Driving through Death Valley- advice needed

Old Jan 15th, 2008, 12:45 AM
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Driving through Death Valley- advice needed

Is 4WD a must for driving through Death Valley? We are not interested in off-roading as such but might(?) try the Titus Canyon road. Is an intermediate SUV good enough for the job?
Thanks
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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 02:53 AM
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While I have no idea, another thing to keep in mind - are you talking about a rental car? Most contracts have all sorts of prohibitions to driving off-road.
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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 06:10 AM
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A 4wd is absolutely not a necessity for visiting Death Valley. There's a very good road right through the park. I can't tell you about the Titus Canyon road, though. But most rental companies prohibit off-road driving even in SUVs, so if you have an accident or damage you're stuck with a very large bill.
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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 06:43 AM
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More important than 4wd is high clearance. I've been through Titus Canyon in a regular car and it is "doable" but not recommended. But as already mentioned - you'd need to double check w/ the car rental agency that you would be covered.

It is a dirt road and it does close semi-frequently because of rocks/flash flooding etc.
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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 08:38 AM
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I think rental car companies prohibit driving off pavement, which is not quite the same as going off-road. You may want to clarify with your company what their policy actually states. Titus Canyon is not off-roading per se, but is definitely off pavement, so they may prohibit driving on it (or in reality, just not cover any damages incurred while driving it). However, I'm pretty sure that there are large numbers of people who get away with driving a rental vehicle on a dirt road every day, so I would recommend checking road conditions with a ranger when you get there, and if it's in decent shape you should be fine.
 
Old Jan 15th, 2008, 09:06 AM
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There are lots of places to see without needing to go off road.

Titus Canyon was pretty intense, especially when you consider that a tow will cost about $500.
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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 12:38 PM
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You do not need a 4 wheel drive or even a high clearance vehicle for that matter in Death Valley. If you plan on seeing Titus Canyon or Race Track a 4 wheel drive/high clearance is a must. Driving Titus Canyon is similar to riding a mule down the Grand Canyon. It is ONE HECK OF A DRIVE, VERY SCARY. Yes, I did it in a rental car, and that was risky. You probably will not see another car if you do it early or late in the day. The first 4 miles are just on a dirt road. The next 10 miles are the really wild, bumpy, on the edge of nothing with 1000 foot drops. Another car will not be able to even thing about passing. The last 5 miles or so is just in a slot canyon. The slot canyon is not scary, but is really cool. Would I do it again. ABSOLUTELY. The problem with Racetrack area is that the rocks are extremely sharp. You really need a good offroad tire. The Chief Park Ranger had 2 spare tires and had to be towed out in his new 4 wheel drive truck the week before we were there one of the rangers told us. But for seeing the majority of the sites a regular car will do just fine. 20 Mule Team Borax Canyon is mild, and you could do it in a regular car. It is a dirt road. Death Valley is just a wonderfully wierd place to visit.
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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 10:07 PM
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Titus Canyon is always on our MUST-DO list! We have been to Death Valley at least 30 times and never miss it (unless the road is closed). My husband always has me do the driving as he loves to hang his head out the window. There are a couple of tight turns in the first climb, but it is easily done if you drive them slowly. You DO NOT need 4-wheel drive. We have driven this in a variety of vehicles, some with high clearance, some without. You should be fine with your interm. SUV. If in doubt, just question the rangers at the Visitor Center. They are always aware of current road and weather conditions.

We drove to Devil's Racetrack years ago in an old Datsun and were fine driving slowly and moving an occasional rock out of the way. However, my husband was there last Spring and said that he would not have been able to do that road without a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Flash flooding can change the roads, so it is always good to check with the ranger.
So much is accessible with a regular car or at most high-clearance that I'm sure you will
have more to see than you have time for.
Have a great adventure!
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Old Jan 17th, 2008, 01:27 AM
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The rental company in San Francisco is offering us a Chevrolet Equinox for around $550 for 2 weeks.It doesn't include off roading. Is Titus Canyon Road worth the risk? My hubby is keen but I have my doubts now.
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Old Jan 17th, 2008, 08:34 AM
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Have you tried looking on the Death Valley website at road conditions?
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Old Jan 17th, 2008, 08:17 PM
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I am telling you a high clearance vehicle is a must for Titus Canyon. I drove it 2 weeks ago. You will drag bottom in anything that is low to the ground. I would even feel better in a 4 wheel drive, this way at least it has mud and snow tires and is somewhat less likely to have a flat. It isn't offroad in the sense that you are going to get stuck in mud or sand, but OH MY. It is one heck of a drive. It is comparable to bungee jumping or riding down the Grand Canyon on a mule. I would for sure do it if I were you. I just want to make sure you know what you are getting yourself into. Once you start there is no turning back. You will not be able to turn around. I think it is worth the risk. You will most likely have no problem, but be aware that it is a possibilty and you could be stuck there a long long expensive time if you do encounter a problem. I think and intermediate SUV would work just fine. I think almost all cars would not. Conditions do change on the dirt roads in Death Valley. You might try 20 Borax Canyon first. It is very mild compared to Titus. On a scale of 10 Borax would be a 2 and Titus would be an 8 or 9 for the thrill factor. If you do it, I certainly want to hear about what you think of it.
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