Mosaic Canyon is one of our favorite hikes in Death Valley National Park. One great thing about this trail is that you can choose the distance that best suits your group. Best of all, this canyon has a variety of fun obstacles and very beautiful scenery. We highly recommend hiking at least part of Mosaic Canyon in Death Valley.
In order to access Mosaic Canyon, you will need to navigate 2 miles of rough dirt road. Though there are some big rocks, we saw a lot of sedans easily making this drive. Just go slow and avoid straddling the big rocks between your tires. You should be fine even with low clearance. The trailhead parking lot is fairly large, but it was mostly full by mid-morning even on an off-season day when we visited. The turn off for the Mosaic Canyon Road is just past the Stovepipe Wells Village.
Mosaic Canyon Trail
First Half Mile
The first half-mile of the hike is the most scenic. It winds up a fairly narrow slot canyon with steep walls on either side. The walking is easy, and though it runs uphill, the rise is gentle, and the soft gravel isn’t difficult to traverse. If you need a shorter hike, this is the part of the Mosaic Canyon in Death Valley you should hike.
Second Half Mile
At almost exactly a half-mile, the walls fall away and the canyon opens up. The next half-mile meanders through this open area. The wash is very wide, and you can choose your own trail. There is no opportunity for shade, and this section can get long, particularly if you are hiking with little ones.
Third Half Mile
Right around one mile into Mosaic Canyon, the terrain changes again. The canyon narrows down again, and the walls creep higher. This section looks and feels like the first half-mile with one exciting difference. There are now obstacles that require a little scrambling. We like places that require a little climbing because they feel like a teamwork building activity for our family. Our bigger kids help the little kids, and everyone wants to make sure that Mom is doing okay. None of the obstacles are terribly difficult, and most are fun places for the kids. This part of the hike was a lot of fun.
Last Half Mile
Our distance marker told us that we were 1.47 miles into the hike when we ran into a straight wall. This obstacle would be very difficult to climb. However, we had noticed that the trail had climbed up and to the right about 100 meters back from the wall. There were even rocks across the base of the canyon to lead us up and to the right. This is another great place to turn around because the finally half mile starts to feel long.
The final section of the Mosaic Canyon hike doesn’t run the full half-mile advertised by the park. We clocked it at about three-tenths of a mile, bringing the total one-way distance to around 1.8 miles. The last section is narrow, and has a few obstacles, too. It finally ends at what they call a dry waterfall. There is a large wall directly in front of you that has been polished by running water but is almost always dry. You would need climbing gear or a helicopter to go past this point.
Of course, the downhill distance is easier than up, but if you go all the way to the end, it’s between 3.5-4 miles to do this hike. We feel it’s very worth it. We highly recommend the Mosaic Canyon trail in Death Valley if your kids can handle the distance. At least walk the first half mile to enjoy the slot canyon. For other family-friendly trails in Death Valley National Park, visit our post about Kid Hikes in Death Valley.