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I will be driving through death Valley the last week of July.

I will be leaving Ridgecrest, CA at 4-5am, stopping for a few pictures at the most easily accessible spots, and then carrying on to Las Vegas.

Google Maps gives me two comparable routes. One stays on highway 190 all the way through death valley, through Beatty junction. The other takes Daylight pass.

I understand it is very hot this time of the year and want to consider safety in the event of a breakdown (even though my car is in fine working order).

  1. Which route is the road more travelled?

  2. Is there considerable elevation change in either route? It seems like this may be the case for Daylight Pass road. The more up and down, the harder I suspect my engine would work.

Also I would ask which road is more scenic, but apparently there is no room for opinions on this site.

Thanks for any advice!

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Highway 190 is probably more interesting and gets more action for sure, but both have enough traffic to not worry. You would be hard pressed to catch five minutes without a car.

The temperature is really not that much a problem for today's cars. What you should be concerned about is leaving the car and walking around too much. You won't sweat (it seems), but even after half an hour you will be dehydrated without being aware. So don't go hiking unless you have lots and lots and lots of water; if you just hop in and out, still make sure to bring something to drink (and use it).

Edit: both roads go from below 0 elevation to over 4000 feet, but neither is very steep. Highway 190 is only gaining height slowly, you might not realize it much even. But as I said above, your car is really not a thing to worry about.

[I did a nine mile hike there just last week, at 112 F. It's all about drinking enough.]

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    I would carry plenty of water down there even if I wasn't planning on any hiking. If you have a breakdown or an accident you want water while you're waiting for help. – Loren Pechtel Jun 27 '16 at 22:57
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I drove through Death Valley in August some years ago (1996!) in a modern (for the time) rental car. We had no problems although we did see some other cars that had broken down.

If you like desert scenery I would strongly recommend that you make the journey via Death Valley, even detouring to see Dantes View. We did this and it was well worth seeing.

While you're in the area and if you can make the time I would also strongly recommend checking out Badwater.

  • Just to confirm, you are advocating route 190 over Daylight pass? – ScottF Jun 28 '16 at 17:52
  • Having only driven the one route (and almost 20 years ago!) I cannot recommend one over the other. All I can say is that we were very glad to have made the detour via Dantes View. – Richard Everett Jun 28 '16 at 19:01

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