Cottonwood-Marble Canyon Loop Day 1


Cottonwood-Marble Canyon confluence to Camp 1 in Cottonwood Canyon
8.7 mi :: 4 hr :: 1830 ft

We get a reasonably early start, which is a good thing, because there’s a little more to getting to Cottonwood Canyon than just driving to Death Valley. A park pass and backcountry permit are required, which we got at the Stovepipe Wells ranger station. That’s important, because every thirty minutes a ranger drives an electric golf cart out over the eight miles of washboard bumps and three miles of Subaru-scraping rocky arroyo road to write tickets and nab illegal campers. We also buy two 7.5-minute topos, for Ann to ‘practice navigation’. They will come in very handy. Around one o’clock we park at the Cottonwood-Marble confluence and head up the Cottonwood road with four liters of water apiece.


Most of the day is spent hiking up the road that winds up Cottonwood Canyon. For a road hike, especially, we see peculiar and amazing things. The first is the metal signpost where the two big canyons meet. It’s hard just to spot the sign because the size of the terrain overwhelms it, but it’s impossible to read it unless you walk right up to it. “Cottonwood” and “MARBLE” are scratched on the metal plates like a child’s drawing of a street corner.


Ted told us that he backed his truck into a huge, naturally sculped dirt ampitheator and blasted his stereo to the moon. I think this is it – because Ann is in the foreground you can’t tell that it’s about 60 feet high.


There is an amazing variety of rock in the canyon. Ann finds many small fossils in a dark wall, while just up the way the rocks look like layers of caramel, melted and cooled.


Another patch of dark rock has white minerals higlighting all the textures in it.


Just before we stop for lunch we meet two hikers returning to their truck who describe the canyon ahead as a “jungle” of cottonwoods. Shortly after that another couple wave as they drive by, then stop and chat on their way back down. These are the only people we see all day.


What we actually find at the end of the road are big cottonwoods growing in marshy canyon bottoms choked with tall grasses, vines, and cattails. The way seems to be to go until you get stuck, then follow the evidence of trampling from those who did the same before you. There are many places with flowing water, but we’re still carrying plenty. We get wet feet, and even do a few climbing moves before we find a high, flat spot to camp at dark.

6 responses to “Cottonwood-Marble Canyon Loop Day 1”

  1. 1 – there is nothing more under “more”.

    2 – i was gonna recommend NOT buying the pass, but
    a – you already know my stance on that
    b – you would have assumed it was yet another diatribe

    when we went up there, i was hesitant to buy the pass. my friends figured the ranger would
    have some good ‘beta’ regarding water… i relented.
    it was some 90 year old old fart working to get his 70 year pension of someshit. i don’t
    think he even knew what Natl. Park he was in! he was quote “passing through”.

    the best he gave us was “Some fellas saw water up thar a coupla weeks back.” that was NOT
    10 bux well spent.. even though i didn’t pay for it.

    yes.. the washboard is phukked beyond belief and i loosened some screws in my truck.
    4 big dudes (not me, really) and 4 big packs and lots of water.. the road was a b!tch for
    me too.
    i did NOT drive to the end of cottonwood… stopped ~.5 miles short. some of those washes i
    figured you’d be scraping on, but figured you stop. after all, it’s a loop so it’s fairly
    inconsequential where you stop as you have to return to that point.

  2. ok.. that’s better. your site was doing weird things… like the type was going off into your links.
    the pic is NOT displaying either. FIX IT!$^&&&%$#$

  3. haahaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!
    that’s cuz of all the p0rn links and so forth.

    yes, i was disappointed. i wanna talk to you and anne about the trip. she said you added.. well, your trip came out to 30 miles. so that’s cool.
    amazing back there.
    we saw 4-5 other people making loop. i was jealous.

    also, anne said you found “3” spots with water. i am interested to see where these were. i mean, know [at least] one of them!

    the skulls were amazing. i really wich i coulda seen those. i don’t know how i could have left them! i mean, i know it’s felonious to pilfer dead bones and so forth.. but what a wall ornament.

    ok, i need to eat.

  4. yep. that thar is the amphitheatre. it’s amazing.

    your pics are sweet. it’s the NEXT day’s hike that i like the most. that stretch in the open canyon along creek. the slope is so mild it’s inconsequential(~).

    your assesment of the “cottonwood jungle” is EXACTLY like ours was: hike ’til you can’t, then cross the river and keep hiking.
    the only part i didn’t like was the ultra-thorny mesquite. i was glad to have my poles in much of this lower section.

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