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Certified Asshat
3,746 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Death Valley Poker Run - Friday, March 22 to Monday, March 25, 2013
The weekend AFTER St. Patrick's Day and BEFORE Easter. Should be open for everybody! :D

The route covers 175 miles of unpaved, off-road fun. This does not include the on-highway mileage, so don't forget to budget for that, too. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a highly technical, sheet metal-bashing obstacle course but rather a balanced mixture of terrain and sight-seeing with basic dirt roads, slick rocks & ruts, sand dunes and low-level rock crawling. The elevation changes will be huge - from a little over 8,000' to sea level... pine trees to salt flats.

The date of the run nearly coincides with the full moon so night wheeling is possible. There are animals to look out for, including Mojave Green Rattlesnakes and scorpions.

Temperatures on these dates are on average between 54° and 85°F. The record high for these dates is 100°F so it could be hot. Obviously we'll check weather conditions before we go, but be prepared for warm (or hot) weather just in case but normal high temps are around 85°. This is not the hot part of the year and we will not be going in the summer.

Those of you who follow the tv show "Top Gear USA" will recognize the route from Season 2, Episode 4 (which has apparently been removed from YouTube for copyright violations). I contacted the hosts and pieced together the route from what little they remembered and what I could see in the episode while it was still online, including the ghost town of Ballarat, the tough wheeling in Goler Canyon and the long West Side Road. We'll stop off at some of the better photo ops but keep moving for most of the days.

Wheeling Conditions from Death Valley National Park literature:
  • Goler Canyon: "Rough 4WD. For experienced 4WD drivers only. Section over both sides of Mengel Pass is challenging, steep and rutted."
  • Warm Springs Canyon: "High-clearance first ten miles to Warm Springs Talc mine and camp, then 4WD to Butte Valley due to deep ruts and rocky areas."
  • West Side Road: "High-clearance due to washboard, deep gravel and dust pockets."
  • Echo Canyon: "High-clearance first three miles, 4WD required beyond. Road to Amargosa Valley is rough 4WD, requiring short-wheelbase, narrow vehicles. Experienced 4WD drivers only. Vehicle damage is possible going over the dry fall. Travel with more than one vehicle recommended.
  • Amargosa Big Dune: "A playground that covers about five square miles of dunes and dips, and its centerpiece is a peak that tops out at 500 feet. These hills, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, are a well-kept secret and mostly used by locals, but expect to find plenty of other off-roaders on the weekends. Remember to pack plenty of water and food. 1.5 square mile complex star dune that reaches 2,731 feet above sea level.

  • 12:00 - Rendezvous at U.S. 395 & Palmdale Rd. in Adelanto. (Gas station, coffee shop, restaurants, grocery store.)
  • Drive 84 miles from Adelanto to Ridgecrest for last dependable refueling point until Furnace Creek. (Trona Texaco is unreliable but may have gas, too.)
  • Drive 73 miles from Ridgecrest to Thorndike Campground in Death Valley National Park. (The last 17.5 miles are unpaved dirt road.)
  • Camp at Thorndike Campground or Mahogany Flats for the night.
Charcoal Kilns along Wildrose Canyon Rd.

View from Thorndike Campground

Thorndike Campground is located at 7,400 feet in the Panamint Mountains and is accessible to high clearance vehicles only. Depending on road conditions, 4-wheel drive may be necessary. Thorndike has 6 sites, tables, fireplaces, and pit toilets. Campfires are allowed unless fire conditions prevent them.​

  • Drive from Thorndike Campground (elevation 7,400') to the ghost town of Ballarat (elevation 1,100').
  • Drive from Ballarat to Goler Canyon. Good wheeling here. Narrow canyon, slick rocks, ruts, etc. Manson Family hideout called Barker Ranch near the top of the canyon. Talc mine along the route.
  • Drive from Mengel Pass at the top of Goler Canyon down Warm Springs Rd. More fun here, but easier and less technical than Goler. Route passes Pfizer camp geologist's cabin and Striped Butte (good photo op).
  • Warm Springs Rd. meets West Side Road, where we head north toward Furnace Creek. Photo ops along the way include a split cinder cone, Shorty Harris' grave site, Devil's Golf Course, Natural Bridge, Red Cathedral.
  • End the day at Furnace Creek Campground or Furnace Creek Ranch if you want to stay in a hotel. The hotel sells day passes for the pool for $5.00. Sounds to me like a good place to hang out after a long, dusty day. Gas at Furnace Creek is crazy expensive, so be prepared for that.


Goler Canyon

Keystone Mine

Warm Springs Road from Mengel Pass past Pfizer camp

Striped Butte

Devil's Golf Course

Red Cathedral

Furnace Creek Chevron

  • Drive from Furnace Creek to Echo Canyon Rd. passing the Eye of the Needle and stopping to look around at Inyo Mine.
  • Drive over the pass above Inyo Mine and down the back side to Lee's Camp and the Nevada state line, then ultimately to Big Dune outside Amargosa, NV.
  • Wheel/Play/Screw around at Big Dune and camp there for the night. Those who have to be at work for Monday morning can head home instead of camping.

Echo Canyon Rd. -- from this... this.

Eye of the Needle

Inyo Mine

Amargosa Big Dune

  • Screw around/wheel some more in the dunes, then head south toward Vegas (or home, for those uninterested in Vegas - "Bronco" John Galt - I'm looking at you).
  • Drive south along NV-160 toward the group split at Pahrump... those interested will continue on to Las Vegas and those who want to go home take NV-372/CA-127 south toward Southern California.
  • VEGAS, Baby! or Home, Sissy... depending on your plans. :D

Suggested Packing List... and this is only a cursory list:
- Extra fuel
- All the Water you can carry (at least 2 gallons/day during the summer months and 5 gallons for your 4-wheel drive vehicle).
- Adequate clothing (enough to survive a night out without a warming fire in the winter).
- Map and compass along with the knowledge of how to use them.
- First Aid Kit:
  • Roll 2" gauze
  • Snake bite kit
  • 3x3 gauze pads
  • Alcohol wipe pads
  • Band aids
  • Gauze swabs 1"x1"
  • Saline eye wash
  • Extra large band aids
  • Roll adhesive tape
  • Personal prescriptions
  • Emergency blanket
  • Sun screen
- Shovel
- Fire extinguisher
- High-strength tow strap
- Matches - stored in a waterproof case
- Snaplight Light Sticks
- Distress Whistle and Flares
- Small Pencil and Pad of Paper
- Flash light and/or head lamp and extra batteries
- Spare Vehicle Keys
- Tool & Equipment Kit including:
  • Jumper cables
  • An assortment of screws, hose clamps, washers, nuts....
  • Electrical tape
  • Baling wire
  • Spare fuses
  • Multi-purpose knife
  • Multi-plier Tool
  • Assorted screw drivers, wrenches, socket wrenches, hammer.....
  • Duct tape

There are some good ideas/tips for packing here, here and a good pre-trip checklist here.


  1. Poker Run begins at the Rendezvous Point (US-395 & Palmdale Rd. in Lancaster) and ends at Amargosa Big Dune.
  2. There will be five stations that you must go to to collect a card concealed in a sealed envelope.
  3. Envelopes MUST remain sealed. Damaged/opened envelopes will not be counted.
  4. When you collect an envelope, we will write your license plate number on the outside of the envelope.
  5. Each card will be numbered with the station number.
  6. You MUST bring one card from EACH station to qualify your hand.
  7. You are not allowed to switch envelopes with any other competitor. Doing so will forfeit your hand.
  8. Competitors will meet at the office at 11 PM to open the envelopes & reveal their hands.
  9. Best 5 card hand wins.
  10. If two hands are identical apart from the suits of the cards then they count as equal and the pot is split between them.
  11. Poker entry fees received will cover campsite reservations, then the balance will be split 50/50 between the poker hand winner and the Boy Scouts of America. If we get enough entries, we can do a group BBQ at Furnace Creek.

POKER RUN ENTRY FEE: $25 per vehicle before 8/31/2012 -- $35 per vehicle 9/1/2012 - 3/22/2013

GOOGLE MAPS LINK - On the top right corner, mouse over the button that says, "Satellite" and check the box next to where it says, "Terrain."


4,446 Posts
two of those pic look to be more advance is that the trail we would be taking or is that a trail that we could take if were looking for something more advance

Certified Asshat
3,746 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
would a stocker be able to make it through there? for camping can we use usfs adventure passes?
From the trip write ups that I've read (quite a few), everything except Echo Canyon should be fine for a stocker with a patient driver. Echo, on the other hand, will require careful driving and maybe a pull or two. The back side going down from Inyo Mine to Amargosa is not maintained by anyone, so we're on our own back there. The rest is pretty well traveled. I don't know about your pass(es). Can you find out? I don't know what you have.

As far as using them for camping, though, the only site for which we need to pay is Furnace Creek. The ones at Thorndyke and Mahogany Flats are free, but first-come, first-served. That's one of the reasons we need to leave early from Adelanto. Amargosa Big Dune is on public land that requires no permit.

I did all for the Nookie
7,270 Posts
Why do I live here? That poker run sounds awesome to bad I would have to come nearly 3000mi to do it otherwise I would be all over it.

27 Posts
What exactly is the "Poker Run?" I would love to do the trip, but the though of having to pay to enter..

Certified Asshat
3,746 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Why do I live here? That poker run sounds awesome to bad I would have to come nearly 3000mi to do it otherwise I would be all over it.
LOL Road Trip!! Glad to hear it sounds good. I've been mulling it over for three weeks. The more pics I looked at and trip reports I read, the more I wanted to do it. And all because those guys on Top Gear USA (also know as 'the imposters' in my house) did it. They actually ran a lot farther but we will get to actually see some of the cooler attractions in the park where they just hauled ass across it.

Certified Asshat
3,746 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
What exactly is the "Poker Run?" I would love to do the trip, but the though of having to pay to enter..
I should have linked it like I did on the "feeler" thread. Basically, you pay the entry fee and a few things happen:

1). Somebody else covers the reservations for campgrounds. Not exactly a big deal, but a convenience nonetheless. It also ensures that everybody chipped in on the cost of the campground so nobody is left paying for somebody else to freeload or police who paid what.
2). You enter the poker game. By the end of the run, you have 5 card envelopes like everybody else. You open your envelopes ... The guy holding the best poker hand takes home half the entry fees (less those reservation costs and maybe a BBQ as explained before). Look at it this way... if there are 10 early entries and you win, you get $125 cash. If somebody else wins, you're out a few bucks 'cause you were gonna chip in for the campsite either way, right? We're going to Vegas so you can win it back and pay for everyone's gas. :D
3). The rest of the money goes to charity so you feel like a generous member of society. (yeah, cheeky but true)
4). I thought it sounded like fun. No?

Certified Asshat
3,746 Posts
Discussion Starter · #20 ·
as in wife
Good trip for the wifey. There is plenty to see that we, as the drivers, won't get much of a chance to see. If she likes taking pics or video, there will be ample time for that, too.

also i dont really see any pics or videos of anything to crazy..
I didn't look for any video. Let me know if you find some.

a cb would be a great idea
I think a CB is a really good idea. Verizon supposedly has decent signal inside the park, but our two most challenging areas are ones where there's not likely to be much - if any - cell signal.
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