Cottonwood/Marble Canyon Loop Hike
||26 to 32 mile loop with at least
12 miles of the hike on a primitive dirt road
||3 to 5 days
||8 miles NW of Stovepipe Wells
at mouth of canyon, or 11 miles NW of Stovepipe
Wells at the Marble Canyons junction if you have
4x4 high clearance
||first 8 miles high clearance;
next 3 miles to Marble Canyon junction requires
4x4 high clearance. Marble Canyon juction may be
hard to locate and unsigned
||moderate to strenuous depending
on level of experience and physical cond.
||no trail to speak of except 12
miles of dirt road, then either a gravel or brushy
wash or cross-country route. No signage or route
||dependable in Cottonwood Canyon
and usually available in Deadhorse Cyn.
||pick up free permit at Furnace
Creek Visitor Center or Stovepipe Wells
||Cottonwood Canyon & Harris
Hill, 7.5 min. (both necessary for a safe hike)
||Either the Death Valley AAA or
Harrison map. Watch your odometer mileage closely
as the Marble Canyon juntion may be unsigned &
difficult to locate
||flowing water, cottonwood trees,
wildlife, deep narrow canyons and wilderness
Valuable Information and Warnings
- The recommended direction for the loop hike is starting
up Cottonwood Canyon and returning via Marble Canyon
to maximize water locations and minimize contact with
other hikers doing the loop.
- Thick vegetation and brush chokes the wet areas
of Cottonwood Canyon. A path around the vegetation
can be found sometimes on the north side and often
on the south side of the wash. Follow the path of
least resistance. Camp away from flowing water.
- About 300 yards beyond upper Cottonwood Spring turn
right (north) up a dry wash, then hike another 2 miles
looking closely for the unmarked pass on your right.
This low spot on the ridge is where you start the
route toward Marble Canyon. There is no marked route
or clearly defined path, just zig zag your way to
- Along the cross-country route, the path on the east
side of the pass is fairly clear, just follow it down
into the basin, then cross the basin above the 4200
ft. spring (no recoverable water) to the ridge, then
follow the path easterly along the ridge past the
first steep descent into Deadhorse Canyon, then pass
in front off a small hill, then descend 600 feet to
Deadhorse Canyon (via a less steep drainage).
- DO NOT try to descend the canyon that drains beyond
the dry spring at 4200 ft., (it flows in a southeasterly
direction back toward Cottonwood Canyon). It has impassable
- Deadhorse Canyon below the spring is choked with
vegetation, follow the path on the left slope or west
side of the canyon hiking downhill. Easy hiking the
rest of the way down Marble Canyon with potential
explorations up several side canyons.
- As of December, 2005 the Deadhorse Canyon spring
has been dependable for the past several years but
could dry up in severe drought years.
- This loop hike is the most popular backpacking trip
in the park. Please respect other campers by camping
out of sight and sound of your neighbors.
- The wilderness desert environment can be unforgiving.
It is your responsibility to be fully prepared. Be
sure to consult a Ranger if you need more information.
- Practice Leave No Trace camping ethics.