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Cottonwood-Marble Canyon Loop is a 31.8 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Death Valley, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail is primarily used for hiking, camping, nature trips, and backpacking and is accessible year-round.

Length 31.8 mi Elevation gain 5,613 ft Route type Loop
Backpacking Camping Hiking Nature trips Views Wild flowers Wildlife Rocky Washed out No shade No dogs
Description
Waypoints (23)
Contact
Getting There

As of April 2019, road is open and upper trailhead parking lot is still accessible by 2 wheel drive vehicles. Please contact the park for more information.

California Travel and Tourism Commision, P.O. Box 1499 , Sacramento, CA, 95812-1499, Phone: 800-862-2543

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.

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (89)
Photos (177)
Recordings (62)
Completed (121)
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Paul Bernasconi
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarApril 2, 2020
Hiking

Awesome loop trail.

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Tyler Rowden
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarMarch 27, 2020
Hiking

Just finished this loop today. I did it counter clockwise. Beautiful terrain.. saw some wild horses and got a great close up video. It does get really windy at night in the canyons which seems to die down at some point in the night. Just a little tip if you do the loop counter clockwise I would advise filling up on water closer to the top of cottonwood canyon as there seems to be less water the further down the canyon (makes sense right). Also the road up to the parking area is not paved.. maybe I missed that in other reviews.. it’s about 7 miles long.. it was a little rough on my little baby Saab sedan. I decided to park about 3 miles from the parking area because the road was getting worse.. adding 6 miles to my hike which sucked but it builds character I guess. Cheers.

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Allen Boartfield
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarMarch 5, 2020
Over grownScramble

Great trail for the desert. Lots of water sources when I went in the beginning of May. Definitely recommend having a GPS.

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Joel Splawn
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarFebruary 23, 2020

Marble canyon is so majestic. This is a hidden gem in Death Valley. I Backpacked starting from Cottonwood and ending in Marble Canyon. What many don't realize is you can drive nearly all the way up to where Marble Canyon starts. you can drive the family there and do a short 3 mile out and back hike and see one of the greatest views of Death Valley.

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Alix Keener
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarFebruary 15, 2020
Backpacking

Awesome loop. Did it clockwise over presidents weekend, water flowing in all 3 sources. Saw wild horses on the walk between cottonwood springs and the saddle overlooking dead horse. We couldn’t find the alleged easier single track on the left into dead horse and instead did the drop straight down into the gulch. Definitely steep; take your time. Overall a really fun loop with beautiful scenery.

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Kaleigh Thorne
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarFebruary 15, 2020
Hiking

Solid loop! Really interesting terrain the whole way through - a mix of rocky canyons and expansive views. Did it in 2 days, one night, parking a mile from the trailhead junction. Perfect weather this time of year, and all the springs were active. Contrary to others, we did the loop counterclockwise starting with Marble Canyon. This direction made the trek up from Dead Horse challenging, but considering it is the only uphill slog on the entire loop it wasn't that big of a deal and makes the view after climbing 100% worth it. (Didn't know there was an easier route until reading reviews after!) Lucky to have other hiker's footprints to follow on some sections of the trail. A few areas aren't as obvious as others, especially when going through Cottonwood. We ended up bush whacking our way through one section until we found footprints. Maybe going clockwise, the path is more obvious. Awesome wild horse sighting as well just before Cottonwood Canyon. Awesome trek!

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Adrienne Ann
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarFebruary 14, 2020
HikingNo shade

Did this loop over three days during Presidents Day weekend (aka Valentines Day weekend!). Went clockwise, starting at the junction of Cottonwood Canyon Road and Marble Canyon Road. A high clearance vehicle gets you from the mouth of the canyon (2WD parking) to the junction, easy breezy. All three springs were running, the first one seemed more like a trickle but the water was clear and not stagnant. Day 1 was all about walking up a dirt road. Pretty, but a bit tedious... the trail takes you over a spring crossing at the Cottonwood Canyon seasonal spring, so finding the spring is not super difficult. We camped just past the seasonal spring. Day 2 was pretty awesome, with cottonwood trees, a beautiful plain, lots of desert plants, some mountains, and a whole lot of horse poo. Some people see wild horses in this section. I saw none. It was very sad. The trail takes you over Cottonwood Springs, the spring is right there. The trek up to the first saddle was a little work but nothing super intense. Took the boot path to the right of the steep gully into dead horse, which made for an easier hike into Deadhorse. The trail crosses over/next to the Deadhorse spring. We camped a little past the spring - but before the dryfall. Day 3 started almost immediately with the dryfall. Not as difficult as it seemed, use the conveniently placed shorter stick as a foot hold and then scramble down. We dropped our packs first because who doesn't want to see their pack drop like a dead body before attempting something? That wasn't my favorite. Marble Canyon was amazing, absolutely breathtaking. We met up with another group and hiked out with them - doing a quick excursion to upper Marble Canyon to see bonus things. There's a chokepoint on the main trail, easily bypassed by taking the bootpath up on the right. The last 2-3 miles are road, at first super rocky and then just like the road you walked up on Day 1. This was an awesome trip, very few people on the trail, with lots of route finding between Cottonwood Canyon seasonal spring and Dead Horse Canyon. So much fun! Having a GPS with the route downloaded made the route finding super easy, but we had a map and compass just in case... remembering to check the compass declination setting, Death Valley's setting was different than my home town. This trip I tried the All Trails app, it was super convenient for giving a warning when I wasn't on the intended trail anymore. Also had my Garmin InReach, as there isn't cell reception for most of the national park and my home team liked receiving updates during the trip. I'm glad to have done the full loop, but next time I might do like the group we ran into - they parked a car at each of the road ends, it became a two day backpack of like 18 miles with no road walking. That kind of seems like winning right now.

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Rebecca Thomas [West CTA]
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 24, 2020
Hiking

I am an experienced ultra runner and I was pretty worried about running this as it seemed many said the trail was hard to follow. We started out clockwise and it was very pleasant running through the canyon on the Jeep Road. Eventually we came to an area where the road ended and there was some awesome single track. We found it pretty easy to follow the trail until we started to make the right turn around the mountain. Just keep your eye on the single track as it goes up the ridge on the right and then back down and crosses over the creek to some technical single track with light scrambling. There is also a right turn going up after you leave the canyon that we almost missed. We were so impressed with the views but found the slog of continued climbing pretty tough. We lost the single track for a while but I used this app to find our way. Once we reached the high point we were pretty ecstatic as the next section was fun downhill single track...it was also easy to lose to we had to keep checking the map here to make sure we were on the right path. Once we hit the next canyon it was super fun and easy going. There is one place where it seemed we have to make a crazy down climb but we found single track on our left and went around it. Such a super fun and beautiful route. We competed the whole loop in 8 hours. I had a banana, some dates, a Spring Energy gel, and a vegan burrito and a 2.5 liter water bladder. Can’t wait to do it again!

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Murat Unal
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJanuary 13, 2020
Backpacking

I did this loop clockwise first week in January. I parked 1.5 miles before the junction where the loop starts. Much of the trail is easily identifiable, although it’s easy to get off course especially in the Cottonwoods Springs area, where the trail goes through some lush vegetation. I recommend using a navigation app and downloading the waypoints in advance. I saw wild horses and it was pretty cold during the night. The dry fall before Marble Canyon can be challenging. I saw some reviews going through the ridge on the left, but I found it easier by descending from the right edge of the fall as I faced it. Overall it’s a great route for a two or three day backpacking trip.

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Goran Ruzic
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarDecember 31, 2019
Hiking

Marble road and cottonwood road are in a dry wash area and not exciting at all. In contrast, the rest of the loop is very enjoyable with diverse vegetation and scenery. At the end of the December all three water sources were running, they are located on National Park’s map https://www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/upload/Cottonwood-Marble-Canyon-Loop-Route-map.pdf The nights were pretty cold and windy, I was glad to have extra clothes and warm gloves.

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Jon David
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarOctober 21, 2019
Hiking

We drove the trail, because we didn’t know where to stop till the sign “No Motor Vehicles Past this Point”. We camped there. Hiked till the bolder that blocked the path and turned back. The next morning, we found around around it, we went about 1 mile further. Had a great time. Do it. You’ll enjoy it.

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Mark Chernyshev
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 4, 2019
BackpackingNo shade
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Kurt Sakurada
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMay 25, 2019
BackpackingBlowdownBugsMuddyNo shadeOff trailOver grownRockyScrambleWashed out
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Ty Yarnell
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarMay 10, 2019
BackpackingNo shade

We just came off this trail two days ago and I would not recommend this trail at this time. There are three water sources at this time... Two of the within a mile of each other. Based on recommendations we walked counter clockwise with the anticipation that there would be more water after the beginning of Cottonwood Canyon. There is no water for the last 12 miles and temperatures reached 102ish despite forecast of highs of 86. We discovered the hard way that conditions change rapidly!

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Morgan Christenberry
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarApril 27, 2019
Backpacking

I did this trail 2 years ago in May. We probably went the last possible weekend anyone should go. There was not anyone else on the trail and no rangers were present. It was 90-105 degrees the whole time. Bring plenty of water! We packed in at least 2.5 L for 2 of us. We found a small amount of water at the first camp sight and an actual stream at the second. We saw wild horses! The marble walls at the end were amazing. We did get a little lost a couple times. We cut across the wrong mountain at one point. I would highly recommend downloading the alltrails paid app for navigation as there is no signal for this whole hike. This was the best backpacking trip I’ve been on. It was challenging, but so worth it!

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Josh Hopkins
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarApril 20, 2019
Hiking

Hiked the trail counter-clockwise from 4/19/19 - 4/21/19, starting from upper parking lot. Road was easily accessed by 2WD SUV. Water was flowing from both springs, however the Deadhorse Canyon spring was not flowing as much, but still could be filtered. Beautiful weather and trail, only saw two other hikers on the entire trip. Amazing place, can't wait to go back.

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Ivo Gough Eschrich
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarApril 18, 2019
Backpacking

Hiked the loop clockwise in 3 days with a scout troop, camping near the end of Cottonwood Canyon Road and in Deadhorse Canyon. Good flow of water at both Cottonwood and Deadhorse Springs, as well as at least 1 mile downstream of each. No flowing water at the end of Cottonwood Canyon Road. Plenty of wildflowers in both canyons. Access road OK for high clearance 2WD up to the 'parking lot' before entering the wash. 4WD after that. We lost our way between Cottonwood Saddle and Deadhorse Canyon - failed to turn North somewhere near the end of the densely vegetated area in that canyon in between. With closeup topos, compass, and GPS we were able to dig ourselves out and cut across a few hills to reach Deadhorse Canyon.

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Alex Nicholls
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarApril 15, 2019
Hiking

Trail was great in the end however some points- you need a 4wd or high clearance vehicle to get to the trailhead. This was not clear. Also the rangers gave us no information re the springs. None of the rangers have even done the hike out of the four we spoke with. Definitely need a gps there are no trail markings. Download both the satellite and the Topo maps and follow closely, some areas are big open spaces and it is hard to follow the trail. There is one very steep section too. A large part of the cottonwood canyon part is actually a 4wd track and less exciting. Marble canyon is very special. We did counterclockwise and would definitely recommend this way. Both deadwood spring and cottonwood springs were running and fine. Best camp spots near cottonwood springs are on the cotton wood canyon side of the loop ie to eastern section. We did in 2 days. 3 days could be fun if you camp in deadhorse springs at the base of the big hill.

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Sam McKnight
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarApril 6, 2019
Hiking

Walked clockwise with a family of 7. All springs had water flowing. Camped the first night at the end of cottonwood road. Day two took us to Deadhorse canyon, but we struggled to understand how to drop into the canyon from the saddle. Follow the trail right and around the knob. That makes it easy. Overall, a fun experience. This was the first backpack for three teenagers in our group, and it was a good learning experience. Observations: 1) There’s a lot of steep up and down as you work through the cottonwood creek area. It added a lot of effort to our day that we didn’t count on, but it is a beautiful area. 2) The walk up the valley after Cottonwood Creek is a long uphill slog without much to look at. 3). We used the Gaia GPS app for navigation and it made finding the two saddles easy. However, it erroneously directs you straight over the second one into Deadhorse Canyon. We saw no trail and it was incredibly steep. Ignore the app and take the trail going to the right across the Ridge and then circling around the knob.

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Emily Hatch
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarApril 4, 2019

Did counter clockwise, which made it much easier to follow the trail. The dry fall was an easy climb. All 3 springs had water through the one near the cottonwood canyon parking is fast drying up. Keep your eyes out for petroglyphs and horses.

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Eden Seed
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarApril 2, 2019
Hiking

Beautiful in the spring. Varied desert terrain, mostly sandy afoot with many a scattered rock as one might expect in dry mountainous river beds. The dry banks are a slippery sedimentary rock / sand mix with only a few technical (hands on) moments. It is easy to get off trail in the wide open wash (don’t trust the foot steps in the sand). The lonely Cottonwood is a magic spot. The narrow marble run is the true gem. Take the sun seriously. Keep the place the place... Leave No Trace.

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