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Racetrack Playa

The answer to a mystery that has puzzled scientists for decades lies in this dry lakebed, which is speckled with rocks that seem to move by themselves.

Racetrack Playa is a remarkable dry lakebed in the heart of a remote valley. The area is renowned for its rugged beauty and eerie landscapes, hemmed in by the Cottonwood and Last Chance mountain ranges. Drive around the awe-inspiring Racetrack Valley to reach the lakebed and discover formations, such as the Grandstand. Despite its immense size, the Racetrack Playa is extremely flat, which has allowed some spooky phenomena to occur. Explore the lakebed to solve the mystery of the “sailing stones.”

The journey to Racetrack Playa is almost as spectacular as the destination itself. You’ll pass broad desert plains, rugged ridges and distant mountains. Watch for peculiar spiky Joshua trees as you travel. Arriving at the northern end of Racetrack Playa, you’ll see the mesmerizing expanse of the dry lakebed coming into view. At least 10,000 years ago, the lake that was once here evaporated and left behind thick beige-colored mud. Look out across the dry lakebed, which is 2.8 miles (4.5 kilometers) long and 1.3 miles (2.1 kilometers) wide.

Spot the monumental Grandstand northwest of the lakebed. This bedrock outcrop is comprised of quartz monzonite, which contrasts starkly with the playa. Walk out to the outcrop for stunning views of the Racetrack. For more strenuous exercise, take on the 6-mile (10-kilometer) round-trip hike to Ubehebe Peak along the old miners’ trail.

Continue south to reach the most mysterious section of the playa. Near the southeast corner, rocks have fallen from the surrounding mountains. These stones have left tracks behind them as they move across the surface of the flat lakebed. This phenomenon bewildered visitors until 2014, when a paleobiologist and an engineer reported their observations. Special climatic conditions involving thin ice sheets and light wind push the rocks across the surface of the mud.

Racetrack Playa is a very remote area of Death Valley National Park. It is at least a 3.5-hour drive each way from Furnace Creek. You’ll need a four-wheel drive with high clearance, as well as emergency supplies. There is a fee to access the national park.


Guide to Exploring around Racetrack Playa


Map

Best Lodging Options Near Racetrack Playa

See all 8 Properties near Racetrack Playa
Panamint Springs Resort $35
Panamint Springs Resort

Panamint Springs Resort

40440 Highway 190, Panamint Springs, CA
     
    2.5 out of 5.0 Stars

    Situated in a national park, this motel is within a 5-minute walk of Death Valley National Park and Panamint Dunes. Darwin Falls is 4.1 mi (6.6 km) away.

    Trails Motel $59
    Trails Motel

    Trails Motel

    633 S. Main St, Lone Pine, CA
       
      2.0 out of 5.0 Stars

      Situated in Lone Pine, this motel is within 2 mi (3 km) of Lone Pine Film History Museum, Eastern Sierra InterAgency Visitor Center, and Mt. Whitney Golf Club. Diaz Lake Recreation Area is 3 mi (4.8 km) away.

      3Br 2Ba Ultra Basecamp
      3Br 2Ba Ultra Basecamp

      3Br 2Ba Ultra Basecamp

      225 N Mt Whitney Dr, Lone Pine, CA
         
        0.0 out of 5.0 Stars

        Situated in Lone Pine, this guesthouse is 0.6 mi (1 km) from Lone Pine Film History Museum and within 3 mi (5 km) of Eastern Sierra InterAgency Visitor Center and Mt. Whitney Golf Club. Diaz Lake Recreation Area and Alabama Hills are also within 6 mi (10 km).

        Book 5 Nights and get 2 Additional Free Nights !!
        Book 5 Nights and get 2 Additional Free Nights !!

        Book 5 Nights and get 2 Additional Free Nights !!

        Lone Pine, CA
           
          0.0 out of 5.0 Stars

          Situated in Lone Pine, this cottage is 0.5 mi (0.8 km) from Lone Pine Film History Museum and within 3 mi (5 km) of Eastern Sierra InterAgency Visitor Center and Mt. Whitney Golf Club. Diaz Lake Recreation Area and Alabama Hills are also within 6 mi (10 km).

          Lone Pine 4 Acre Home Nested in the Beautiful Alabama Hills Near Mount Whitney
          Lone Pine 4 Acre Home Nested in the Beautiful Alabama Hills Near Mount Whitney

          Lone Pine 4 Acre Home Nested in the Beautiful Alabama Hills Near Mount Whitney

          Lone Pine, CA
             
            0.0 out of 5.0 Stars

            Situated in Lone Pine, this romantic vacation home is within 9 mi (15 km) of Alabama Hills, Diaz Lake Recreation Area, and Lone Pine Film History Museum. Mt. Whitney Golf Club and Eastern Sierra InterAgency Visitor Center are also within 9 mi (15 km).

            Alabama Hills Mount Whitney Retreat
            Alabama Hills Mount Whitney Retreat

            Alabama Hills Mount Whitney Retreat

            Lone Pine, CA
               
              0.0 out of 5.0 Stars

              Situated in Lone Pine, this historic vacation home is within 6 mi (10 km) of Alabama Hills, Lone Pine Film History Museum, and Diaz Lake Recreation Area. Mt. Whitney Golf Club and Eastern Sierra InterAgency Visitor Center are also within 9 mi (15 km).