It’s easy to get stuck inside all winter, waiting and wishing for spring to appear so you can get back on your bike. Perhaps you tell yourself you’re going to ride your trainer everyday, and maybe you do (good for you!). But, you still miss the thrill of long weekend rides on the pavement, fresh air, and riding with friends.
Don’t just miss it! Get out of town and ride where the winter conditions are made for cyclists. Death Valley National Park in California’s eastern desert is a wonderland of peaks and playa with incredible road bike routes. The roads undulate and wind through surreal landscapes, offering challenging peak climbs or casual exploration of the park’s most famous sites.
Plan your Death Valley cycling trip mid-winter so you have something to look forward to during the dark cold days before spring. In January, the high temperatures in Death Valley hover in the mid 60s F (18-19 deg C), climbing only slightly in February to average in the low 70s F (22-23 deg C). These moderate temperatures, together with extremely low rainfall, make for perfect riding conditions and little threat of interruptions to the schedule due to weather.
Winter brings life back to the Southwest’s deserts and there is great diversity of plants and animals in Death Valley. You’ll be surprised to find greenery, wildflowers, birds, small animals, and even wild burros and bighorn sheep making their home here due to the moderate climate. Get that injection of sunshine to help last you through the winter at home.
You will feel like you’re exploring another planet as you pedal through the salt flats, sand dunes, and colorful rugged canyons on a winter cycling trip to Death Valley. Death Valley has more than 785 miles of roads with some 300 miles suitable for road biking. In only 15 miles, you can ride your bike from the lowest point in North America (Badwater Basin, at 282 feet below sea level) to the park’s highest point (Telescope Peak, at 11,049 feet!).
Visitors are pleasantly surprised when they discover the beauty of this unusual, unfamiliar place. At sunrise or sunset, you can head to Zabriskie Point, the park’s most famous viewpoint, to take in a pink and purple sky set above the colorful hills and ravines of incredible badlands. After the sun sets, stay a little longer to enjoy the starscape. The International Dark Sky Association has recognized Death Valley as the largest International Dark Sky Park in the United States — meaning this night sky is one you can’t miss. Many equate Death Valley with another planet, as 91 percent of the park’s 3.1 million acres are designated as wilderness.
The historic lodging and warm hospitality will only add to your winter cycling experience in this exotic desert wonderland. You’ll find accommodations like the upgraded ranch-style Oasis at Death Valley (formerly known as the Furnace Creek Inn), cozy Panamint Springs Resort, and old west-style Stovepipe Wells Hotel. It’s recommended that you plan and book your accommodations well in advance. Winter in Death Valley is one of the slower tourism seasons for the park, but hotels and lodges can get booked up quickly. Make sure you have your pick so that you can rest well at the end of a long day’s ride.
It’s no wonder that cycling Death Valley in the winter is so popular — there’s so much to see and do while you get your rides in. The riding itself is a mix of challenge and reward. Plan moderate miles around your sightseeing objectives then tack on long hill climbs to add in just the right about of difficulty for your ride style.