Cottonwood to Marble Canyon
- Death Valley's 3 most dramatic canyons
- Unlikely desert oases
- Stunning narrows sections
- Potential to see wild horses
- Elaborate concentration of petroglyphs
- Colorful rock formations and fossils
Connect three incredible canyons in one wonderful, four-day backpacking adventure in wild and scenic Death Valley National Park (see a video). This trip explores lush, desert oases, ancient petroglyph rock art and some of the most impressive narrows anywhere. Our adventure begins in Las Vegas, Nevada, where we’ll pick you up from your hotel and get an early start out to Death Valley National Park, Cottonwood Canyon and this otherworldly Basin and Range environment. We'll spend 4 days traversing a series of valleys and canyons, camping near springs and oases, and sleeping under one of the most vivid night skies you've ever seen!
From the trailhead, we’ll begin our hike up the uniquely-fertile Cottonwood Canyon, one of Death Valley’s true treasures, camping in tree-shaded luxury and exploring some twisty-turny side canyons before making our way via Dead Horse Canyon to stunning Marble Canyon. Descending into Marble Canyon, we’ll enjoy hiking through towering narrows and spot prehistoric petroglyphs along with epically ancient fossils.
Trip Dates & Booking
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- Shuttle to Death Valley: 4 hours
- Hiking Mileage: 8.5 miles
- Elevation Gain: 1300 feet
This multi-day Death Valley hiking trip begins with pickup from your hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada and transportation to our trailhead. Upon entering Death Valley National Park we’ll stop at the Furnace Creek Visitors’ Center to pick up our permit. After Furnace Creek, we’ll have about 30 more minutes of driving on the pavement before we turn off at Stovepipe Wells onto a rough dirt road. Ten miles of washboarded four-wheel driving will take us to the start of our hike at the confluence of Cottonwood and Marble Canyons. We’ll make lunch at the car before heading off down the trail. Our hike will take us along 8.5 miles up the Cottonwood Canyon road to the wilderness boundary. We’ll make camp here under the shade of a few cottonwood trees next to a lush desert spring, a pleasant anomaly in such a harsh environment.
- Hiking Mileage: 3.5 miles
- Elevation Gain: 500 feet
With just a few miles on our plate today, we’ll enjoy a leisurely breakfast this morning and take our time packing. Traversing along Cottonwood Creek for another 3.5 miles, we’ll come to another spring where we’ll make camp and break-out lunch.
We’ll then enjoy the option of exploring one of the many narrow, side-canyons or summiting one of the surrounding unnamed peaks for incredible, 4,000-foot views of the surrounding desert. Tonight, we’ll stock our bellies with a hearty dinner and go to bed early to get plenty of rest for tomorrow’s adventure.
- Hiking Mileage: 6.5 miles
- Elevation Gain: 1500 feet
- Elevation Loss: 1200 feet
Although today doesn’t have the most mileage, many would consider it the most difficult day of the trip. We’ll start by hiking further into Cottonwood Canyon. Our now-familiar springs quickly dry out as the once-dramatic canyon dissipates into a shallow valley.
Hiking towards the head of Cottonwood Canyon, we’ll continue up over a pass and drop down a steep, off trail descent into Dead Horse canyon -- all the while enjoying tremendous views of 6,381-ft Thimble Peak and the Grapevine Mountains to the Northeast. After a steep descent, we'll enter Dead Horse Canyon and make our way to our campsite for the evening near a friendly spring. We’ll follow this trickle to an eight-foot dry-fall, scramble down the fall and take a rest at the confluence of Dead Horse and Marble Canyons. Tonight’s camp is here on a secluded sandy bench at the confluence with our third and final canyon.
- Hiking Mileage: 7.8 miles
- Elevation Loss: 1800 feet
- Shuttle to Las Vegas: 4 hours
Today, we’ll finish out our trip with an exciting early-morning hike down stunning Marble Canyon. In many ways, we’ve saved the best for last. Today’s scenery is enough to turn any hiker into an aspiring photographer.
We’ll pass several smaller springs along the hike today, providing pockets of riparian vegetation. Further on, the incredible geology of Marble Canyon starts to show us a wheel of colors. We’ll also try to spot fossil shells in the polished dolomite wall, and find ourselves marveling under the most impressive collection of petroglyphs in Death Valley National Park.
After exiting the last narrows, we’ll come upon a primitive dirt road that signals our final two miles of easy cruising back to the vehicle for our return drive to Las Vegas.
Please Note: We always do everything in our power to follow the set itinerary, however it can change occasionally based on temporary access restrictions, weather, lodging/campground availability, guest ability/injury, natural events like fires and flooding, and other potential causes.
- Top-of-the-line tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and technical backpack
- Use of trekking poles
- All meals are included from breakfast the first day through lunch on the last day
- A professional, knowledgeable, certified Death Valley hiking guide
- Comprehensive, roundtrip transportation from your hotel in Las Vegas and back
- All necessary entrance fees and permits
- Emergency equipment including a company-issued first-aid kit and satellite phone
- You will receive a Lifetime Hiking Membership entitling you, your spouse and kids to a lifetime discount of 10% off any Wildland Trekking hiking trip after your first one!
- Clothes, raingear, and footwear
- Sunscreen, toiletries and personal items
- Water bottles and a headlamp or flashlight
- Guide gratuity (industry recommendation is 10-20% of trip cost)
All of our hiking and backpacking tours include a diversity of tasty meals packed full of critical carbohydrates, proteins and fats. We carry foods that travel well in the backcountry – rice, pastas, lentils, beans, couscous, packaged meats, nuts, breads, oatmeal, granola, and more.
For optimal taste and energy, we supplement all our meals with spices, herbs, oils, cheeses, butter, sugar, and fruits and vegetables (fresh and dried). In addition, we provide you with with an assortment of trail mix, snacks, and dried fruits to eat at your own discretion.
We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian, kosher and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee.
We provide all group gear which includes the following:
- Deuter or Osprey backpacks
- Sierra Designs, Kelty or Big Agnes tents
- Sierra Designs, Kelty, Big Agnes and Mountain Hardware sleeping bags
- Thermarest or Big Agnes sleeping pads
- Leki or Black Diamond trekking poles
- Cooking stoves and cookware
- Company-issued first-aid kit
- Satellite phone
We ask that you supply a couple of gear items on your hiking tour. These items are three 1-liter water bottles per person and either a headlamp or flashlight per person. Basic items like sunscreen, bug repellent (where and when applicable), lip balm, and toiletries are also important. All of these items are available online at Wildland Trekking Outfitters.
Please refer to the trip packet for a recommended clothing list (we email you a detailed trip packet when you inquire and when you register). All trips require a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or hiking boots (reliable brands include Montrail, Lowa, Merrell, Vasque, and Salomon), rain gear, and non-cotton and cotton clothing layers. A minimum of three pairs of wool or synthetic hiking socks are also required. All of these items are available online at Wildland Trekking Outfitters.
NOTE: See the Packing Lists page for more detailed information on what clothes and gear to bring on your hiking tour. The trip packet you receive when you contact us will have the most accurate clothing and gear list for the tour you're interested in.
Ready to hike? In the Dates section of this trip page, the green dates are bookable online by simply clicking on the date, and blue dates must be booked through our customer service team for a variety of possible reasons. To email our customer service team, you can click here to get the ball rolling. Our adventure consultants will confirm availability, and if you're ready to register we'll email you a link to a registration profile. You'll have 72 hours to complete your profile (and that of any dependents) and pay the deposit ($500).
Feel free to call us for more info - we're here 7 days a week!
This trip originates in Las Vegas, Nevada. Your guide will be in contact approximately 10 days before the trip start date to coordinate the pre-trip orientation, which will be at 5:00 PM at a hotel in Las Vegas. Your guide will then pick you up at your hotel the next morning for transport to the trailhead. For Private Death Valley Tours your guide will meet you at your hotel in Las Vegas at an agreed upon time.
Your guide will inform you of the first day's pick-up time at the orientation meeting. Generally, you can expect it to be between 5 and 8 am, although the exact time will depend on current weather and road conditions. We will drop you off at your hotel on the final day normally before 5 PM (this time is not guaranteed, as a variety of circumstances can influence our exact return time).
Your safety is our top priority. Our hiking tours are led by professional hiking guides, all of whom are wilderness-certified first responders or EMT's, each with years of guiding and wilderness experience. We've developed comprehensive risk management protocols that our guides adhere to in case of an emergency, and most tours carry a satellite phone. If you have any further questions about safety, please contact us at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) for more information.
Your tour will be led by a trained, experienced professional with a solid guiding background, years of personal wilderness and hiking experience, medical certifications, and a passion for leading people into breathtaking landscapes. Check out our Meet Our Team page for staff bios.
Guides are required to take 8 hours off each 24-hour period to sleep, recuperate, take personal/down time...etc. In addition, as part of the 8 hours off they must sleep/rest or be in their tents/rooms uninterrupted for a minimum of 5 hours each night. We ask guests to respect these requirements and to not interrupt guides' off time and sleep time unless there is a true emergency.
The standard group size on our Death Valley trips is 6 guests and 1 guide, with a maximum of 10 guests and 2 guides. If you have more questions about group size, please give us a call at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) and we'll answer all your questions.
Age restrictions are as follows:
- 12 and older to join scheduled tours (mixed groups)
- 5 and older to join private tours, with final approval and specific logistical requirements (such as porter or stock assist) determined on a case by case basis
Death Valley encompasses an area with extreme elevation and climate variations. It is home to the lowest point in the United States: Bad Water Basin at 282 feet below sea level. Its highest point, Telescope Peak, is 11,049 feet high, a 11,331 ft difference!! Most of our trips focus on the lower elevations, and feature comfortably moderate winter temperatures, and warm-hot Spring/Fall temperatures. To be fully prepared, please follow the recommended clothing list closely (this list comes as part of your trip packet when you register). Read below for average high and low temperatures in the lower sections of Death Valley:
|Average Temperatures (Fahrenheit)|
Camping on Backpacking Trips
Sleeping on backpacking trips is in premier 1-person, 2-person or 4-person backcountry tents. Solo travelers, and anyone else who requests it, are issued single tents. Top-of-the-line self-inflating sleeping pads and sleeping bags (professionally laundered after every trip) are also provided.
Fresh & Delicious
Meals from breakfast Day 1 through lunch the last day are fully included and prepared by your guide. We never use dehydrated backpacking meals, instead serving freshly prepared, delicious backcountry cuisine made with a variety of common and specialty ingredients that travel well in the wilderness.
In the Action
Of course campsites vary tremendously by destination, trip and even by the individual day of a trip. However, you can expect to camp in beautiful areas that put you right in the action to make the most of your backpacking adventure. We carefully design our itineraries with campsites in mind.