96°F
weather icon Clear

Natural mosaics adorn canyon

Mosaic Canyon in Death Valley National Park, California, is a great hiking choice for all ages and abilities depending on how far you venture. This is a good choice if you have children along or people in your group that can’t travel very far because in this canyon just hiking one quarter of a mile you’ll experience the beauty of the place and be able to admire the natural mosaics.

For those of you who seek more adventure, you can explore farther up the canyon, allowing a couple of hours or so, but you’ll have to do some route finding to skirt natural obstacles such as dryfalls and boulder jams.

From the Stovepipe Wells area of the park it’s only a quarter mile west on California Route 190 to the Mosaic Canyon turnoff, located on your left. The next 2 miles will be driving on a gravel road up through a wide alluvial fan that was formed by years of debris being flushed out of the canyon during flash flooding. Death Valley has hundreds of these and once you know what they look like, you will be sure to see them as you travel around the park.

From the trailhead, at about 935 feet, follow the obvious route up the dry stream bed, which soon narrows into a tight little canyon. You will find smooth marble walls of Noonday Dolomite that have been polished by years of debris scouring the walls during flash flooding. Keep an eye out for the Mosaic Canyon Breccia (Italian for fragments), which looks manmade.

After 1.3 miles from the trailhead you will come to a large boulder jam. The easiest way to get around it is usually on the left side, usually marked by a cairn about 40 yards before the boulder jam. Once you’ve conquered this obstacle you’ll find easier passage in another narrow section where interesting breccia chutes and dryfalls can be found.

There will be another challenge ahead, at about two-tenths of a mile, when you come to a dryfall that blocks any easy passage. This can be skirted by backtracking about 150 feet and heading up the right side to a bypass trail up high on the canyon wall. Follow this path and then once again drop down into the main drainage. After exploring, return the way you came.

Mosaic Canyon is the main drainage for 4.3 square miles of Tucki Mountain in the Panamint Mountain Range. If it is raining or rain threatens, save this hike for another day due to flash flooding. Always check on your way to Mosaic at the visitor center or ranger station to get an up-to-date weather forecast. Even if it’s clear skies overhead, flash flooding can be coming down from up above and catch you off guard. There are many places that have no easily reachable safe ground.

For more information, visit https://www.nps.gov/deva.

Many of Deborah Wall’s columns have been compiled into books about hiking in the Southwest. She is also the author of “Great Hikes, a Cerca Country Guide” and a co-author of the book “Access For All, Seeing the Southwest With Limited Mobility.” Wall can be reached at Deborabus@aol.com.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Four volleyball standouts named to all-state team

Fresh off their first 3A state championship in school history, four Boulder City High School boys volleyball players were named to the 3A all-state team and six were named all-region performers.

Softball star Baker signs with St. Ambrose

Brooke Baker, a senior softball star at Boulder City High School, is moving on to the collegiate level, committing to NAIA program St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa.

Grothe vies for spot on Olympic swim team

Zane Grothe, a 2010 Boulder City High School graduate, remains in the running to be on the U.S. Olympic swimming team.

Eagles sweep top postseason awards

Fresh off their 3A regional championship, five Boulder City High School baseball players were named to the all-region team and eight were named all-league performers.

Full return of sports planned

After more then a year of chaos due to the COVID-19 pandemic, life could be getting back to normal for high school athletes.

Historic win: Team nets school’s first volleyball state title

The Boulder City High School boys volleyball team won its first state championship in school history, defeating Eldorado 3-0 on Saturday, May 22, ending a perfect 13-0 season.

Eagles take championship

Capping off an undefeated season, Boulder City High School’s varsity baseball team defeated Pahrump Valley 8-4 to capture the 3A regional championship Saturday, May 22.

Roundup: Girls track team takes second at regionals

Boulder City High School’s girls track and field team finished second at regionals May 20, falling behind only host Moapa Valley (285.5 points), proving to be one of the top teams in the 3A classification.