Maps and SUV guidebooks for four-wheel-drive and other backcountry roads (including the popular Cottonwood/Marble canyons, Racetrack, Eureka Dunes, Saratoga Springs, and Warm Springs Canyon) are offered at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. Remember: never travel alone, and be sure to pack plenty of water and snacks. Check www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/backcountryroads.htm for back-road conditions before setting out. Driving off established roads is strictly prohibited in the park.
Butte Valley. A high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle and nerves of steel are required to tackle this 21-mile road in the southwest part of the park. It climbs from 200 feet below sea level to an elevation of 4,700 feet, and the geological formations along the way reveal the development of Death Valley. It also travels through Butte Valley, passing the Warm Springs talc mine, to Geologist's Cabin, a charming and cheery little structure where you can spend the night, if nobody else beats you to it. The cabin, which sits under a cottonwood tree, has a fireplace, table and chairs, and a sink. Farther up the road, Stella's Cabin and Russell Camp are also open for public use. Keep the historic cabins clean, and restock any items that you use. The road is even rougher if you continue over Mengel Pass. Check road conditions before heading out. Trailhead on Warm Spring Canyon Rd., Death Valley, California, 92328.