Ubehebe Crater is where the paved road ends in the northeast section of Death Valley National Park and a couple of lengthy dirt road options begin here that go deep into the back country. One dirt trail goes north well over 100 miles to Big Pine, California, while the other heads west to Racetrack Playa and ends at the Saline Valley access point on Highway 190. The gravel road to Racetrack Playa is the most popular touring route, because this destination has become world famous for the mysterious rocks that seem to move on their own across a vast dry lake. Teakettle Junction is a landmark that can be found just beyond the halfway point to Racetrack Playa and this spot definitely offers a great opportunity for taking captivating selfie photos to send back home!
The first section of the 20 mile plus dirt road that goes to Teakettle Junction and Racetrack Playa may look smooth, but it does get much rougher the further a visitor goes. The gravel road is rated for only high ground clearance 4x4 vehicles, simply because getting stranded in the Death Valley back country can be a dangerous proposition, especially during the boiling hot summer season. Doing this trip during the cold winter season is much easier on the vehicle and the freezing temperatures are what makes the magic happen at Racetrack Playa, so. this definitely is the best time of year for the trek.
After driving over the crest of the mountain pass going west, there will be many miles of high elevation Joshua Tree forest scenery to take in along the way. Relatively few people spend time in this end of the park, yet it is a majestic sight to see, especially early in the morning. Eventually the dirt road starts to go downhill toward the Racetrack Playa basin and this is where Teakettle Junction can be found.
The roadside Teakettle Junction landmark is difficult to miss, because dozens of tea kettles are attached to the signage. In fact, this is what this unique landmark is all about and visitors are encouraged to add a tea kettle of their own to the collection. Part of the tradition is to write your names, place of origin or a catchy message on the tea kettle before attaching it to the sign, just like a claim to fame. Hours can be spent taking in the scenery and deciphering the messages inscribed at Teakettle Junction, so be sure to set plenty of time aside for the trip to Racetrack Playa!
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