My top priority during my first real visit to Death Valley National Park was a hike through Marble Canyon. I’d read the description and seen the pictures, so my first full day in the park was going to be checking out the canyon. I made the bouncy 12 mile drive into the trailhead the day before so I could spend the daylight hours hiking the canyon. Days are short in December, you have to take advantage of the few hours you are given.
The canyon immediately narrows with rock walls rising in all directions and lots of signs of high water events of years past. If you look closely you start to see signs of some extreme water flows which really get you thinking about the formation of this canyon over the years.
Getting up close, there are interesting layers as well as crystals and intrusions to be seen everywhere in the sedimentary record.
There is no ‘trail’ per se in the canyon, you just follow the gradual wash up the canyon. The width varies from spots where you can touch both side of the canyon with your arms outstretched, to places where the canyon is very wide. Here is an aerial overview of the canyon and surroundings:
After a little over a mile of narrows you come to a large boulder lodged in a constriction. This chockstone is holding back sediment that has piled up about 15 feet deep behind it.
Luckily there is a trail around this blockage, and the trail continues up the wash. After a short distance you get to the good stuff.
This section is a feast for the eyes.
After the second narrows the canyon opens up significantly. There was evidence of a recent mud flow and flood above this point, with many large rocks and the canyon sides were coated in mud. I made my way up the trail for a couple more miles and through one more narrows before turning around.
It wasn’t all rock and mud. There were some awesome barrel cacti along with several other desert plants including some in bloom. I wouldn’t want to tangle with the cacti.
The turnaround point for the day was at the ‘sign’ to Gold Belt Springs, 4 miles, where the canyon splits at Dead Horse Canyon.
And yes, there are several older petroglyphs.
On the return trip, I kept thinking in the back of my mind, the crowd of people are going to be around the next corner. Well, lucky for me the next corner never came. I had the canyon to myself the entire day. It was quite a treat.
I returned to camp just as the winter sun was setting down the wash. Nobody in sight, looks like a good quiet place to spend another night…..