Mosaic Canyon, Mosaic Canyon Trailhead, Death Valley National Park, California
Mosaic Canyon - 3.9 miles
Mosaic Canyon Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||3.9 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||975' - 1,725' (1,757' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+750' net elevation gain (+814' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Mosaic Canyon is aptly named for the colorful polished rock - or Breccia - lining its narrow slots. An Italian word meaning 'fragment', Mosaic Canyon's Breccia comprises a myriad of rock fragments and types suspended in a naturally occurring cement that partially forms its walls. Millennia of rainfall and floods sculpted this unique geologic amalgam, resulting in an uncommonly colorful and polished finish. The cool, narrow slots of Mosaic Canyon offer a welcome reprieve from Death Valley's hot open spaces, and an intimate look into its complex geologic past.
The route enters Mosaic Canyon's wide mouth and quickly narrows - to 4' in some places - just a few hundred feet beyond the parking area. The Breccia's smooth curves and slick chutes distinguish these narrow slots. The canyon opens up for a spell after .55 miles beneath towering, sun-splashed walls.
Here a faint trail appears along the canyon's right side, running for a short time atop a low wall separating the main canyon from an interesting side canyon that parallells it to the west. Another side canyon joins Mosaic from the east, where a cairn marks the way in through a small notch (1 mile : 1,410').
Continuing on, the canyon narrows once again through more intricately carved slots and chutes. You'll soon come to a small dry fall circumvented by a cairn-marked path (1.4 miles), though this alternative route is no easier than scrambling over the fall itself. Interesting slot travel and minor scrambling lead to another cairn marked route up the right side of the canyon (1.85 miles : 1,662').
This route circumvents an impassible 25' dry fall located a few dozen yards up from the split-off. Though steep and uneven, this well-marked and worn path sends you up and over the fall without incident. The top of the fall is a good turnaround point for most (1.95 miles), as the terrain is appreciably more challenging beyond this point. The canyon continues on for another three miles towards the summit of Tucki Mountain.
The upper canyon is home to bighorn sheep; lucky travelers may spot them bounding along canyon walls or near water holes after rainstorms. A more common sighting is of snakes and scorpions, which seek out the canyon's cool shade and shelter. Exercise caution when scrambling about, and never place your hands or feet where you can't see them.
Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84View Interactive Google Map
- N36 34.310 W117 08.655 — Mosaic Canyon Trailhead and parking area
- N36 33.939 W117 08.002 — Cairn-marked passage to side canyon
- N36 33.723 W117 07.959 — 1st dry fall detour
- N36 33.632 W117 07.942 — 2nd dry fall detour
- N36 33.628 W117 07.870 — Top of dry fall; turnaround point for most
- Breccia, an Italian for 'fragment', is pronounced 'brecha'.
- Look for signs of bighorn sheep in the upper canyon.
- Only experienced hikers should attempt travel beyond the dryfall at 1.95 miles.
- Exercise good judgment and know your physical limitations. Never attempt a climb without proper gear and supervision.
Directions to Trailhead
The Mosaic Canyon Trailhead and Parking Area is located at the terminus of Mosaic Canyon Road. Mosaic Canyon Road is located .1 miles west of Stovepipe Wells Village on Highway 190. Turn south on Mosaic Canyon Road for 2.3 miles to the parking area. The dirt road is suitable for all 2WD vehicles in good condition.
Death Valley National Park
P.O. Box 579
Death Valley, CA 92328