Yosemite and Death Valley National Park - Things to know

13 days | 599.92mi | Riding time: 60h 59min | 15739kcal | 38173 vertical feet yosemite-national-park-death-valley-description-road-conditions

To get out of the populated areas in the Bay Area and further to our next destination, the Yosemite National Park, we took the train to Modesto to skip all busy roads. This was a very smart decision and therefore we made it to the Yosemite in two days. At this time of the year, the road over Tioga Pass usually closes and was temporarily closed at the time, when we got there. The Park recently had a bad snowstorm and therefore the road reaches a height of 9945 feet. We decided to wait a few days for the road to open up again and discovered the nice area in this Park by bike. The pass road opened just in time on the next day and we started a long ride up. Against the information of the Park Ranger in the visitor information, we could not make it over this mountain pass in one day (vertical elevation-climb ~8000 ft. and ~60mi total) and camped at 8000ft near a very nice lake. Not knowing, this will be the coldest night and the coldest start in the morning on our entire trip. Temperatures in low 20ies made us stop several times during the ride in the morning, where we made some improvisations: Caro put on the sleeping-bag covers around the shoes and Mathias wore the silk inlets around the head and the handle bar from that on. We just didn’t have all the gear for these cold days. Fortunately the sun came out and we made it to the top and further down on the other side.yosemite-national-park-death-valley-description-road-conditions-2Mayor landscape changes after the pass: From trees and grass to bushes and sand within miles. Just after the pass, the desert was there and stayed until Phoenix… It was very dry and nothing but bushes grew from now on. We made it into Death Valley in three days from there and were prepared with a water bag and extra bottles to make it through there. But we soon had to realize, there are resorts, showers and even a swimming pool directly in the valley. A little up the hill there’s even a fancy hotel with palms and maximum luxury. The water problem a few years ago somehow disappeared and there are now plenty of tourists in this Valley. To our surprise the valley itself is also not really death, there are bushes and cacti growing all over the place and there’s even a small lake in the middle of the valley called „Bad Water“. This is not a fata morgana, but a high concentrated slat-lake. You can walk directly over the salty ground, where the salt is baked into the dirt and made the ground extremely stiff. After the nice rock formation, which can be found around the area at Zabriskies Point in Death Valley the road continued through unpopulated desert. After two days of riding we finally reached Las Vegas and stayed in the pyramid of the Luxor Hotel. The landscape in Vegas compared to the desert it was built into is an incredible contrast. The road goes just straight for a long while and then suddenly behind some mountains Las Vegas appears. yosemite-national-park-death-valley-description-road-conditions
Riding through Death Valley, facts:

Water: Bring plenty, we had only a bit over one gallon per person and this was just enough to make it from resort to resort. Also remember we were there in November, when it was cooler. Unlike expected, we found resorts along the entire valley and even a hotel with a large pool. This said, there’s no water problem in the valley itself, but for you as a bicycle rider this means, you need water between the supports / resorts / campgrounds. You will have two major hills crossing the valley with 3000 vertical feet climb each where you won’t find any source of water, so be prepared.

yosemite-national-park-death-valley-description-road-conditions Animals: At the campgrounds in Death Valley and basically through the entire desert Coyotes are an issue. These animals are as skinny as you know them from the cartoon, are too small to harm a human, but they will go after your food. Food must always be packed outside your tent and stored safe. We tied our backpack with the food (aka „bear-rucksack“) with some bungee-cords tight around the bicycle. When going further south be prepared to see some Javelina Pigs going after you food. To keep uninvited guests like scorpions and tarantulas out of your tent, keep it closed at all times. Especially scorpions are known to hide in shoes (where they find it warm). We only saw many tarantulas, because it was their bating season.

yosemite-national-park-death-valley-description-road-conditions Food: You will be able to buy food at the Furnace Creek Resort, but be prepared for some incredible prices. We paid fort two bags around $50 and just bought basic items. The next time when you will find a supermarket again will be in Pahrump 70miles away.

yosemite-national-park-death-valley-description-road-conditions Landscape: Is just amazing, even there’s not much in Death Valley, the rock-formations at Zabriskies Point, the Bad-Water salt lake in the valley or the sand dunes are all worth a small hike. There is also the lowest point in the US, which is nearly -300ft and the way to this point is a 3000ft downhill. Due to the very clean air, distances seem closer in Death Valley, therefore you might think everything is closer, then in reality. This is kinda funny, if you brought enough water of course :-)

yosemite-national-park-death-valley-description-road-conditions Temperature: Death Valley has its name from the extreme temperatures in the summer. Automobile companies drive their new vehicles there to validate the engine cooling in this region. Signs warn you to turn of your AC, while driving through the valley to prevent overheating and there were some temperatures above 200°F measured on the sand surface on a hot day. These are the extremes in the summer time and make the Winter the preferable time for you visit in Death Valley. We had low 80ies during the day and high 40ies during the night, which was perfect for biking.