Will be driving out to the Rally from NE Georgia but need to make a stop in Arroyo Grande, CA first before I head up the coast to Salem. Arroyo Grande is on the CA coast in the San Luis Obispo area, so basically the middle of Death Valley (north to south) is in line with Arroyo Grande. I will be coming thru Denver, then head down to Arroyo Grande from there. Looks like I have two choices, either go right through Death Valley (most direct route) or go around the north side in the hopes it will be somewhat cooler, but obviously longer.

Having never done the Death Valley rife before, I am a little concerned doing it in July with the heat. I will have a hydration pack, etc. Not sure that going around the north side will buy me much relief though, and uncertain of the road quality on that side. Looking for some advice from those familiar with this region what the best, safest option would be. Thanks...