Mosaic Canyon is a fun hike to do in Death Valley. There is just enough rock scrambling and navigating through obstacles to keep things interesting. Mosaic Canyon narrows and widens several times throughout the hike so the views are always changing.
This tends to be one of the more popular hikes in Death Valley, so be prepared to share the trail with other hikers. Or, get here early, before the crowds arrive. If you are staying in Stovepipe Wells, this makes a great early morning hike, before the crowds and the heat start overwhelming Death Valley.
Distance: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,200 feet
Length of Time: 2 – 3 hours
Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.
Hiking Mosaic Canyon
The trailhead is located near Stovepipe Wells. The turn-off to get to the Mosaic Canyon trailhead is just .25 miles west of Stovepipe Wells on Highway 190. Turn left onto the gravel road and drive for 2 miles until you get to the wide, gravel car park. This road is suitable for cars, SUV’s and trucks, but buses and RV’s are not recommended.
Looking down the gravel road back to Stovepipe Wells.
On the Trail
From the car park, enter the canyon. It will be a steady uphill walk until you reach the turn around point. There are no big climbs on this hike, but the slow and steady climb for two miles does add a fair amount of elevation gain. If you are tired at the turn around point, it’s good to know that walking back to your car is easier.
The trail quickly narrows as you head into the canyon. In this section, you are walking among scalloped, wavy rock worn smooth from repeated flash floods. This is one of the most scenic parts of the hike. It’s also tons of fun if you are here with kids.
Eventually, the canyon widens again. You can continue to walk in the wash, which is the gravel surface on the bottom of the canyon, or explore the trails that pass over the hills.
At about 2/3 of the way into the hike, you reach a boulder jam. From a distance, it looks like the trail ends. But there is a way through this obstacle. I could tell you exactly how to get through it, but that would take away the fun of it. It’s not challenging or technical or dangerous, it just requires searching for the right path.
These obstacles are what make this hike so fun…trying to find your way through (and maybe getting a little dirty in the process).
As you continue on, there are a series of several climbs up more obstacles. Older and adventurous kids will probably love this section. Smaller kids may need the occasional boost to get up and over these small obstacles.
Near the end of the hike, the trail ends at a 20 foot dryfall. This is too dangerous to climb without the proper equipment. If you backtrack about 150 feet to the bend in the trail, you may notice a faint trail heading up into the hills. Take this trail to keep going or you can turn around and go back to your car.
The trail descends down into the wash and then ends at another impassable dryfall. Turn around here and return to your car.
If you are new to hiking or are curious about what you should bring on a hike, check out our Hiking Gear Guide. Find out what we carry in our day packs and what we wear on the trails.
Do you have any questions about this hike? Comment below!
More Information for Your Trip to California & Death Valley:
- DEATH VALLEY: The Complete Guide to Death Valley National Park
- DEATH VALLEY: 20 Epic Things to Do in Death Valley National Park
- 2 DAY ITINERARY: 2 Amazing Days in Death Valley: Our Itinerary from Las Vegas
- DEATH VALLEY DAY TRIP: How to Plan a Day Trip to Death Valley from Las Vegas
- DEATH VALLEY HIKE: Grotto Canyon: Are You Up for the Challenge?
- RACETRACK PLAYA: How to Visit Racetrack Playa in Death Valley
- KINGS CANYON & SEQUOIA: One Day Itinerary for Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks
- SAN DIEGO: 10 Best Things to do in San Diego
- JOSHUA TREE: 14 Epic Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park
Read all of our articles in our California Travel Guide.
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