Marble Canyon Road

Death Valley National Park, California

Elevation Gain592ft
Trailhead Elevation1,180ft
Elevation Min/Max1180/1772ft
Elevation Start/End1180/1180ft

Marble Canyon Road

Marble Canyon Road is a hiking, biking, and horse trail in Inyo County, California. It is within Death Valley National Park. It is 2.3 miles long and begins at 1,180 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 4.6 miles with a total elevation gain of 592 feet. This trail connects with the following: Cottonwood Marble Canyon Trail and Cottonwood Canyon.

Marble Canyon Road Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Backpacking California: Mountain, Foothill, Coastal, & Desert Adventures in the Golden State (Wilderness Press)
Author varies by trail
View more trails from this guide book
"This is a Death Valley classic, and one of the park’s best backpacking routes. From the western edge of Death Valley, this loop first goes up through spectacular Marble Canyon, where long, tight narrows adorned with beautiful petroglyphs will guide you deep into the mountain. You will then look for a cross-country route across a rarely traveled ridge to upper Cottonwood Canyon, the wildest and only challenging part of this hike. In Cottonwood Canyon, you will hike down through three amazing springs, lush islands of cottonwoods, willows, and grapevine miraculously irrigated by a perennial creek. The inner canyon below the springs wind through a meandering gorge and offers several exciting side canyons for further exploration."
Hiking California's Desert Parks (Falcon Guides)
Bill & Polly Cunningham
View more trails from this guide book
"The adjacent Cottonwood and Marble canyons are as different from each other as night and day. Cottonwood is wide and open whereas Marble is a wonderland of intimate narrows and dark alcoves. This is a long out-and-back day hike up a deep, narrow canyon in the Cottonwood Mountains, with colorful rock formations, petroglyphs, and expansive views of remote backcountry."

Marble Canyon Road Trip Reports

4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars
icon3 Total
4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars
The drive in was rough but an experienced driver can make it with most SUV's. I made it in a 2003 all wheel drive Honda CRV with no problems. We made camp near the mouth of the canyon which proved to be our best night out. The canyon is full of many different things to explore. I have hiked many more impressive narrows before but this canyon had its own charm. The gravel under foot grew rather tiresome after a while but really the only downside. We continued on a long trip up dead horse canyon which was some seriously tough terrain right at the junction there was a nice creek just up dead horse canyon. If you are in this area and have a SUV find your way up this canyon.
4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars
Just completed this hike and I'd recommend it! The drive in was a little bit of a challenge, but maybe not as difficult as in years past (see description below). We drove the road in and decided that the dip into the wash didn't look like too much trouble for our 4x4 with cabover camper. We drove up the wash for about 1.5 miles before we decided that we could probably walk faster than we were driving. Anyone traveling with 4x4 could do the road to the trailhead with not a lot of trouble - some fancy driving in a couple of spots, but nothing really hairy.

Once on the trail, the canyon was amazing. The description is pretty true although I expected a staircase just to the right of the first chockstone and instead had to back-track 30 yards and take a well marked trail (also to the right) over. The narrows are pretty spectacular and well work the hike in. This year, with all of the rain in Death Valley the wildflowers and grasses growing on the canyon walls only added color to the red and grey backdrop.

Take lots of water, and as the review below mentions, walk on the hard pack when you can - it's a lot easier. Happy trails!
5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars
Marble Canyon
November 2000

We drove down an obscure road that led past an airstrip at Stovepipe Wells campground and then finally saw the sign for Marble and Cottonwood canyons. We scooted across the sand on Mesquite Flat for about 8 miles before getting to the mountains.

After the mouth of the main wash, things started to get rough. Since we were driving up a large river size wash, one of our hiking companions was convinced that it was going to rain and that we were going to get hit by a flash flood. The weather forecast did not foresee this, although I must admit that the clouds looked black and ominous. Driving in a riverbed can be thought provoking.

After bumping along for 45 minutes or less, we found a place to park. The track was becoming more indistinct by the minute. We got out and continued walking up the canyon. We didn’t meet anyone on this hike. The desert silence surrounded us except for our feet making crunching sounds on the wash gravel underfoot. The desert or any quiet place in nature, is definitely a place to do a little soul searching.

We followed some Jeep tracks into the canyon and watched how they went over some seemingly impassable stuff. I looked continuously for petroglyphs trying to think like an Indian bent on "graffiti". The author of the Hiking in Death Valley by wouldn’t say where they were, in order to defeat further graffiti over them.

After the canyon opened up again, we came to the first side canyon and stopped for a snack break. After exploring the small side canyon, we followed the main canyon until we came to a chock stone blocking the canyon and followed the bypass around it. The chock stone has been there for quite some time because its edges have been rounded off. The power of water is mighty.

The wind report came into action, causing us to get wind burned later. Hearing that wind whistle through the next set of narrows was a bit scary as one could easily imagine a wave of water coming down the chute. We heard military jets just out of sight which took away some of the peacefulness and added to the thoughts of rushing water.

The second set of narrows were awesome! Nice smooth gray walls. We finally spotted some petroglyphs. They did have graffiti over some of them caused by people carving their names and dates into the walls over the faint and older petroglyphs. One example of graffiti was of a person from 1913 or 1906 indicating water 5 miles away. Prospectors we thought. I wonder if they were awed by the narrows as well.

Emerging back out of the canyon, we walked our mile back to the vehicle, trying to walk along the packed mud stream rims instead of the rolling pebbles. That makes quite a difference as one felt like one was moving faster. It feels like the difference between trying to walk in rollerskates vs. tennis shoes.


Marble Canyon Road Photos

Show off your photography skills ... post your pics of this trail!

Trail Information

Death Valley National Park
Nearby City
Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park
Local Contacts
USGS 7.5-min. East of Sand Flat, Cottonwood Canyon, and Harris Hill
Local Maps

Trail Log