Hiking the Mosaic Canyon Trail in Death Valley National Park

Looking to hike the Mosaic Canyon Trail in Death Valley National Park? This hiking guide covers all of the details for the hike!

Death Valley National Park is proof that nature is one of the best forms of art. From the colorful hills of the Artist’s Palette, to the textures of Badwater Basin, the park is home to unique features that truly feel like an outdoor art museum. 

And hiking the Mosaic Canyon trail is no exception! This hike takes you through narrow canyon walls, with mosaic breccia along the sides, which is a scientific term for rock created by the natural cementing together of older, smaller pieces of rock. It looks like an artist was commissioned to decorate!

Watch our experience in Death Valley National Park, including visiting Badwater Basin, Artist Palette, going for hikes, and more! And to learn more about the park, check out our ULTIMATE guide to visiting Death Valley National Park!

But besides its artistic beauty, this hike is also a pretty fun adventure, with the possibility to rock scramble and squeeze through tight spaces…if you’re up for it! And in this guide we’re sharing everything you need to know to hike the Mosaic Canyon Trail in Death Valley National Park, including getting to the trailhead, what to expect on the trail, and more!

Looking for more things to do in California? Check out our California guides and vlogs!

Note: this guide contains affiliate links, which means that if you use the links provided and make a purchase, we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. We will only ever recommend products we truly love, actually use during our adventures, and think you can benefit from too!

About the Mosaic Canyon Trail 

Miles (roundtrip): 3.3 (we tracked closer to 4 miles)
Elevation: 958 feet
Reviews & Current Conditions

While this hike is under 4 miles in its entirety, one of the best things about this trail is that you can hike as little or as much of it as you’d like, as it’s more about the journey and not some epic grand finale! The mosaic breccia that the hike is known for is towards the beginning of the hike, while the second half of the hike is more about rock scrambling through the canyon, which may not be for everyone. 

If you’re wondering how much time you need for the Mosaic Canyon trail, this hike took us just under 2 hours, including stopping to film and taking our time on the scrambles.

Note: Similar to the rest of the park, dogs are NOT allowed on this hike.

Before embarking on your adventure, please review the Leave No Trace principles to ensure you leave every place better than you found it, so that others can enjoy these beautiful places for many years to come!

These seven principles include planning ahead and preparing, hiking and camping on durable surfaces, disposing of waste properly (pack out what you pack in!), understanding campfire rules and always fully extinguishing your fires, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of other visitors. 

Getting to the Mosaic Canyon Trail at Death Valley

The Mosaic Canyon Trail is located near the Stovepipe Wells area of Death Valley National Park, about 35 minutes from the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. To get to the trailhead you’ll turn south onto the unpaved Mosaic Canyon Road (across from the Stovepipe Wells Campground) and follow it for 2.3 miles (one way) until you reach the parking lot which can probably hold 20-30 cars. 

Mosaic Canyon Death Valley

While the road is unpaved, it is a well maintained gravel road and is suitable for any type of passenger vehicle. Our non 4×4 van handled the road just fine and we saw all types of vehicles at the trailhead, including trucks, cars, and minivans. We would not recommend the road or parking lot for large RVs though, as there isn’t enough room to park something that large without taking up tons of space for others.

Note: There are no restrooms at the trailhead, so plan accordingly! 

Mosaic Canyon Trail Death Valley

When to hike the Mosaic Canyon Trail

First off, we HIGHLY suggest only visiting Death Valley National park between November and March, when the temperatures are more bearable. The park can easily reach temperatures over 100 degrees during other times of the year, with the highest temperature ever recorded being 134 degrees. These high temperatures create very dangerous conditions to be outdoors!

Mosaic Canyon Trail Death Valley

As for the Mosaic Canyon trail itself, the hike is very exposed, with only the canyon walls to shield you from the sun, so we suggest hiking at sunrise or a couple hours before sunset, when the sun is lower on the horizon. You’ll also have a good chance to beat the crowds if you start early or later, which in our opinion, makes every hike more enjoyable!

We visited the park and hiked this trail in late February and had moderate weather, with temperatures in the upper 60s, plus lots of sunshine, which made it feel warmer. We started this hike right after enjoying sunrise at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and were mostly in the shade and had it almost 100% to ourselves until the hike back, when crowds started to arrive and the sun was popping over the canyon walls.

What to Bring to hike the Mosaic Canyon Trail in Death Valley

Mosaic Canyon Trail Death Valley

As always, we recommend having the 10 essentials on you when doing any hike, but here are a few key items we want to point out that will especially help you during this hike!

Water

With likely warm temperatures in the park and lots of sunshine, you’ll want to have lots of water on you for all of your adventures. Even if it’s not super hot, the air is very dry and you’re likely to get extra thirsty. We like to carry our 3L Camelbak bladders while on any hike, which makes it easy to store a lot of water and drink while on the go.

Sun protection

This trail is entirely exposed as soon as the sun rises over the mountains. You’ll want a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

Flashlight or headlamp

If you start before sunrise or plan to finish after sunset, you will want to have some sort of light source. The night skies are dark out in Death Valley!

AllTrails Map

Cell service is very sparse in the park and we highly suggest downloading the offline AllTrails map for this hike. Once you get to the scrambling part of the hike, it can be a bit confusing and both the AllTrails map, plus rock arrows on the ground, helped ensure we went the right way.

Our experience on the Mosaic Canyon Trail 

Mosaic Canyon Trail Death Valley

The Mosaic Canyon trail wasn’t in our original plans for our visit to Death Valley National Park, but this last minute decision proved to be a good one!

After enjoying an amazing sunrise experience at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, we headed just down the road to the Mosaic Canyon Trail. The unpaved road was no match for our van and with only a few cars parked in the parking lot, we set out onto the trail.

Once on the trail, you’ll quickly enter a narrow canyon, made up of smooth marble walls of Noonday Dolomite. Over time, flash floods loaded with gritty debris have brushed these walls to the smooth texture they are today. 

Mosaic Canyon Trail Death Valley

As you follow the trail keep an eye out for areas of mosaic breccia, the namesake of this hike. You’ll notice some of it in this first canyon, but the better looking mosaic (in our opinion) is further down the trail, right by the rock scrambling sections.

Mosaic Canyon | Things to do in Death Valley National Park

After about a half mile you’ll exit the narrow canyon and walk through a wash for a bit. From here the hike will become a bit tougher, with sections of narrows to traverse. So if you aren’t up for scrambling, you can turn around here! 

Once you get about 1.3 miles into the trail you’ll reach a pile of large boulders which might require squeezing your body through and climbing over. You may need to use your hands to help get you through this section as well. At first we were a bit hesitant about this part of the hike, but it ended up being our favorite part, even if it was a tad tricky at times!

For us, the hardest part of this section was the lack of footholds on the smoother rock, which can be slick. It was nice that there were two of us to figure it out and help each other. If you have kids with you on this hike, you’ll likely need to help them in some sections.

After you get through this section you’ll enter the second set of narrows. In here, you’ll encounter a 20 foot dry fall (a dried up wall where a waterfall was at one point) that you may think is the end of the trail, but it’s not! While this wall could be scalable if you have climbing experience and equipment, for 99.9% of hikers, you will NOT want to attempt to climb this. 

Instead, you’ll want to backtrack on the trail about 180 feet where you’ll find a faint trail that will take you up and over the 20 foot dry fall and back down into the wash beyond it. This part of the hike was really neat, as you’re walking a bit higher up in the canyon!

From here you’ll have a few more rocky sections to conquer before you reach a dead end at a much taller dry fall in an amphitheater. At this point, there is no way around this wall, so this marks the end of the trail and you’ll want to turn around and go back the same way you came. While there is not really an epic grand finale in terms of views, the journey to get there is very exciting and it’s worth going to the end if you’re able to!

Overall, we really enjoyed this hike! For us, the namesake mosaic was cool to see, but the best part was getting to climb around and explore the canyon in the early morning light. It is definitely worth a couple hours if visiting Death Valley National Park!

Other things to do near the Mosaic Canyon Trail in Death Valley

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about us

Hi y’all! We’re Adam, Kathryn, and Kona, an adventurous married couple (+ pup!) living on the road in our self-converted sprinter van! You can often find us driving all around the US and Canada, scoping out the best coffee shops, eating tacos and ice cream (we’re a 5+ taco and 2+ scoop household), and enjoying nature.

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