Flickr album link: Boxcar To Saline Valley
There are a couple of ways to get to the Saline Valley from Boxcar Cabin. The Talc Mountain route runs through the mountains near the Cerro Gordo mining district in the BLM territory to the west side of the Saline Valley. This lengthy dirt road is challenging even for a 4x4 vehicle and relatively few drive this road on any given day. From the old boxcar, Saline Valley Road is the better way to go, especially if you prefer a fairly smooth ride. A few vehicles traverse this route each day, so the chances of becoming completely stranded are slim. The Saline Valley Road route will take a visitor to the south end of the Saline Valley to a spot where this remote destination can be seen in its entirety. This dirt road is nearly always in good condition and a high ground clearance vehicle can do most of the trip in two wheel drive, which saves fuel. Fuel management is critical in the north end of Death Valley National Park, because it will be a 100 plus mile trip practically anywhere one goes, including the Saline Valley.
From Boxcar Cabin, Saline Valley Road goes uphill through the rolling foothills to a vast Joshua Tree forest in the 4,000 foot elevations. Remnants of a few old west mines can also be seen along the way. Saline Valley Road then follows a mountain ridge line where panoramic views of the Panamint Valley can be found. Those who are into doing telephoto landscape photos will have a clear view of the Panamint Dunes from way up above, so be sure to pack a camera bag. The dirt road then weaves through then mountain pass to the 17 mile marker and the intersection of Hunter Canyon Road. Hunter Canyon Road is a rough trail that goes to Teakettle Junction, Racetrack Playa or Ubehebe Crater, which is yet another grand tour for the books.
From the High elevation mountain pass it is a very lengthy downhill run to the south end of the Saline Valley. This section of dirt road runs through mountain canyons with steep slopes where falling rocks can be a problem. Saline Valley Road is narrow in this part of the course and there are very few turnouts, so it is best to be aware of approaching vehicles. Panoramic views of the mountain ranges to the west will eventually come into view near the Saline Valley and this is where yet another national park 4x4 trail can be found. Lippincott Road goes from the south end of the Saline Valley to the old historic Lippincott Mining Area and this trail also meanders to Racetrack Playa. Driving Lippincott Road to the Racetrack definitely is only recommended for modified 4x4 vehicles, because the switchbacks are very tight and this rough dirt trail is treacherous.
Upon arrival at the south end of the Saline Valley the landscape changes dramatically. This is one of the most remote, yet picturesque valleys in the entire west, so be prepared to spend some extra time taking in the views. The bare rocks and boulders that have washed down from the steep slopes are fascinating to see and a closer look will revel many clues about the geology of this area. The true scale of things will soon be realized when gazing at this vast expanse. There will still be many miles to go on Saline Valley Road before reaching the key points of interest in this big valley, which includes an old west tram line, a big salt lake and a few natural hot springs that offer the peaceful relaxation that this destination is famous for. The southern route to Saline Valley is well worth experiencing, so be sure to prep the vehicle and stock up on supplies in order to make the long journey a safe one!
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