https://www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/upload/Cottonwood-Marble-Canyon-Route-Handout.pdf
Cottonwood/Marble Road (10.5mi (17km). The first 8 miles (13km) is typically passable to a high clearance vehicle. After the 8 mile point, the road drops steeply into a deep wash where 4x4 is required due to pockets of deep gravel and small boulders for the next 2.1mi (3.4km) to the junction with Marble Canyon Road. )
Cottonwood Road (The 8.5mi (13.7km) road requires a 4x4 vehicle due to deep sand, rocky washes, tight corners, and small boulders. Hiking this road makes for an easy but very scenic trip.)
Marble Canyon Road (The 1.8mi (2.9km) road requires a 4x4, high clearance vehicle due to small boulders and tight corners through the rocky wash. Great spot to cache water if you are willing to drive a little extra.)
Cottonwood/Marble Canyon Loop (Route description from the end of Cottonwood Canyon Road to the end of Marble Canyon Road. Does not include road walking segments. Cottonwood Canyon Road End -> Cottonwood Springs: 3.5mi (5.6km) The hike up the canyon is generally easy to moderate as you make your way through the cottonwoods and over numerous water crossings. Near the end of the canyon at approximately 3.3mi (5.3km) from the end of Cottonwood Canyon Road, a steep and narrow path up the south (left) wall leads you up and over a rocky outcropping and then down the other side into a beautifully forested area with old growth cottonwood trees. Continue up the canyon, but pay close attention as the canyon opens up and vegetation becomes less prevalent. If you?ve reached a large rock cairn, you?ve gone too far. This confusing area is where you need to look for a faint footpath to the north (right side) up the hill and out of the shallow drainage toward the dense vegetation surrounding Cottonwood Springs. Signs of burro and wild horses in the area are good indicators that you are in the right area. Stock up with water here, as this may be the last source depending on spring flow. Filter or treat all water and look for fantastic campsites nearby just north of the springs. Camp at least 100ft/30m (100 yards for pack animals) from all water sources. Cottonwood Springs -> Deadhorse Canyon: 6mi (9.7km) From Cottonwood Springs start hiking north up the long valley that parallels the mountain range to the east. As you hike up the valley, you pass a few old desert markers that helped point the way for miners during the mining boom of the early 20th century to the camps of Keeler and Goldbelt as well as water sources such as Cottonwood and Jackass Springs. Continue up the valley past the historic markers, but keep an eye on the ridgeline to the northeast looking for a low saddle that offers passage over the range. The base of this pass is approximately 3.5mi (5.7km) from Cottonwood Springs where you follow a moderately steep gully up to the saddle. The saddle is perched between high hills and offers great views back down into the valley from which you came. The route from the saddle to Deadhorse Canyon is the most confusing part of the entire route. From the saddle, start heading northeast (downhill) for 1mi (1.6km) until you reach the head of a densely vegetated canyon. This canyon is not Deadhorse Canyon, which is the next canyon to the north. To access Deadhorse Canyon, head down the densely vegetated canyon for 0.1mi (0.16km) then hike uphill toward the saddle between two small hills on the northern side. From the saddle, hike down a steep gully which dead ends into Deadhorse Canyon, to find spectacular camping near the large cottonwood trees. A seasonal spring is located 0.25mi (0.4km) down Deadhorse Canyon to the north (right). Deadhorse Canyon -> Marble Canyon Road: 6.5mi (10.5km) Heading down Deadhorse Canyon, the route crosses the seasonal stream numerous times as it flows over exposed bedrock through the scenic canyon. In less than 800ft (243m) a vertical 8ft (2.4m) dryfall must be climbed down. The left side of the dryfall may be the easiest due to the many handholds on the canyon wall. The right side is more of a gradual descent, but the footing is dangerously loose. Another 0.4mi (0.6km) beyond the dryfall is the often overlooked confluence of Marble Canyon. Upper Marble Canyon subtlety joins Deadhorse from the northwest (left), and is worth a side trip if you?re looking to explore additional sets of canyon narrows in this remote desert playground. From the intersection on, heading downhill you are hiking in Marble Canyon. With its towering walls and deep corridors, Marble Canyon is home to some of the best narrows in the entire park. From the confluence with Deadhorse you pass through three separate sets on your way to Marble Canyon Road. The upper set less than 1mi (1.6km) from the intersection has uniquely colored walls of marble adorned with recurring black and white stripes in zebra like fashion. The middle set of narrows are located another 2.5mi (4km) down the canyon and are the most impressive. The deep passageway winds tightly beneath high overhanging walls of smoothly polished limestone stained with caramel colored streaks. Spend some time here and enjoy the solitude and quiet of this remote canyon paradise. You may notice its character change with the angle of the sun providing excellent opportunities for photography. Lucky and quiet hikers may even catch a glimpse of life here in Death Valley in the form of the various owls that call the canyon home. The powerful scenery in the canyon may seem indestructible and permanent, but it is in a constant state of change due to periodic flash flooding. During heavy rains, it?s possible for flood waters to funnel large amounts of debris through the narrow canyon with incredible force. An enormous chokestone blocking the passage between the middle and lower narrows is a great example of the power of previous flash floods. Backtrack 300ft (90m) up canyon to take the clear bypass trail up the hill on the eastern wall past the chokestone then down to the canyon below into the lower and final set of narrows. Hikers seem tiny in comparison to the high majestic walls as they hike through the dark sinuous corridor. The area is popular with determined day hikers that have driven the rough road in order to access the famous narrows from below. )
Deadhorse Dryfall (The east side of the dryfall may be the easiest due to the many handholds on the canyon wall. The west side is more of a gradual descent, but the footing is dangerously loose.)
Cottonwood Spings Lemoigne Turnoff (Leave drainage and head north up the steep footpath to the top of the hill.)
Climb Up to Saddle (Leave current canyon. Climb up to the saddle in order to access Deadhorse.)
Saddle Overlooking Deadhorse (Hike uphill toward the saddle between two small hills on the northern side. From the saddle, hike down a steep gully which dead ends into Deadhorse Canyon)
Cottonwood Canyon (Continue up canyon through the cottonwood trees.)
Head North Up Valley (Keep an eye on the ridgeline to the northeast looking for a low saddle that offers passage over the range. The base of this pass is approximately 3.5mi (5.7km) from Cottonwood Springs where you follow a moderately steep gully up to the saddle)
Dry Spring (You are at the head of a densely vegetated canyon which will drain back into Cottonwood Canyon, but is full of dangerous dryfalls. This canyon is not Deadhorse Canyon, which is the next canyon to the north. To access Deadhorse Canyon, head down the densely vegetated canyon for 0.1mi (0.16km) then hike uphill toward the saddle between two small hills on the northern side.)
Marble Canyon - Lower Narrows (Hikers seem tiny in comparison to the high majestic walls as they hike through the dark sinuous corridor. The area is popular with determined day hikers that have driven the rough road in order to access the famous narrows from below.)
Chokestone (An enormous chokestone blocking the passage between the middle and lower narrows is a great example of the power of previous flash floods. 300ft (90m) up canyon to take the clear bypass trail up the hill on the eastern wall past the chokestone then down to the canyon below into the lower and final set of narrows.)
Marble Canyon Middle Narrows (The deep passageway winds tightly beneath high overhanging walls of smoothly polished limestone stained with caramel colored streaks. Spend some time here and enjoy the solitude and quiet of this remote canyon paradise. You may notice its character change with the angle of the sun providing excellent opportunities for photography. Lucky and quiet hikers may even catch a glimpse of life here in Death Valley in the form of the various owls that call the canyon home.)
Marble Canyon Upper Narrows (The uniquely colored canyon walls are composed of marble adorned with recurring black and white stripes in zebra like fashion.)
Cottonwood Saddle (Maintain a downhill direction toward Deadhorse Canyon. Pay close attention as this is the most confusing part of the trek.)
Rocky Outcropping (Climb up and over this outcropping on the south side of the canyon.)
2WD Parking Area (Low clearance and two week drive vehicles should park here. The road becomes much worse from this point on.)
Cottonwood Marbel Road - Camping (Great campsite before the road drops into the wash. Open fires are strictly prohibited for resource protection. Portable gas burning stoves are allowed. Human waste must be packed out or buried (cat holed) at least 400 feet (about 150 adult steps) from water, trails and camp. Select an inconspicuous site where other people will be unlikely to walk or camp. Dig a hole 6-8 inches deep and cover it up when done. )
Seasonal Spring - Cottonwood Canyon (Check conditions prior to your trip. Water sources are seasonal and subject to change at any time. Springs are usually reliable between from December through March. Filter or treat all water.)
Cottonwood Canyon - Camping (The road ends within a grove of cottonwood trees with great camping near the first seasonal water source. Camp at least 100ft/30m (100 yards for pack animals) from all water sources. No open fires. Portable gas burning stoves are OK.)
Cottonwood Springs - Camping (Camping is prohibited within 100ft/30m (100 yards for pack animals) of all water sources. Please practice Leave No Trace principles. Camp in a pre-disturbed area. Open fires are strictly prohibited for resource protection. Portable gas burning stoves are allowed. Human waste must be packed out or buried (cat holed) at least 400 feet (about 150 adult steps) from water, trails and camp. Select an inconspicuous site where other people will be unlikely to walk or camp. Dig a hole 6-8 inches deep and cover it up when done. )
Turnoff Lemoigne Canyon (Continue up the canyon, but pay close attention as the canyon opens up and vegetation becomes less prevalent. If you?ve reached a large rock cairn, you?ve gone too far. This confusing area is where you need to look for a faint footpath to the north (right side) up the hill and out of the shallow drainage toward the dense vegetation surrounding Cottonwood Springs. Signs of burro and wild horses in the area are good indicators that you are in the right area. )
Cottonwood & Marble Canyon Roads Intersection (Most backpackers will park at the intersection of Cottonwood & Marble Canyon Roads and then hike the loop clockwise completing the trip in two to three nights.)
Marble Canyon Road End (Great spot to cache water if you are willing to drive a little extra.)
Cottonwood Canyon Parking (End of Cottonwood Canyon Road)
Cottonwood Springs (Seasonal Spring. This is the most reliable water source. Stock up here as it may be the last water on your trip depending on conditions. Filter or treat all water.)
Seasonal Spring - Deadhorse Canyon (This spring is known to dry up first. Check conditions prior to your trip. Water sources are seasonal and subject to change at any time. Springs are usually reliable between from December through March. Filter or treat all water.)
Deadhorse Canyon - Camping (Spectacular camping near the large cottonwood trees. A seasonal spring is located 0.25mi (0.4km) down Deadhorse Canyon to the north. Camping is prohibited within 100ft/30m (100 yards for pack animals) of all water sources. Please practice Leave No Trace principles. Camp in a pre-disturbed area. Open fires are strictly prohibited for resource protection. Portable gas burning stoves are allowed. Human waste must be packed out or buried (cat holed) at least 400 feet (about 150 adult steps) from water, trails and camp. Select an inconspicuous site where other people will be unlikely to walk or camp. Dig a hole 6-8 inches deep and cover it up when done. )
Marble Canyon Intersection (Upper Marble Canyon subtlety joins Deadhorse from the northwest, and is worth a side trip if you?re looking to explore additional sets of canyon narrows in this remote desert playground. From the intersection on, heading downhill you are hiking in Marble Canyon.)