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  1. #1

    Default Autumn Desert Tire Pressure and Alternate Death Valley NP Access

    Plans for my first cross-country road trip are ongoing, so I've come up with a few more questions regarding two separate and specific issues.

    First - I've read the advice concerning lowering air pressure in your tires for desert driving in extreme temperatures. I will be having my tires checked before I leave from New Jersey. However, if I can avoid letting air out of them, I would much prefer to just keep on eye on them and make sure their air pressure isn't too high or too low. So my question is whether or not it's necessary to let air out during October driving on mostly paved roads. I know the desert will still be very hot during the day, but at temperatures to which I am accustomed driving here in the summer. Then again, I will be doing much more driving for longer each day than normal, obviously. So I wonder what your advice is for this time of year.

    Second - I will be driving a Dodge Grand Caravan, and the only National Park on my must-see list for this trip is Death Valley as there are many sights I want to see there. However, I am aware that most of the roads to things I would want to see, namely Titus Canyon and especially the Racetrack, are only recommended for high-clearance vehicles. I have read several threads here addressing the conditions of driving the rocky dirt paths to these sites, and I do not want to take the risk, and would prefer to be safe. However, I was wondering if there were any paved or safer routes to these sites, particularly the Racetrack. I doubt there are any tours, short guided hikes, or rides to these locations within the National Park, but I felt there was no harm in asking if anyone knows of such a way to reach them by alternative means.

    I did a search of the board before posting, but if these questions have already been asked and answered, please direct me to those threads or articles.

    Thank you for any advice you may have - this forum and website has been an invaluable resource in helping me feel more confident and more prepared for my trip.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Where did you see THAT advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Serra View Post
    First - I've read the advice concerning lowering air pressure in your tires for desert driving in extreme temperatures.
    I live and work in Las Vegas and I would never consider dropping air pressure below the recommended levels for a particular tire.
    However, if I can avoid letting air out of them, I would much prefer to just keep on eye on them and make sure their air pressure isn't too high or too low.
    If you are really concerned about such things, you could consider running nitrogen instead of air -- but seriously, this is not a problem!
    So I wonder what your advice is for this time of year.
    Do not follow that advice -- it is misguided at best.
    However, I was wondering if there were any paved or safer routes to these sites, particularly the Racetrack.
    No, the only safer route is the one in from Scotty's Castle -- but the road is very rocky and I wouldn't take your Dodge down there. Now, when traveling on gravel and/or dirt roads I do lower the tire pressure to 15 to 20 psi -- tires can glide over sharp rocks at that pressure with less chances for damage and also you can drive dirt roads faster with better traction with low tire pressures.

    Here is a field report I wrote about the Racetrack playa.


    Mark

  3. #3

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    Thank you, Mark! That is a huge relief.
    I had read your field report about lowering tire pressure on the rocky roads so they have a better chance of going over sharp stones without damage, but when I had read the advice about dropping tire pressure in summer heat (the reasoning given was that the heat will make the tires expand and the extra pressure will cause them to burst or shred), I had to question it.
    I do not remember where I saw this advice, but I do recall seeing it in more than one place from travelers who had done this and were advising others to do it. I know a lot of suggestions I first read in a series of articles on eHow, but I don't recall if this was one of them.

    And sadly, I will have to let many of the sites in Death Valley wait until next time - which at the very least does provide me with an excuse to go back. I do not want to take risks with the minivan, and I figured it was too much to hope that there might be a shuttle in the park or something ridiculous like that. I will be traveling the main roads within the park on this first trip through then. I'm sure there are plenty of beautiful sights on the paved roads to make my first experience of the park an amazing one.

    Thank you again! Your expertise and shared knowledge are greatly appreciated!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Dirt Roads for the Dodge

    Quote Originally Posted by Serra View Post
    I will be traveling the main roads within the park on this first trip through then. I'm sure there are plenty of beautiful sights on the paved roads to make my first experience of the park an amazing one.
    There are some short loop roads that are gravel/packed dirt that are perfectly fine for your car. Be sure to take the Artists Palette and Twenty Mule Team Canyon -- you'll have no problems with your car -- and still get a sense of being "off-highway".

    Mark

  5. #5

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    Thank you so much for the suggestions, Mark!
    Traveling with the minivan was a choice I made because of the comfort, room, and its quality - it's a big vehicle for a solo trip, but I always feel good about driving it. I knew there would be some small drawbacks, but the Dodge is my best option.
    I'm really glad there are some paths in the park that I can take off the pavement that are still safe for my vehicle. I will be sure to hit those roads!
    Thanks again!

  6. #6

    Default

    Since we were speaking of tires and bringing the minivan on unpaved roads, I have a few more questions that have cropped up on the subject.

    The more I look around the forum and read about the advantages of spending a few nights in various National Parks, the more I become interested in doing so - along my route would definitely be the Grand Canyon and if I decide to take a northern route, Badlands and Yellowstone and then possibly Crater Lake. So would the main roads and campgrounds be safely manageable for my vehicle? Presumably so, right - since they accommodate campers, and therefore, I'm sure RVs, on a regular basis?

    But these forums have also called to my attention a personal point of interest I nearly overlooked - Monument Valley! This is more the question on my mind, because in the photos I have seen, the roads that lead through it are largely unpaved, so my question becomes this: are they very rocky, bumpy, or steep? Will my minivan be able to navigate these roads comfortably?

    Again, any and all advice or feedback is welcome and greatly appreciated, and I apologize if these questions are overly cautious or elementary. Thank you.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Highways, Roads, Trails, Paths, etc.

    In most all national parks, there are all levels of byways from paved level highways to ungraded dirt tracks. Most even have wilderness areas that by definition have no road access. Certainly any camp area that is billed as having vehicle or RV accessibility will have a road that you can drive. Any campground you can't drive to and park at will be clearly marked as 'hike in/out' or as requiring '4WD' or 'high ground clearance' vehicles. Your best bet is, as always, to carefully consult the park's own web site and then to check in at the first Visitors Center you come to should you still have any questions. Now you can simply drive through Monument Valley on US-163 or you can take the time to explore the Navajo Tribal Park and native guides are available to take you to some of the more remote locations.

    AZBuck

  8. #8

    Default

    Thank you, AZBuck!
    I really appreciate the tips regarding the parks, and I am definitely exploring the NPS website more and more. All of your advice is assuring and is a great help!
    I especially appreciate the options you present for seeing Monument Valley - the information at the official site you linked to differs from that I had seen in passing elsewhere, so that is a great help as well.
    Thanks again!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Not the National Park Service (NPS)

    I just want to make sure you noticed that Monument Valley is not under the direction or management of the National Park Service (NPS). This a park managed by the Navajo Nation and the road condition standards are different.

    That being said, once you get past the first 3/4 of mile with your van, the public roads, although dirt and sandy will be fine. That first 3/4 of a mile is rutted and rough. However there are plenty of options where locals can drive you down the road. But, seriously, you should have no significant worries in this regard. As long as you are going to the Monument Valley area -- I can state that one of my favorite places is this hogan for overnight stays in the area.

    Mark

  10. #10

    Default

    Yes, I did double check that - I immediately noticed it was not part of the NPS, which is why I decided to post asking about the road conditions. Thank you very much for your attention to detail and concern that I knew this, Mark! I really appreciate the heads up!

    And I also appreciate the recommendation! That is certainly a beautiful place to spend the night! I would love to stop there. I'm not sure I will be able to, as money is definitely a concern along this trip. I'm not looking to cut every corner necessarily, but I'm sure I will be looking for the cheapest hotels when I need to find one. This place is beautiful though, and in some spots, I'm sure I will spend the extra money to stay at places such as this one because I will know it's well worth it. (If I can manage it, I'm also hoping to stop at Myrtles Plantation in Louisiana.) If I can swing it, I will keep this lovely B&B in mind!
    Thank you again for all of your help!

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