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Cottonwood/Marble Canyon Loop reasonable in 2 days/1 night?

Discuss 4x4'ing, Hiking, Backpacking, Camping
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hisdudeness48
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Cottonwood/Marble Canyon Loop reasonable in 2 days/1 night?

Post by hisdudeness48 » Tue Mar 07, 2017 9:37 am

HI EVERYBODY! On Sunday, March 19 I'm looking to get up bright and early and tackle the Cottonwood/Marble Canyon loop. I see in most places that people usually take 2 or 3 nights to complete the loop, but I have also seen people that have done it as an overnight like here...

http://ladyonarock.com/2013/04/08/death ... nyon-loop/

We have 4 nights in DV and this is my first time, so I'd like to get the loop done overnight if possible to free up time for exploration elsewhere. We are strong hikers and we won't get lost.

That brings me to a few questions...

1. The big one, is this reasonable to complete as an overnight? I foresee getting started at the Cottonwood/Marble junction at sunrise @ 6:52 to get going. How pressed will I be? Sunset is 6:58pm (thanks Daylight Savings!).

2. How's the road to the Cottonwood/Marble junction? I'll be driving a 2004 Hyundai Santa Fe 4WD. I'm hoping to make it to the junction to make it a 26 mile loop rather than a 32. A Jeep it is not. Will I be able?

3. How likely would it be to get a lift along the Cottonwood Canyon Road part of the trail on a Sunday morning? That would open up lots of time for side canyon exploration.

4. If we're going to pull this off as an overnight, where should we camp? I was looking at either Cottonwood Springs @ 12 miles, for a 14 mile day 2, or @ or near the top of the first saddle @ about 15-16 miles for a 10-11 mile day 2. I don't think going 18 miles all the way to Deadhorse on Day 1 is reasonable. Any thoughts on good camping for making this an overnight?

5. What's the water situation like right now?

6. Last question, I promise... I see conflicting routes as to what to do after the "Dry Spring" between Cottonwood and Dead Horse.

This route shows going left at the Dry Spring and hitting a slightly northern drop into Dead Horse...

http://ladyonarock.com/wp-content/uploa ... -13-pm.png

This "official" route shows going more straight at that Dry Spring and dropping into Dead Horse south of the above route...

https://www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/ ... op-Map.pdf

Simple question here, what do y'all recommend?

Sorry about the long post. Any thoughts and/or recommendations are appreciated. Thanks!

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MojaveGeek
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Post by MojaveGeek » Tue Mar 07, 2017 6:06 pm

I haven't done the route so no comment, really. Just want to point out that Rockin' is a really really good long distance hiker, as you could probably tell from her blogs. Where I've done routes that she's been on... well I sure wouldn't have been able to keep up!

That being said, the terrain isn't that rough on your route.

Getting picked up early in the morning on the Cottonwood road? Don't count on it. You need to be up and moving before there will be much traffic out there. If someone does come by and has room, you can likely bum a ride if you ask nicely.

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TacoLand
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Post by TacoLand » Wed Mar 08, 2017 8:33 am

Hey, Dude ...

Like MojaveGeek, I've never done the route but have camped probably five times in Cottonwood Canyon and also did a pretty gnarly overnight backpacking trip from the Cottonwood / Marble Canyon junction out to Upper Big Fall Canyon (roughly 9 miles one way), so figured I'd weigh in as well.

If you're strong hikers I see no reason you couldn't tackle this route in two days / one night. This coming from someone who can throw down a technical 16 mile day with over 5,000ft of elevation gain/loss on day six of a eight day backpacking trip and not be too tired at the end of the day ... (just trying to quantify "strong hiker").

From what I've seen and researched in the area the terrain looks to be pretty agreeable and the only "gotcha" I can think of is around Cottonwood Spring where it might be super wet right now. Nothing bad, but you might appreciate some waterproof boots depending on the situation.

You're going to have around 12 hours of daylight, but it's going to be very warm/hot with a high of 90 degrees and long periods of exposure to sunlight. Filterable water will be available at Cottonwood Spring but after that I wouldn't bank on anything. For most of my backpacking in Death Valley I've loaded out the majority of water for two people in dromedary bags which sucks, but is a fact of life around these parts.

I've seen VW Eurovans get high up into Cottonwood Canyon before, but I've personally seen no current data on how the roads out there held up to the recent storms. Based upon a lot of other road closures I've seen lately you might be stuck doing the 32 mile hike version. And as MojaveGeek said, I definitely wouldn't bank on getting any rides on Sunday. I've seen inconsistent usage of the area in my stays there and even if you see someone there's no guarantee they'll be able to offer you a ride, though they could probably portage out your packs and drop them off somewhere for you. The good news is is the high-clearance road out to the Cottonwood / Marble Canyon junction has tons of wide open pull out spaces, so give it a go and if it starts to get too bad you should be able to find somewhere to park along the way.

While camping the first night in the area of Cottonwood Spring would be nice, personally I'd keep hiking as far as I could and stop when I was tired and had found a good spot. I prefer to get as many miles out of the way as possible, especially on the first day when I'm the most fresh. In this case I'd shoot for the saddle at the top of Cottonwood Canyon so the next day you just have to summit to the top of Dead Horse / Marble Canyon before enjoying the rest of the day going downhill and exploring.

Hope this helps out a bit ...and have fun!

CanyonmanClark
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Post by CanyonmanClark » Wed Mar 08, 2017 11:17 pm

Hey hisdudeness48. You'll likely be a little rushed, but no problem if you're used to cross-country in the desert. I've done this route a bunch of times as an overnighter, although it's better as a 2-nighter if you want side canyon fun.

The road to the junction is cake (maybe some sand and washboard) until the 8 mile point where it drops in the wash. From there it's a little slow going with large boulder you need to drive around. So, your vehicle will be great. Just watch for medium boulders on your undercarriage. Give yourself an hour from pavement to your parking spot. You will be VERY unlikely to get a lift along Cottonwood Canyon Road, but IF you see a jeeper, they'll likely hook you up.

Camping at Cottonwood Springs is too easy, because from your parking spot to the springs it may be 12 miles, but it is very flat minus a little up and down. What I do is pack light on water and cruise up to the springs where I load up for the night but continue up the wide valley toward the low pass. I've camped on the pass and in the valley. It's dry, windy, and chilly.

Water is available in many places along your route from the end of Cottonwood Road all the way to Cottonwood Springs. Flowing great. Nothing else until you get to Deadhorse which is less of a flow but still amazing.

As far as the route by the dry spring. There really isn't an official one. Basically, when you tackle the saddle as you climb out of Cottonwood, you'll immediately begin down a drainage that leads to the dry spring. All you need to do is head left and gain the ridge above the two small peaks to your northeast. Once up on THAT ridge you will see a beautiful view of Deadhorse Canyon below you and the Grapevine Mountains in the distance. From here you just have to make your way into Deadhorse. Most of the drainages from this vantage point will take you there. You'll be torn between the one on the left (north) and right (south). You COULD descend either in a skiing type fashion where the northern drainage appears more mellow, but the best is to skirt the rim of the southern drainage and follow it's ridgeline as far east as possible. You'll see a faint footpath/sheep trail that dead ends overlooking Deadhorse at an even steeper grade, BUT a gentle drainage travels south/southeast and spits you out right into Deadhorse Canyon where it's only another 1/4 mile to water.

This is a great hike. Enjoy, and I hope some of this made sense.

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TacoLand
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Post by TacoLand » Thu Mar 09, 2017 7:41 am

CanyonmanClark: When you split it up into a 2-nighter where approximately do you typically setup camp?

hisdudeness48
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Post by hisdudeness48 » Thu Mar 09, 2017 9:59 am

CanyonmanClark wrote: As far as the route by the dry spring. There really isn't an official one. Basically, when you tackle the saddle as you climb out of Cottonwood, you'll immediately begin down a drainage that leads to the dry spring. All you need to do is head left and gain the ridge above the two small peaks to your northeast. Once up on THAT ridge you will see a beautiful view of Deadhorse Canyon below you and the Grapevine Mountains in the distance. From here you just have to make your way into Deadhorse. Most of the drainages from this vantage point will take you there. You'll be torn between the one on the left (north) and right (south). You COULD descend either in a skiing type fashion where the northern drainage appears more mellow, but the best is to skirt the rim of the southern drainage and follow it's ridgeline as far east as possible. You'll see a faint footpath/sheep trail that dead ends overlooking Deadhorse at an even steeper grade, BUT a gentle drainage travels south/southeast and spits you out right into Deadhorse Canyon where it's only another 1/4 mile to water.

This is a great hike. Enjoy, and I hope some of this made sense.
Thanks a bunch MojaveGeek, TacoLand, and CanyonmanClark!

CanyonmanClark: I am pickin' up most of what you are dropping. I think I understand your description of your route from the Dry Spring to Dead Horse, but do you think you could take one of the above topos (or another) and use Paint or something to show me exactly the route/drainage you're speaking of? I just want to be sure I know what you're saying. If you could PM me that, that would be awesome. I'll send you a PM also. Thanks!

CanyonmanClark
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Post by CanyonmanClark » Thu Mar 09, 2017 10:54 am

Check this out.

https://caltopo.com/m/KA56

The green line is a little better route down rather than the NPS publication (which I also made). Hope this helps. Amazing hike!

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