reliable vehicle, good tires and are carrying plenty of water. This would not be a good place for your car to break down.
Navigation: Easy
Length: A couple hours to all day
Date Hiked: November 2004
Weather Conditions: Cloudy, cold and extremely windy
Required Skills: None
Hike Description: If the playa is dry you can hike all over it. If it's wet, don't ruin it for everyone else and track your muddy footprints all over the place. You'll see evidence of others who weren't so considerate.
Two good hikes:
1) From the Grandstand sign post, walk out and around it.
2) From the parking lot on the south end of the Racetrack hike to the southeast corner of the playa where you'll find the greatest concentration of moving rocks.
Rating (1-5 stars):
The author and his wife hiked out and around the Grandstand, then did a little hiking in the central and southern section of the Racetrack. The southeastern portion was wet, so we didn't get to see the best area for moving rocks.
Maps: Trails Illustrated - Death Valley National Park
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.

The Grandstand. Mudflats extending into the distance.
Interesting pool. Racing rocks.