Sailing Stones – The Racetrack, Death Valley National Park, California

No one knows for sure why boulders move around a gorgeously vacant area of California’s Death Valley National Park called The Racetrack, but they do. Big rocks, small rocks–they all creep around the incredibly flat expanse leaving a clearly visible trail behind to mark their mysterious path.

One theory is that the rocks sail across the land when the right amount of water slicks up the clay and the right amount of wind propels them across it, hence their nickname: sailing stones. We don’t really care what the explanation is we just wanted to see them for ourselves but that turned out to be easier said than done.

To reach The Racetrack you have to drive 27 miles down Racetrack Road, a vehicle busting dirt track. We blew out a shock absorber on our way to The Racetrack but we still fared better than the poor sod we saw on the side of Racetrack Road who had not one but two flat tires.

Worth it? You bet. And if you hurry you can check it out for free. National Park Week 2012 is in effect until April 29 with free admission to all national parks, national monuments and national historic sites.

Race Track Road - Death Valley National Park

The reach The Racetrack (aka Racetrack Playa) and its amazing moving rocks you have to drive 27 miles down Racetrack Road past the Ubehebe Crater and over enough bumps to bust a shocks absorber (we did).

 Teakettle Junction on Racetrack Road - Death Valley National Park

Teakettle Junction on Racetrack Road is marked by one of the more free-form national park signs you’ll ever see.

Panorama of Racetrack Playa - Death Valley National Park

Panorama of The Racetrack, a dry lake bed in Death Valley National Park, where scientists are at a loss to explain how or why rocks appear to move around by themselves.

Racetrack Playa from the Grandstand

The Racetrack from atop a rock formation called the “Grandstand” in California’s Death Valley National Park.

Racetrack Playa Sailing Stones - Death Valley National Park

One of the so-called sailing stones which mysteriously move around a dry lake bed called The Racetrack in Death Valley National Park.

Racetrack Playa Sailing Stones - Death Valley National Park

One of the so-called sailing stones which mysteriously move around a dry lake bed called The Racetrack in Death Valley National Park leaving trails behind them.

Racetrack Playa Sailing Stone - Death Valley National Park

One of the so-called sailing stones which mysteriously move around The Racetrack in Death Valley National Park leaving weird, smooth trails behind them.

Racetrack Playa Sailing Stones - Death Valley National Park

More of the so-called sailing stones which mysteriously move around The Racetrack in Death Valley National Park.

Racetrack Playa Sailing Stones - Death Valley National Park

One of the so-called sailing stones which mysteriously move around The Racetrack  in Death Valley National Park in California.

Racetrack Playa Sailing Stones - Death Valley National Park

A group of so-called sailing stones which mysteriously move around The Racetrack in Death Valley National Park leaving trails behind them which sometimes create intricate designs in the dry lake bed.

Racetrack Playa Sailing Stones - Death Valley National Park

A group of so-called sailing stones which mysteriously move around The Racetrack in Death Valley National Park leaving trails behind them creating intricate designs in the dry lake bed.

Ubehebe Crater - Death Valley National Park

Your journey to The Racetrack in Death Valley National Park begins here at Ubehebe Crater.

 

Read more about travel to US National Parks & Monuments

 

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  1. I was looking for a theory, or on the other hand, for one of the paths to print out “Sucker!” A little googling shows the most prevalent theory is that rain forms a slick surface and wind scoots the rocks along, with most traveling in the direction of prevalent winds.
    Great photos–and I LOVE the Teakettle Junction sign!
    Vera Marie Badertscher recently posted..Small House in ItalyMy Profile

  2. That’s amazing! Perhaps the rocks are alive and just move when we’re not watching.
    …perhaps all the rocks everywhere are alive and they’re just waiting for their chance to attack us!!
    Dum, dum dummmm….