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Old 06-08-2010, 10:57 AM   #1
wbbnm OP
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New Mexico Death Valley DS Loop part 1

This was a dream trip for me. I spent a lot of time last winter planning it. I wanted to include Montezuma Creek, the Maze, Grand Staircase, Toroweep, Arizona Strip, Desert Wildlife Refuge, Death Valley, Mojave, route 66, Flagstaff area. I was able to find a reasonable way to include them all.

Here is Part 1. This the first time I have posted a ride report here so the content and mechanics are likely to be rough. But I got so much great information here I felt obligated to share our big adventure.

Here is the map. Red lines are odd days, blue are even, and cyan and magenta are places we planned to go but didn’t for various reasons – mud, snow, too late.


I invited several people and they invited a few others and we ended up starting out with 13 guys with quite a variety of rides: 2 KLRs, 2 KTM 990s, 2 KTM950s, 3 KTM 690s, 2 KTM 640, BMW FS 800 and a KTM 250.. I was kind of apprehensive about travelling with such a large group, but it worked out well because everybody nearly always had somebody to ride with be it easy or hard.

We decided to do this the last half of April to avoid as much snow as possible and not get too hot in the desert. It might have better weather-wise to have done this trip in October, but I couldn’t bear to wait that long.

The GPS track files can be found at:

There are lots more pictures at:

One group of 7 left from Albuquerqe and the rest left from Los Alamos. It rained all night the night before we left so we decided to stay on pavement to nearly Counselor our first gas stop. In this pic Cabezon Peak is obscured by the clouds.

The two groups met up here amazingly at the same time.

We started up Largo Canyon right next to the trading post, but it was very muddy. All but two of us turned back and took the hiway to Farmington via Navajo Lake.

We spent the night in Farmington.

On the second day one group left at 7:30 and one at 8:30 which made for a nice split. We took the Glade road out of Farmington and had to deal with a couple of gates.

Next we crossed into Colorado and went up Cherry Creek canyon.

Had lunch in Cortez and then headed west to Utah via McElmo Canyon road which turned out to be paved over to near the town of Montezuma Creek. Then got on Montezuma Creek Canyon road which started out paved but turned to dirt.

We caught up with the first group here mainly because we ran into lots of first group guys riding backwards on the Montezuma creek road. They had come to a bad river crossing and didn’t want to try it.

Wechecked the map and saw a way we could skip the crossing and get back in the canyon. Had a fantastic ride thru northern part of the canyon. There were a few major ranches along the way. We saw one house built into the side of the sandstone cliff with fancy front door and windows stretching for about 100 feet of the cliff.

Happy hour in Blanding

Next day again there was an early group and a later one.

The main goal was to get to the Maze Overlook in Canyonlands National Park - probably the high point of the whole trip for me. We expected a very long day with lots of turnback risks due to impassible roads.

We picked up Elk Mountain dirt road just west of Blanding. It was a good road with a lot of ups and downs thru canyons. At about the last canyon we encountered an abandoned pickup truck stuck in a narrow place that we couldn’t get by. We found tracks made by the early group where they had bypassed the truck by bushwhacking on the left.

Then south on a county road. After about a mile we got to a large formidable looking river crossing. We saw tracks where the early group had crossed, so we crossed at the same place. It was maybe 12-18” deep and we all made it with no stalls or falls.

Then down to UT 95 a paved road. The 950 class bikes had to air up for the hiway. They were having to air up and down a lot during the trip apparently because of the heavy weight of the bikes. Took 95 a very scenic 65 miles west thru lots of red sandstone canyons and slick rock areas to Hite for gas.

I don’t remember where this was but think it was southern Utah.

We picked up the primitive 2-track rode to the Maze area of Canyonlands National Park just past the bridge over the Colorado River. I had been worried this road might be very difficult, but it was well maintained, very scenic, and a blast to ride.

At about 25 miles we ran into the first group. They were at a 4-way intersection. The left fork went over to the Dirty Devil river and then out to 95 assuming you could cross the river. The right fork went down to the Doll House by the river. There was a sign saying Flint Trail Closed due to landslide

The first group had sent a guy to check the trail. Our group waited about 5 minutes then got tired of waiting and took off. We were going out the Maze Overlook anyway. The road got a little harder here as it wound up a hill and ran along the edge of a cliff. But the views were spectacular of slick rock canyons to the east.

Turns out the Flint Trail was open and two guys rode to the top to check it out and came back down. At the junction we split up again. The first group headed on into Hanksville and the second group went out to the Maze. The road again got a little rougher with some steep downhills with ledges. We were a little apprehensive about the return trip, but had no problem.

The Maze Overlook was worth the 13 mile each way out-and-back trip Plus we thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

We then went up the Flint Trail. It was steep with a couple of severe switchbacks, but nobody had a problem with it. The road was narrow but had a big berm on the outside edge which eased some of the scariness of the severe droppoff.

We thought we were home free when we got to the top. But the road to Hahn Flat ranger station, 14 miles, was very sandy and had a lot of difficult turns. There were a few falls.. After the ranger station the road got better but still had lots of difficult sandy spots. Some of the sand was powdery white stuff and hard to ride.

We ran into the remnants of the first group just finishing fixing a flat – our only flat the entire trip.

We gassed up in Hanksville and headed over to Torrey thru Capitol Reef National Park. It was very scenic, but the views were limited by the blinding setting sun in our eyes.
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Old 06-08-2010, 11:25 AM   #2
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Looks like old time Western movie terrain.
I would love that.
Thanks for the report.
2008 KLR rider
Lets ride !
"The poets down here don't write nuthin' at all
They just stand back and let it all be." Springsteen
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Old 06-08-2010, 12:02 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by wbbnm

This is an interesting photograph
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Old 06-08-2010, 12:21 PM   #4
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New Mexico Death Valley Loop Part 2

The fourth day two of the guys went home. One had to get back to work and the other’s bike (250 KTM) was burning a lot of oil and he decided to nurse it back home.

We originally intended to go back to Capitol Reef and take a paved then dirt road south thru the park eventually meeting up with hiway 12. There was snow in the hills almost down to the town of Torrey. I called the park and found that the dirt portion of the road was closed. So we just went down 12 towards Boulder.

We got up as high as 9600 feet. There was lots of snow along the road and the ride was very cold. I checked out the dirt road we intended to take where it met 12. It was at 8600 ft and had patches of ice and snow on it.

Weather got better as we hit Boulder. We continued south on 12 to Escalante. This was a spectacular ride thru red rock and slick rock canyons. At one point the road goes along a hogback with steep cliffs on both sides

Next was the 80 mile Smokey Mountain dirt road thru the Grand Staircase National Monument. This turned out to be another great ride – much different that I had expected. It was generally a pretty good road thru foothills and canyons with occasionally slightly difficult hills and about 10 miles of troublesome sand between 50 and 60 miles.

We found gas about a mile east of Big Water (towards Page) at a Sinclair station at a boat storage yard.

Next was 89 west ~19 miles west to Wire Pass and Winter dirt roads (part of the Great Western Trail) over to Fredonia.. Only two of us rode this. The rest were tired. This was a relatively easy ride down a canyon then onto Winter road up to a forested mesa and then down across the desert on good but fun roads A highlight was a view of the Vermillion Cliffs lit up by the afternoon sun.

Spent the night in Kanab.

Day 5 proved to be a big disappointment. We had planned to do the Arizona Strip with a major stop at the Toroweep Grand Canyon overlook. Woke up to rainy looking weather as predicted. Everyone left together for the first time on the trip. Down to Fredonia for gas then paved 312 west about 8 miles then south on Antelope Valley road. Very easy dirt road but there were rain storm cells all around us. We only got hit with a few drizzles, but it was enough to put on rain suits.

About 33 miles down the Antelope Valley road we met our 3 guys out front coming back. They had run into deep nasty packing clay mud that was unrideable. So we went back to 312 in a little heavier rain. Took this 22 miles to Colorado City in a very cold drizzle/rain – a miserable ride. Even the guys with heated vests were very cold. Colorado City is a notorious polygamist town. We saw the women in their long old fashoned dresses and pompadour hairdos with a bunches of kids. (We were too miserable to take many pics this day. But here is one of CO City.)

Had lunch and lots of hot drinks and warmed up a little. Rain was on/off drizzle. Decided to try to get to the city of Hurricaine another 22 miles west. First part was very wet and cold again. But then we dropped down a lot in altitude getting to town; and it warmed up; and the rain stopped. In fact it looked very nice further to the west, so we decided to try to get to Mesquite via St. George.

Gassed up in St. George and took old hiway 91 down to Mesquite. This is a very nice ride thru barren desert in clear dry but windy weather. Spent the night in Mesquite.

On day 6 we again woke to threatening weather – very cloudy and rainy looking, but not actually raining when we started. The group all left together again (sort of) at about 8:20. Rode main drag south then west thru town then south onto paved mnior road that met up with I-15 about 10 miles southwest of town. Then onto I-15. It started to rain a little and the interstate ride was very cold and uncomfortable. Rode about 15 miles and got off at the Overton exit (about a mile short of where we were supposed to get off). We had 5 people missing. They eventually showed up. One guy had gotten a ticket for speeding in a school zone in Mesquite.

After we got everyone together, we went to the Glendale exit, took NV 168 thru Moapa and then about 20 miles west to US 93 - another cold wet ride. Weather looked really socked in the mountains over in the Desert National Wildlife Refuge (DNWR). One guy decided to bag it and take hiway over to Pahrump. He had to get thru Las Vegas to do this.

We found the Mormon Wells Road into the refuge. It turned out to be very primitive and rocky. This was kind of good news since it looked like mud wouldn’t be a problem.

Took this west. As the road rose to 4k ft we started to see a few snowflakes. As we got higher the snow got heavier and covered the ground and the road. And we were really socked in with fog. Stopped for a while due to very poor visibility. Then the fog started to lift and snow slowed quite a bit. So we continued onward. Despite the snow the road was very rideable.

The road went up to 6800 ft thru a forested area. It snowed on and off almost the whole ride, but despite the weather it was pretty enjoyable.

About 12 miles from the end of this leg we encountered a young guy on a KTM 950 riding the other direction by himself. He was pretty knowledgeable about the area. The good news was that he had come in from US 95 which meant we wouldn’t run into any impassable mud getting there. But he said we probably wouldn’t be able to get over Wheeler pass into Pahrump because the road was too rocky and beat up from runoff this time of year

Made it to 95 and started up to Indian Springs for gas. It started raining pretty hard which made for another cold, wet miserable ride for 12 miles or so. Warm drinks and food in Indian Springs. Weather cleared and sun came out locally, but the weather in the mountains to the south looked foreboding.

Several of us decided to try Wheeler Pass. Others took 95 north and then NV 160 paved road over to Pahrump. We took a rocky and mildly rough road from Indian Springs to Cold Creek.

Got on Wheeler Pass road. First 3 or 4 miles were easy. Then it turned to softball size rocks and got steep. I was in front and made it almost to the top of the pass. The fresh snow kept getting deeper reaching maybe 6” in ruts. I dropped the bike near the top trying to get out of a rut.

About 50 ft from the top of the pass I was stopped by a snow bank about 1-3 ft high that sloped precariously towards a cliff. While waiting for others I tried to dig a trench across the snowbank, so we could maybe push the bikes across. Nobody ever came so I went back. I had to lay the bike over to get it turned around because of narrow road and cliff. Ran into the others about a half mile down. There had been several falls. It started to sleet a little. Everyone was exhausted from picking up the 950s. So we decided to go back and take the paved route to Pahrump.

We took the paved Cold Creek road out to 95 past the prison. Around to Indian Springs for more hot chocolate and airing up tires. Then 95 to 160 to Pahrump. We noted signs for the town of Crystal and all its brothels about 5 miles south of 95. Got in about 6:30. Most stayed at the Saddle West with others at the BW and the Nugget.

On Day 7 we all left together again at about 8:30. Southwest out of Pahrump on 372 about 8 miles to a good gravel road north to Ash Meadows road. Then pavement to Death Valley Junction. Little north on 373 then over to a pretty primitive somewhat sandy road that parallelled the hiway. Rode this about 8 miles back to 373.

Then picked up another easier primitive road a mile or so north out of the small town of Scranton NV. This was a hardpack dirt road thru dry lake bed/mesquite and was a blast to ride.

Took this and other roads 15 miles northwest over to Echo Canyon road into Death Valley. This road went up an alluvial fan and was very rocky and slow going. Everybody managed to make it, but shed lots of clothing along the way due to the heat. Road got slightly better as we entered the DV park boundary. The road thru Echo canyon was about 20 miles over to paved 190 and generally pretty difficult. It had sandy washes, small ledges, rocks etc.

At one point we saw a better road going off to the right just before a difficult spot in the wash. After noting on the map that this road connected back up, we took it up and over some hills back to the wash road.

Continued in canyon and came to a ~6 ft downhill nasty rocky ledge. All but one of us walked the bikes down it.

Then, near the end, the wash opened up and the road got quite a bit better. Great scenery going thru narrow part of canyon with snow on mountains to the west. But it took us until about 1 pm to get to Furnace Creek where we had beer, food, and gas.

This made it too late to do the rest of the plan for the day which included going nearly to Beatty then back thru Titus Canyon, then around north to the Racetrack and then primitive roads via Lippencott Pass to Panamint Springs and hiway to Stovepipe Wells. We decided to skip Titus Canyon and try to get to the Racetrack realizing that we would probably have to take the hiway back to Stovepipe. We got about 25 miles north on 190 and ran into construction delays. After the second one we just turned back. .

A couple of us did ride up to Titus Canyon and rode about a quarter mile up it going the wrong way on a one-way road. This was clearly the best way the see the canyon and not go around to Beatty and ride thru it.

Got to Stovepipe Wells about 5:30.
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Old 06-08-2010, 12:32 PM   #5
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Wow! I just went through some of the galleries you posted, and looks like you have some amazing stuff there. Please don't be shy to post a pic heavy report. Excellent stuff

Do I need to log in to GPSxchange to be able to view or download the tracks?

Save $5 on Smugmug by using this code. LW9ZIPzdRGzaI
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Old 06-08-2010, 12:39 PM   #6
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Looks to be a good ride and adventure, enjoying the pictures.
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Old 06-08-2010, 03:18 PM   #7
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New Mexico Death Valley DS Loop - part 3

In replay to the query about GPSExchange, you do have to have an account and log in and in order to download a file you have to upload one first as a contribution. The gpx file is too big to attach here, but if you PM me with your email address, I will send it to you.

On Day 8 the whole group of 11 left together again at about 8:30 heading west on hiway 190 out of Stovepipe. Took a leisurely ride down Wildrose road to Emigrant Pass (paved) to Wildrose Canyon then, mostly paved with a little dirt over to Panamint Valley.

We then turned south onto Indian Ranch road along west foothills of the mountains and took it past a huge dry lake bed to Ballarat ghost town. Very enjoyable easy scenic ride.

Continued down Wingate road in the Panamint Valley to Goler Wash. The wash road was primitive but generally pretty easy except for a ~8-10 ft uphill ledge with running water coming down it. About half of us rode up it including two guys on 950s, but we had to pull the rest up with straps.

We continued up the wash. It got somewhat sandy. We were looking for Barker Ranch which is the old Manson Hideout although now burned down. It was supposed to be up a right turn off the main road. But there were several rights and we couldn’t find the right one. So we decided to just go on.

About a mile up, the road branched into about 4 legs as it exited the wash. I went far left and the road dead-ended, but I could see a good road to my left and thought we had missed a turn. Some of our group found the right road up to Mengel Pass, but one guy swore a road to the right abut a mile earlier was the right road because that’s what his GPS map showed. A group who knew the area came by and straightened us out.

All during this ride we were getting passed by guys on pretty good dirt bikes. One said he was headed for Beatty. Since he had no luggage I think he was probably on a commercial ride probably one of Countdown’s.

So we got going on the correct route again. The road up to Mengel Pass had a couple of small difficult ledges, but everybody made it.

Going down the other side we immediately ran into a tough rocky section and the road remained pretty difficult for a few miles until we got into Butte Valley. The road thru the valley was pretty rocky but no problem to ride.

We then crossed into Warm Springs Canyon where the road was supposed to be better. It was wider, but consisted of deep gravel down a wash and was no fun to ride. Then we got out of the gravel, but the road was pretty dusty and sandy. Finally got to hiway and took it 25 miles into Shoshonee – a major oasis. We drank beer and had Ortega burgers served by a new but very nice waitress.

Nobody was up for another 30-40 miles of possibly difficult dirt getting to Primm or Jean, so we decided to take the hiway to Baker where we stayed at the Will’s Fargo motel.

On day 9 one of guys decided he just had to go back to the Grand Canyon and see Toroweep. The rest of us considered it but for various reasons decided to stick with the original plan.

We took Kelbaker road, paved, southeast out of Baker heading into the Mojave Preserve. I had wanted to take a dirt shortcut across to the Cima road, but we could not find it. Turned north onto the Cima road at Kelso and took it about 15 miles to the planned track. Then right onto another road that was paved for half a mile or so before turning to a good dirt road. Took this and another good road south to look at the views at Hole in the Rock..

After this we picked up a ~35 mile stretch of primitive roads thru the desert. A couple of us had ridden this section on a trip here back in 2008 and remembered it as being fantastic. It was a great ride, but the bigger bikes had trouble in some of the sand.

At about 25 miles the track led into a nasty sandwash section several hundred yards long. Two of us made it thru, but then one of our better riders had a nasty fall and the others refused to try it. So we found a go-around for this section.

The plan was to do Christmas Tree Pass near Laughlin and then head to Kingman via Oatman and really old section of rt 66. I was too tired and went straight to Kingman. A few of the guys did go to Oatman.

On day 10 the whole group left at 8:30. Took old 66 northeast out of town. It wasn’t quite as nostolgic as I might have expected. Stopped at Peach Springs capitol of the Halalupai Indian Tribe.

A guy in a tribal pickup told us we could go down to the Grand Canyon (17 miles) if we wanted to. Said we had to get a permit at the tribal office across the street. We checked into it and the woman at the desk said they would not issue permits to motorcycles - even after a little whining on our part.

So back onto 66 and on to Seligman and Ash Fork.

We then road some forest roads in the mountains south of Flagsaff. The first one, FR 4 turned out to be a badly rutted rocky primitive road that wasn’t a whole lot of fun to ride. The others were much nicer. At one point we got to Coleman Lake at about 7200 feet and ran into a couple of snow banks that we had to cross-country around.

Headed to Flagstaff for gas and a snack.

(We don’t seem to have any pictures from this point on. I think we were too exhausted by this time.)

Very nice, but cool, ride on paved Lake Mary road southeast out of Flag past three lakes for about 28 miles down to FR 125. We took a bunch of good and primitive forest roads south and east for about 25 miles. Very fun ride. We will have to come back here some time. It isn’t that far from home.

Original plan was to take Chavez Pass road northeast to Meteor Crater, but a few people wanted to get to a motel quickly. So we took a very primitive forest road from Chavez Pass road over to hiway 87 and then took it about 32 miles into Winslow for the night.

Day 11. Our two riders from Colorado left us and took the interstate back to Albuquerque.

From Winslow we picked up a good gravel road southeast of town and took it to 32 miles to Holbrook At one point we crossed over Clear Creek. It was astoundingly pretty sight- running thru a deep slick rock canyon in the middle of a very flat desert.

Then took US 180 southeast out of Holbrook 18 miles down to the Petrified Forest. Stopped at the rock shop and nearly everyone enjoyed it. A few guys even bought some souvenirs.

Continued on 180 down to St. Johns and then got on some good county gravel roads heading east into New Mexico. Picked up a pleasant easy dirt route all the way from the border to NM 117. A few of us had riddent this route on a trip to Phoenix in 2009. Took 117 north thru the El Malpais lava flow national monument. The road has lava on one side and sandstone cliffs on the other.

Stopped for gas at I-40 about 8 miles east of Grants.

The rest of the group went on into Grants for the night and I went home by myself on old 66. This section of 66, while still not great, has many more nostalgic old buildings that the one between Kingman and Seligman.

The next day the others took dirt roads over to San Ysidro and headed home to Los Alamos and Taos.
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Old 06-11-2010, 11:29 AM   #8
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Great write up Bill,wish I could have joined you. So how did this group all get permission from their parole officers to cross state lines? Didn't know sidi's would fit over an ankle braclet.
Do you support the sport? How do you give back?
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Old 06-11-2010, 11:37 AM   #9
with the band
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Great write up!
Pics are incredible!
Thanks for taking the time to post this!
I'm laid up and it's making my day!
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Old 06-11-2010, 11:54 AM   #10
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We usually crossed state borders at really remote places and we generally behaved ourselves in the towns except for drinking lots of beer in the motel parking lot in Blanding Utah and around several swimming pools.

As I noted one of our wilder gentlemen did get a ticket for speeding in a school zone one morning in Mesquite NV>
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Old 06-11-2010, 06:38 PM   #11
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Bill, thanks again for all the planning, great to kindle the memories again. What an adventure...thanks to all the other riders. What's next?
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Old 07-04-2010, 09:32 PM   #12
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Incredible Trip...

This from the obtuse rider who had to see Toroweap.
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Old 12-08-2010, 04:14 PM   #13
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Great RR. I need to do a ride like this soon!
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Old 12-08-2010, 05:42 PM   #14
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NM to Death Valley and back to NM

Hey, just read this and enjoyed it a lot. It strings together a number of routes that I have on my bucket list to do. Thanks very much for doing the homework and providing routes. This is a great Southwestern trip thru some fabulous country. Thanks for taking us along....
ED The Beaver and Deer know of it - 6/1/2011
Big Bend National Park, TX, Ride Report, 12/2010
East of Eden's Fires - 8/2011
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Old 12-08-2010, 08:39 PM   #15
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Good stuff!
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