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Surprise! Canyon

Surprise! Canyon

Posted in: Outdoor adventures, Special Places Report on March 26, 2019.

A New Trail

Hey guess what? Spring is here! And that means it’s time to start getting serious about trail hiking again. And we at the Lodge have a new one for you to try in Capitol Reef. It’s fun, easy, and just perfect to start off the hiking season. And which trail is it, you might ask? It’s Surprise!

The start of Surprise Canyon

The entrance to Surprise Canyon. Photo by Don Axford via stillexploring.com

Surprise Canyon

Surprise Canyon, the name of the hike is Surprise Canyon, get it? Get it? …Anyway, Surprise Canyon is a great little trail that cuts into the sandstone fins of the Waterpocket Fold. This provides a nice mix of narrow and open canyon hiking, among some pretty incredible scenery. (In case you don’t know, the Waterpocket Fold is the southern region of Capitol Reef, accessible to visitors via the Notom-Bullfrog Road.) The whole hike, in-and-back, is only a couple miles, and can easily be finished in two hours.

The trailhead sign for Surprise Canyon

The start of the trail. Photo by Don Axford via stillexploring.com

How to Get There

Drive from the Visitor Center, through the main section of Capitol Reef, to the Notom-Bullfrog Road turnoff, about 10 miles. Then take the Notom-Bullfrog Road south, for about 35 miles, until you see a sign marking the parking lot for Surprise Canyon. The trail starts here.

A view of inside the canyon

Looking at the narrowing canyon walls. Photo by Don Axford via stillexploring.com

What to Expect on the Hike

As we mentioned the Surprise Canyon trail is easy, with level sandy hiking for most of the way. The canyon proper starts after a quarter-mile along the trail. The entrance to Surprise Canyon starts with wide, sloping, sandstone walls, which gradually get steeper and narrower the further in you go. The trail ends with a large pour-off. (There is an option to scramble up the pour-off, via a hiker-made path, but we don’t recommend it.)

A tree growing inside Surprise Canyon

A tree near the end. Photo by Don Axford via stillexploring.com

Why We Love It

Surprise Canyon is a simple, easy way to get outside, enjoy some springtime sunshine, and play around in the great outdoors. It’s a good primer to other, way more intense hike in the Waterpocket Fold. And it’s got some really nice rock formations. Besides, it’s Capitol Reef, there really isn’t any other reason needed in our estimation!

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