“A trail through a narrow canyon, highlighting the geology of the area.”
— David Hitchcock
If it's raining, or threatening to rain, you may want to consider another trail due to the fear of flooding in the canyon. The canyon is narrow in several places with some scrambling required over slippery rocks, which could be tricky if it's raining.
This is a nice out-and-back that can be adjusted to be shorter. That said, the full route is highly recommended! You'll wander through a beautiful canyon with smooth marble walls on either side of you.
Need to Know
Check the weather and road conditions prior to your trip. Carry water at all times. There is no cellular coverage in the area. Bring a map and compass, or use either the REI Co-Op Guide to the National Parks
or the Trail Run Project mobile app
to stay on track.
Drink plenty of water: Drink at least one gallon (4 liters) of water per day to replace loss from sweat, more if you are active. Fluid and electrolyte levels must be balanced, so have salty foods or "sports drinks" too.
Avoid hiking in the heat: Do not hike in the low elevations when temperatures are hot. The mountains are cooler in summer, but can have snow and ice in winter.
Travel prepared to survive: Stay on paved roads in summer. If your car breaks down, stay with it until help comes. Carry extra drinking water in your car in case of emergency.
Watch for signs of trouble: If you feel dizzy, nauseous, or a headache, get out of the sun and drink water.
The trail is very rocky, and extremely narrow at points as the canyon closes in on both sides. There are several rock jams that require scrambling to ascend, so it's not the best for runners.
The parking lot for the trailhead is located 2.5 miles up Mosaic Canyon Road, just before you enter Stovepipe Wells. The gravel road is narrow, but you can access it in your car.
The nice thing about this trail is that you can tailor the outing to your comfort level. Leaving the parking lot, the trail ascends through a wide wash before entering the narrow canyon. Within the first .25 mile of the trail, it enters the canyon where white, smooth stone lines the canyon walls. Great photo opportunities exist in this part of the canyon as it winds its way uphill. Around .5 miles, the trail widens into a large gravel wash, although it is easy to follow due to all of the use. Multiple trails seem to lead through the wash, although most people turn around here and return to their cars.
For those seeking more adventure and a little more solitude, the trail continues to rise, although gently, until it reaches a second canyon. The contour of the walls varies, although the same white, polished stone can be found here. Some scrambling is required to get over some of the rocks in the narrows. At roughly 1.3 miles, there seems to be a rock jam that blocks the trail that causes many people to turn around at this point. If you want to get around the rock jam, scramble through the boulders on the left to get around the jam. Continue for another .2 miles where a larger dryfall (roughly 20 feet high) greets you. As you approach, a trail leads up the hill on the right that allows you to get around the dryfall with relative ease. Once the trail makes it over the dryfall, it descends into another gravel wash and heads further up in the canyon. More scrambling awaits as the trail makes its way further up into the canyon until it reaches 25 foot dryfall. At this point, you have no other option but to turn around and return to your car. As you approach your car, sweeping views of Death Valley and the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes spread out as you emerge from the canyon.
As with all expeditions in Death Valley, make sure you have plenty of water and sunscreen, as well as a hat of some sort, to help protect you from the effects of the sun and heat. In the morning, travel through the canyon is mostly shaded and pleasant, but as the day progresses, the sun finds its way into the narrows and there is no shade when the sun is directly overhead.
Flora & Fauna
There are a few wildflowers along the trail in various parts of the canyon.