Cottonwood and Marble Canyons is a 46.6 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Death Valley, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
dogs on leash
off road driving
Directions from Furness Creek: Follow Highway 190 to the landing strip at Stovepipe Wells Village. In the village turn right to reach the landing strip and Cottonwood/Marble Canyon Road. Pass the landing strip and turn left at the first road. This will lead you to Marble Canyon Trail, first right, and on to Cottonwood Canyon Trailhead, dead end.
This is a great hike for winter. I live in Wyoming, so all we have is winter camping. Not my style. Not a difficult hike and navigating was not an issue. Just watch for the entrance to Dead Horse Canyon and you'll be fine. Since we weren't certain of the water situation we hauled our water. No water filter. Maybe not a good idea if it's hot, but for us it was no problem. We did it from the Cottonwood side, and I think this is the better choice.
Cool trail with really nice photo opportunities. Not a challenging loop hike, long but easy. I popped my tire and had to change to the spare on the sand road, changing a flat in sinking sand was fun! I was in a 4x4 truck with big tires, but anything can still happen. I wouldn't recommend driving to the trail head without a high clearance vehicle some of the rocks are quick large to get over. Added some photo's from the morning sun. Definitely do this as a morning hike when the sun is cresting into the canyon. I camped around mile 9 on the road, was a great spot.
Warning: don't try this in the summer!!! We've been to Death Valley a number of times in the summer because you've not really had the full experience until you've stood at Bad Water in the 130* heat. But our first trip in the winter (Feb) allowed us to do some real on-foot exploring! The trail is easily accessed by a rental car via a gravel road, and there are some bathrooms at the trail head. Hiking through the canyon was fun...and challenging when you had to scramble and pick your way through some of the narrow passages. Other than some of the rock climbing, it's an easy trail that you can enjoy with your family.
Beautiful drive. Stock SUV's would be fine. We drove in from Death Valley rather than starting on the Nevada side. Very secluded and there are some neat spots out there to rest and relax. Lots of hidden mine shafts and stellar views of the sunset!
The most popular DV backcountry hike although there are no signs or trail to guide you so come prepared with a few topo maps and GPS. After an extensive discussion with a ranger at Stovepipe we decide to do this route. He drew us a map and suggested just one topo for Harris Hill where most people get lost. We made it through the correct pass but had a bad hand-drawn map that sent us to the right of a hill that we were supposed to go left around. This led us to what we now have learned to be an "impassible" canyon. This also meant we missed our water source at Dead Horse. Don't do this. It meant a few hours of climbing down dry steep waterfalls followed by another three hours of hiking until we found Cottonwood Rd. Did I mention we ran out of water that morning? A learning experience for sure. Do your research, talk to a few rangers, bring your navigational tools, and lots of water in case you miss the few water sources. That being said - do this, it is awesome! You will be the only one out there and boy is it quiet. The stars and moon will blow you away. This website below is really helpful in prepping for your trip. Also note I've read in a few places that the loop is closer to 30-32 miles.
We hiked this at the end of the season (mid-May) so had to deal with temp in the low 90's. Long sections of the "trail" in the wash are hard to follow and with the zero shade, made for some cranky hikers. Thankfully there is plenty of shade in a lot of sections of the hike. Some scrambling and having to hack through foliage that had taken over the trail. Great shady spot to stop and have lunch near the trial end. As always, make sure to bring enough water. Those open sections were brutal, especially towards the end of the day.
This seems to be a fairly common loop in Death Valley but I went from Friday morning to Sunday morning without seeing another soul. I also went in the opposite direction, starting up Marble Canyon and exiting Cottonwood Canyon. I'd highly recommend this in early spring as the weather was perfect (high 70's, low 50's) and desert flowers were in abundance after a few days of rain the previous week. Marble Canyon is a pretty easy slight uphill with only one challenge: a boulder blocked the canyon and you have to clamber up onto the west ridge to get around it. To get to Cottonwood Canyon you have to leave Marble Canyon where it turns west and head roughly South into Dead Horse Canyon. It's easy to miss this if you're not paying attention. There is a spring at the souther turn of Dead Horse Canyon that is very thick and difficult to get through or around. Good camping is all around though. The hike from Deadwood over to Cottonwood is pretty strenuous as there is a lot of climbing and no marked trails. Topo map and/or GPS is essential. The string of springs in Cottonwood Canyon are great although difficult to get through or around. There are some paths along the canyon wall that are useful. I camped just below the third and final spring. The final hike out is a nice easy downhill that goes quickly through some nice narrows, but not as scenic as Marble Canyons.
Hiked this as part of the Marble Canyon and Cottonwood Canyon loop. The Marble Canyon portion is the best part in terms on scenery with very narrow canyons that are amazing. The walk is a gentle uphill and not too strenuous as long as you stay on the hard pack and off the soft sand and gravel as much as possible. There is one spot where a giant boulder has blocked the passage and you have to climb around a nearby shallow ridge on the west side. Lots of wildflowers were blooming too as it was a week after some heavy rain.
Kat's review is incorrect. 4WD is not needed to access the trailhead for this hike-- only high clearance (at least 6") is necessary. 4WD is recommended since there are sections of deep gravel along the road. Road is not recommended for sedans/coupes/crossovers.
This trail is part of the longer 26 mile Cottonwood-Marble Canyon loop. Both canyons are beautiful and scenic, though the hike is entire walked through a wash. Marble Canyon is a steep ascent through a fine gravel wash so be prepared.
Do this hike in the winter. Your elevation ranges between a little above sea level and 4000'-- not optimal for the "spring" months or early fall.
4 wheel drive only. Marble Canyon well worth the drive.
Accessible only by 4 wheel drive. Loose gravel trail. Make sure to take side trail to right just before the chalk stone. Canyon narrows are AMAZING!