While researching things to do in Death Valley National Park, I came across a couple hikes and drives through narrow canyons, including Titus Canyon and Mosaic Canyon and the photos had me mesmerized. I couldn’t wait to see the tight limestone narrows of Titus Canyon and the polished marble walls contrasted against cliffs of rock mosaics in Mosaic Canyon.
According to the national park website, the first half mile of the Mosaic Canyon Trail is the most spectacular and many visitors hike to the end of the narrow canyon a half mile and hike back out. Because I had so many different Death Valley sights, hikes, and viewpoints on my list of things to do, we actually debated doing the shortened version of the Mosaic Canyon hike to save time.
I am so glad we didn’t do the short version of the hike! The entire two mile out and back Mosaic Canyon Trail is absolutely incredible.
Hiking The Mosaic Canyon Trail
The first half mile of the trail through lower Mosaic Canyon is like nothing I have ever seen before. It is remarkable! The curving polished marble walls of the narrow canyon are smooth and shiny, and it even looks and feels like the tile you might see in your house. The gorgeous marble is then broken up periodically with patches of mixed rock — a conglomerate of various types of rock packed together as if they were mosaics in an art piece. Standing in the narrow canyon and climbing up, over, and around the rocks was an amazing experience.
After The Narrows
After a half mile, the canyon opens up into a vast open gravel wash with a couple large boulders in the center. Kids were running around, hikers were exploring various side trails, and families were climbing on the rocks for photos. This area was wide, hot, and sunny, and we kept going to reach some shade under the canyon cliffs ahead.
As the trail continues into upper Mosaic Canyon, it narrows once more and again the rocks change form and feel — at times it doesn’t even feel like the same hike. In fact, in some places, the ground resembles old asphalt roads more than dirt or sand. Eventually the canyon narrowed again and we reached the end of the trail at a dry waterfall of giant boulders. Brian and the kids hoisted themselves up those boulders to explore what’s past it, but their report was “nothing much and not worth the effort.”
While most of the time out and back hikes sort of bum me out because we’re repeating sights, this one was different. The light had changed since we began our hike, so the canyon walls looked different and gorgeous traveling in the opposite direction — plus, that meant we got to go through the polished marble canyon once more!
Know Before You Go
- Mosaic Canyon is located off CA-190 in Death Valley, on the 2.3 mile unpaved Mosaic Canyon Road in Stovepipe Wells Village across from Stovepipe Wells Campground.
- While the entire Mosaic Canyon hike is four miles total, two miles uphill to a dry waterfall at the end and two miles back, many people just hike in a half mile through the gorgeous, smooth marble canyon narrows and turn around.
- The full four mile hike is moderate to difficult depending on your fitness level and will take 2.5-3 hours round trip.
- The closest restroom facility is located in nearby Stovepipe Wells Village inside the general store and restaurant.