Walled with both mosaic conglomerates and smooth marbleized rocks, Mosaic Canyon is a fine specimen the geology of Death Valley National Park. From the parking lot at the mouth of the canyon, it is just a short walk into lower Mosaic Canyon. Hike up this slender slot between wavy white walls. Run your hands across the smooth stone and let the calming canyon surround you.
After less than half a mile, the canyon opens up to an expansive gravel wash. This marks the top of the lower canyon and the end of the most impressive part of the trail. Many visitors simply turn around right here, making Mosaic a brief but beautiful excursion.
Those in favor of the early turnaround, but interested in a little time out of the canyon, can take the “road less traveled” back to the trailhead. A steep footpath climbs the ridge to the left of the wide opening. Above the canyon, the path offers a wide view of the center of Death Valley National Park. For there one can continue downhill and cross-country back to the trailhead.
For those with energy left in their legs, Mosaic Canyon continues beyond the lower canyon. Head uphill across the massive gravely wash. After a distance of roughly half a mile, the massive wash narrows again. Here the canyon walls present more of the “mosaic breccia” conglomerate rocks that the canyon is name for. Boulders across the canyon provide fun and easy obstacles, until they give way to a 20-foot dry falls. This is the second popular turnaround point, but footpaths along the western slope make it possible to get to the top of the dry falls and further up the canyon (which eventually becomes less passable).
Mosaic Canyon is frequently recommended to new visitors by park rangers, which means it is frequently crowded. Nevertheless, it is an interesting canyon, and even the short version of this hike is quite enjoyable. It is four miles to the dry falls and back with 750 feet of elevation gain.
To get to the trailhead: From Furnace Creek, take Highway 190 northwest for 27 miles. Pass through the small resort hamlet of Stovepipe Wells and turn left up Mosaic Canyon Road. Take this well-maintained dirt road 2 miles to the trailhead.
Trailhead address: Mosaic Canyon Road, Death Valley National Park, CA 92328
Trailhead coordinates: 36.570411, -117.143455 (36° 34′ 13.47″N 117° 08′ 36.43″W)
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This 2 to 4 mile hike requires a bit of climbing and is a lesser-visited trail in Death Valley.
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There are nine campgrounds spread throughout this large park to facilitate your visit.