Exploring Nevada’s Death Drive with deserts, ghost towns and a ‘coffin attraction’

Nevada’s Death Drive offers road trips with a difference, so it’s no surprise that it’s been a hit with intrepid explorers for decades.

After all, the drive offers spectacular red rock canyons, sprawling deserts, creepy ghost towns and bustling biker bars – and even an attraction dedicated to coffin-shaped objects (and… well, real coffins).

The road trip gets its name due to its location in Death Valley National Park in Nevada.

This incredible landscape sits below sea level, and boasts consistent droughts and record summer heats. In fact, sometimes the heat can get so extreme that visitors taking on the roads are warned to pack all the essentials they need and “travel prepared to survive”.

Its proximity to Las Vegas means that most visitors will set off from the Strip to explore the landscape – and there are signs etc so you can complete a loop, with shorter drives lasting around two hours.

The Death Drive is a popular road trip spot in Nevada
The Death Drive is a popular road trip spot in Nevada

There’s plenty for adventurers to discover.

For a start there are the red rock canyons that make this a particularly striking landscape, not to mention the vast deserts that are pretty impressive as you drive and can’t spot any signs of life for miles.

A wide expanse of dry, cracked earth in the California Desert near Death Valley National Park.
Death Valley National Park is known for its extreme conditions

However, there are some spots where you’re likely to find other tourists or locals.

One highlight is the Rhyolite Ghost Town. The town was booming back in the early 1900s during the Gold Rush, with thousands of developers and miners flocking to the area.

Ruined Bank building in the deserted ghost town of Rhyolite near Beatty and Death Valley.
Ruined Bank building in the deserted ghost town of Rhyolite near Beatty and Death Valley.

It quickly flourished with heaps of businesses, residential homes and schools being built – but when the Gold Rush passed, it deteriorated just as quickly.

Nowadays you’ll find crumbling buildings and ruins, with a leftover bank building and train station.

Meanwhile, along the route there are plenty of bars, often popular with local bikers.

For something a bit different, Coffinwood never fails to make quite the impression on visitors.

The ‘cemetery’ at Coffinwood

Dubbed a ‘coffin attraction’, the family-run business is predominantly a shop where you can buy all manner of items that are coffin-shaped, ranging from coffee tables, bags and jewellery through to coffin-shaped kitchens and luggage!

There are many different routes you can take to make the Death Drive, depending on how long you’re planning to stay for, or the types of attractions you want to see.

Travel Nevada offers a plethora of information, and has heaps of recommendations worth checking out.

  • At the time of writing, the USA has closed its borders to Brits during the coronavirus pandemic, as you can’t visit if you’ve been in the UK within 14 days prior to a trip. You can check the latest FCDO USA travel advice for further information.


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