Background photo - U.S. #5 Pikes Peak CO.

Ride Description

This is one of the more scenic (along with Dantes View) Death Valley climbs.  The first 1.5 miles of the climb are mild but miles 1.5-5.25 average 7.9% (there is a mile stretch from about mile 4.25 to 5.25 that averages 9.7%).  The start of the climb is pure Death Valley - what seems to be an endless stretch of straight, flat pavement in front of us (but it's not flat!).  By the 3 mile mark we begin to leave the desert floor behind and enter more hilly/mountainous terrain with exceptional views of the valley to our left and behind us as we climb.  By mile 6 we are entering canyon-like terrain which is stark and without any appreciable vegetation and certainly no greenery - but these stark Mars and Moon-scapes are part of the allure and beauty of Death Valley.  See YouTube video for a true sense of this climb. 

We stayed at the Panamint Springs Resort which has a restaurant, bar, market and gas station - the accommodations are a little rugged but we have no complaints about the place as of October, 2014, other than gas prices there were 30% greater than in Stovepipe Wells 20 miles east.  

The other Top 100 climbs in Death Valley are #49 Townes Pass East, #55 Wildrose , #72 Daylight Pass and #80Dantes View.

Weather: Do NOT attempt these climbs in the summer when the average​ temperatures range from 101-116 between May and September.

 Traffic and Roadway report:  As of September, 2014, the roadway surface was excellent throughout this ride and there seemed less traffic on this side of the pass, although that may have been due to our early start time.    

 Note:  Click on “View full route" (top left) which opens the Townes Pass West RideWithGPS page.  Hover over the distance line at the spot you would like to begin a sub-  segment for this climb.  Click your mouse on the start point and drag the vertical graphing line the distance you wish to obtain sub-detail from, then release the  mouse at the end point.  This will give you the following sub-detail for the selected segment in the “Metrics” window top right of the page:  (a) distance, (b) elevation  gained and lost, (c) max grade, (d) average grade (e) that segment's climb category – e.g. Cat 1, HC, etc., and (f) FIETS score for the segment.


Hover cursor over segment slices (below) for exact  grade of a particular segment. Map route (bottom) colors correlate with elevation legend colors.

Dangerously hot during the day from June through September with average monthly highs during that time ranging from 109 to 116.5.  Cycling is not recommended during the summer and certainly never without good SAG support.  The heat can be stifling (if not truly dangerous) and supplies are few and far between.  

According to Wikipedia weather summary:  "The hottest air temperature ever recorded in Death Valley was 134 °F (57 °C) on July 10, 1913, at Furnace Creek,[3] which is the hottest atmospheric temperature ever recorded on earth.[3] During the heat wave that peaked with that record, five consecutive days reached 129 °F (54 °C) or above. Some meteorologists dispute the accuracy of the 1913 temperature measurement.[10]

The greatest number of consecutive days with a maximum temperature of 100 °F (38 °C) or above was 154 days in the summer of 2001. The summer of 1996 had 40 days over 120 °F (49 °C), and 105 days over 110 °F (43 °C). The summer of 1917 had 52 days where the temperature reached 120 °F (49 °C) or above with 43 of them consecutive. Four major mountain ranges lie between Death Valley and the ocean, each one adding to an increasingly drier rain shadow effect, and in 1929, 1953 and 1989 no rain was recorded for the whole year.[9] The period from 1931 to 1934 was the driest stretch on record with only 0.64 inches (16 mm) of rain over a 40-month period.[8] On June 30, 2013, during the 2013 extreme heat wave, the mercury reached 129 °F (54 °C) at Furnace Creek station, which is the all-time hottest air temperature recorded for the month of June.

The mean annual temperature for Death Valley (Furnace Creek Weather Station) is 77.2 °F (25.1 °C) with an average high in January of around 67 °F (19 °C) and 116 °F (47 °C) in July.[11] From 1934-1961 the weather station at Cow Creek recorded a mean annual temperature of 77.2 °F (25.1 °C).[12]

The longest number of consecutive days where temperatures reached 90 °F (32 °C) or more was 205 from April to Oct 1992.[13] On average there are 192 days per year in Death Valley where temperatures reach 90 °F (32 °C) or more.[14] Before being moved to Furnace Creek, the weather station at Greenland Ranch averaged 194.4 days annually where temperatures reached 90 °F (32 °C) or more.[15]

On July 12, 2012, the day's low temperature was 107 °F (42 °C), tying the record for the world's hottest low temperature ever recorded.[16] On the same day, the average temperature was 117.5 °F (47.5 °C), which is the world's hottest temperature averaged over 24 hours on record.[16]

The lowest temperature recorded at Greenland Ranch was 15 °F (−9 °C) in January 1913.[17]

On April 22, 2012, Death Valley recorded the hottest April temperature in North America: 113 °F (45 °C), beating the previous record by over 2 °F.[18]

The period from July 17 to 19, 1959, was the longest string of consecutive days where nighttime low temperatures did not drop below 100 °F (38 °C).[19] On July 12, 2012, the low temperature at Death Valley dropped to just 107 °F (42 °C) after a high of 128 °F (53 °C) on the previous day. Death Valley's overnight low of 107 °F (42 °C) ties the record for the world's warmest low temperature ever recorded (Khasab Airport in Oman also recorded a low of 107 °F (42 °C) on June 27, 2012). Also on July 12, 2012 the mean 24-hour temperature recorded at Death Valley was 117.5 °F (47.5 °C), which makes it the world's warmest 24-hour temperature on record.[20]

The average annual precipitation in Death Valley is 2.36 inches (60 mm), while the Greenland Ranch station averaged 1.58 in (40 mm).[21] The wettest month on record is January 1995 when 2.59 inches (66 mm) fell on Death Valley.[8] The wettest period on record was mid-2004 to mid-2005, in which nearly 6 inches (150 mm) of rain fell in total, leading to ephemeral lakes in the valley and the region and tremendous wildflower blooms.[22] Snow with accumulation has only been recorded in January 1922, while scattered flakes have been recorded on other occasions."

Cycling and Climbing Death Valley, CA

Townes Pass West

Start (click and drag map; double click to move forward)


  • Distance:                                          9.3 miles

  • Beginning elevation:                      1,555'

  • Ending elevation:                            4,953'

  • Elevation gained:                            3,371'

  • Average Grade:                               7.5%

  • Fiets Index:                                       7.71

  • Location:  Climb begins on Hwy 190 2.0 miles east of the intersection of Hwy 190 and Panamint Valley Rd, 4.35 miles east of Panamint Springs, CA , 190 miles west of Las Vegas International Airport (LAS) and 240 miles northeast of LAX  (36.34185, -117.38979 latitude/longitude).