Cottonwood Canyon is a beautiful place filled with flowing springs and lush greenery (at certain times of year) which is partially driven and partially hiked for most people.  Difficulties encountered on the hike include needing high clearance (and later 4WD) to reach the starting point for a hike depending on how far up the canyon you wish to drive, dealing with sections of overgrown brush which require some bushwhacking, and good route-finding abilities if carrying out the challenging bypass to crossover into Dead Horse Canyon.  A Google Earth map of the hiking route can be found by visiting our very detailed Cottonwood-Marble Backpacking Loop page.  GPS coordinates can also be found on that page.
Cottonwood Canyon is one of the centerpieces of the Cottonwood Mountains, being a canyon close to Stovepipe Wells which receives frequent visitor use.  Cottonwood Canyon is a popular camping spot, place for 4WD vehicles, and a well-known backpacking destination.  Without a HC (high clearance) vehicle at the very least, it can be difficult to get to Cottonwood Canyon, and much less explore it.  But those who have the proper vehicle (ideally 4WD) can enjoy the canyon to the full.  As for the main hiking destination, Cottonwood Canyon itself can be hiked in its entirety.  However, being that the canyon is nearly 20 miles long from the mouth to the head, most people choose to drive as far as possible up the canyon before beginning a hike.  And most people only hike the portion of canyon located between the 2nd Narrows and final spring of flowing water.  For our visit as documented here, we drove the Cottonwood Canyon Road through the 1st Narrows and parked at the junction with the Marble Canyon Road.  As we were here on a backpacking trip, we next hiked 8.4 miles to the end of the road and the beginning of Lower Spring.  That long journey took us past the large cave and through the 2nd Narrows (which I would recommend walking through to best appreciate).  The next section of Cottonwood Canyon contains the three springs -- Lower Spring, Middle Spring, and Cottonwood Springs (or Upper Spring).  At least two of these springs, the first and last, always have flowing water that is good for drinking once it has been filtered.  Unfortunately, our pictures of Cottonwood Canyon through the springs area will not do the place justice, as we took these photos in the late Winter.  At that time of year, all of the trees were bare of leaves.  To see the canyon in all its glory with lush, green-leaved Cottonwood trees, be sure and visit at a different time of year, perhaps during mid-to-late Spring (before it gets too hot).  Cottonwood Canyon actually continues past Cottonwood Springs, as it makes a wide turn and continues on through the open desert for several more miles.  Even with the lack of greenery, we still enjoyed the scenic beauty of Cottonwood Canyon and appreciated the challenge of navigating through and around the thick brush areas.  This report goes along with our Cottonwood-Marble Backpacking Loop report, as it shows more of the scenic beauty of the areas that we hiked through.  In addition to the main canyon, there are several other hiking destinations in the area including Marble Canyon, Cottonwood Slot, the upper portion of Pothole Canyon, Cottonwood BM, and Canyon BM.  Our hike took place on February 21, 2009.
Many more photographs taken during our visit are available for viewing for this destination.  To see all of them, choose one of the two options presented below.  The two options are Slideshow viewing and Trip Report viewing.  The Slideshow option allows for viewing larger images with an autoplay option and a full screen option (available on most browsers).  This option works very well for large computer screens and tablets.  The Trip Report option allows for viewing smaller pictures in a standard scroll-down format and enlarging of any panoramic photos taken during our visit.  Click on the option of your choice to view all of our photos from this destination.  The Slideshow format opens in a new browser window and the Trip Report format uses the same browser window for viewing.