Cottonwood-Marble Canyon Loop

HARD 26 reviews
#17 of 70 trails in

Cottonwood-Marble Canyon Loop is a 31.8 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Teakettle Junction, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.

DISTANCE
31.8 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
5,613 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

backpacking

birding

camping

hiking

nature trips

off road driving

walking

forest

views

wild flowers

wildlife

scramble

washed out

no dogs

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.

4 months ago

Went from cotton wood canyon to Deadhorse Canyon to marble canyon. Only uphill to get out of cottonwood and cross into Deadhorse. We used this app GPS feature and hiking project GPS and where able to stay on trail the whole time. Had water in both cottonwood and Deadhorse.

backpacking
6 months ago

Good winter trip. Both springs running and I was able to get water. I ended up parking at the 2wd parking spot but in retrospect I could’ve saved hiking a few miles on rocky,sandy wash by driving into the divide. Getting down the dry falls on marble was a little tricky but it has some good hand and foot holds to help. Very few trail markers which made for a fun adventure.

backpacking
8 months ago

There is water at Cottonwood Springs and Deadhorse Canyon as of Thanksgiving weekend 2017. 4x4 is a must if you're going to start from the junction. I was in a Prius and our car made it to the 2WD parking lot 8 miles in on Cottonwood Marble Road. But it was bumpy and kind of scary. Do not attempt to drive beyond the parking area if you do not have an off-road vehicle. I was tracking our miles on my Garmin and having to hike the extra miles from the parking lot and missing some turns got us to 35 miles for this trip. It's stunning, a real adventure, but really for those with experience. Should not be attempted by newbies. We did it in 2.5 days and we never saw anyone else. I used the topo map on this app as well as following the NPS map and printed info. We also followed wild horse tracks when things got confusing and I found them to be reliable. The section from the second saddle to Deadhorse Canyon is as tricky as everyone says it is. You'll see the Canyon below but you don't see how to get down there. There is basically a steep gully you're supposed to go down. We ended up heading on a ridge instead and I kept wondering how we were supposed to get down there. Once I realized we missed the turn into the gully, we descended down the side of a mountain and slid all the way down to reach the gully (do not try this at home!). This is to say, be meticulous in looking for the second saddle/gully turn. I personally found the 8ft dryfall to be difficult to climb down but my bf scrambled halfway and just jumped. Then I threw our gear down for him to catch it. Climb on the left side of the fall, which has more handholds. There is also a turn we missed near the rock choke after the marble slots. But the trail heads up to the left before the choke. Look for cairns. Because daylight is scarce this time of year, we got up at 4am each day to start. We parked at the 2WD parking on the first night and hiked a little past the junction to setup camp for the night. We started at the junction going clockwise on the first day and ended for the day at North Valley. Second day we went from North Valley back to the 2WD parking. We carried 5L of water for each day and I found that to be enough, we refilled at Cottonwood Springs. Highly recommend it for the solitude and experience. Just do your research.

backpacking
Thursday, April 27, 2017

Backpacked this trail in two days (Feb. 24, 2017-Feb. 25, 2017) starting on the Cottonwood side and ending on the Marble Canyon side. I parked in the 2WD parking area and though my 2WD probably could have made it, it only added two miles one way to the trip.

On the first day I made it to the end of the jeep road by about 1:00 PM so I decided to continue on to Cottonwood Spring. Made it to the spring by about 5:00 PM which was perfect. There is plenty of space to camp out near this spring.

On day two, I tracked up the canyon, over the two saddles, and down into marble canyon. That traverse from the first saddle, to the second is not difficult but you must pay attention. I had the GPS way points programmed and I'm glad I did. Second day was by far the most stunning hike. The view of Marble Canyon from the top was incredible. Highly recommended.

All three springs were active when I was there, granted they had a huge rain storm the week before. First cottonwood spring and dead horse spring were only mildly active but the main cottonwood spring was very active (pictured). Beautiful, clean, cool water.

Great trip. If you want to take it very easy and get some side hikes in, three days is very doable. If you're looking to do it in two days, also very doable.

hiking
Thursday, March 09, 2017

Did just a portion of this loop (Marble Canyon to the Petroglyphs). Excellent day hike. The total length can be shortened considerably if you continue driving along the road. 4WD is advised, but not required. Having never been here, I chose to park at the end of the 2WD road, which lengthened the overall trip to 13 miles. Still worth it. The hike itself is awesome and the petroglyphs are really cool. Keep a sharp eye out. They are hard to spot. I walked right by them the first time because someone had told me "you can't miss 'em."

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

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.

hiking
Thursday, January 14, 2016

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.

hiking
Friday, July 03, 2015

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.

off road driving
Thursday, March 12, 2015

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!

hiking
Thursday, November 13, 2014

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.

hiking
Thursday, October 09, 2014

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.

hiking
Monday, March 10, 2014

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.

hiking
Monday, March 10, 2014

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.

hiking
Thursday, May 09, 2013

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.

off road driving
Monday, April 08, 2013

4 wheel drive only. Marble Canyon well worth the drive.

hiking
Sunday, April 07, 2013

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!

hiking
7 months ago

hiking
8 months ago

hiking
8 months ago

hiking
8 months ago

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

hiking
Monday, October 24, 2016

hiking
Wednesday, March 23, 2016

off road driving
Monday, April 08, 2013