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Spring Canyon is characterized by a deep, dry canyon with towering Wingate sandstone walls and Navajo sandstone domes. It can be hiked as a multi day trip or hiked in legs as a day hike or overnight backpack.

This description details the washes of Upper and Lower Spring Canyon. It was written by Park Service personnel. The Spring Canyon hike traverses a 23-mile section of canyon stretching from the shoulder of Thousand Lake Mountain to the Fremont River. The canyon is broken into two sections: Upper and Lower Spring Canyon. The canyon can be accessed midway via Chimney Rock Canyon. The junction of Chimney Rock Canyon
with Spring Canyon delineates the end of Upper Spring Canyon and the start of Lower Spring Canyon.

Upper Spring Canyon is a strenuous 20 mile hike from Holt Draw to Chimney Rock. Route finding skills and the ability to read and use a topographic map are necessary. This route should only be attempted by experienced canyon-country hikers.

To access Upper Spring Canyon, drive the Holt Draw Road until it ends near Sulphur Creek, approximately one and a half miles from Highway 24. Park your vehicle at this point. You will find a horse trail angling north toward Sulphur Creek. Follow the horse trail a short distance to Sulphur Creek then walk upstream in the creek bed approximately three miles (this should take between one and one and a half hours).

The Wingate cliffs will eventually tower directly over you. At this point, look for a small drainage on the right (northeast) side of the wash, that is marked with rock cairns. Follow this drainage (approximately .3 miles) to a bench above the wash; you will be walking on the soft, grey-green Chile formation below the Wingate cliffs. There is a USGS cadastral marker on the bench near this point. If you are using a USGS topographic map, this cadastral marks the four-corner meeting point of sections S24, S25, S29 and S30. Follow the bench in an easterly direction around an outcropped prominent point in the Wingate cliff. As you round the point, you will see two deep clefts cutting through the Wingate wall ahead. This is known as the "W" pass. The distance from the bed of Sulphur Creek to the "W" is approximately one mile and is intermittently marked with rock cairns. Take the left side of the "W" to pass easily through the Wingate and down into Spring Canyon (a distance of about .5 miles). The route through the
"W" is easy and does not require ropes or climbing; if you encounter
sections that require this, then you are in the wrong section of the "W."
Sporadic rock cairns continue to the canyon bottom.

Once you reach the canyon, follow the drainage downstream. In approximately one mile, you will encounter an impassable pour off. Bypass this on the right (south) side of the canyon. After another mile, a large side canyon joins the main canyon on the left. From this point, the route has no distinctive landmarks until you reach the spring, approximately 13 miles down canyon from the "W." The spring is marked on topographic maps and is identified as a large alcove on the left (north) side of the canyon. It is surrounded by large cottonwood trees and usually has a large plunge pool at the bottom.

Please use this water sparingly and do not pollute it with soaps, lotions,
etc. Swimming is discouraged. You may camp in the vicinity, but do not camp right next to the spring.

From the spring, the junction of Chimney Rock Canyon is one and a half miles downstream. This junction is marked with a sign. At this point, you can continue down the canyon nine miles through Lower Spring Canyon to the Fremont River or you can exit the canyon via Chimney Rock Canyon and the Chimney Rock Trail. It is four miles from the spring to the Chimney Rock parking area. (Note: The "W" pass will be difficult to find when hiking Upper Spring Canyon in the opposite direction of the route just described.)

Lower Spring Canyon is a moderately strenuous nine-mile hike from the
Chimney Rock parking area to the Fremont River. The hike can also be done in the opposite direction, hiking up the canyon from the river. From the Chimney Rock parking area, follow the Chimney Rock loop trail. At the top of the switchbacks, take the left side of the loop trail and follow it one mile to Chimney Rock Canyon, which is marked with a sign. Follow Chimney Rock Canyon approximately one and a half miles to Spring Canyon. This junction is marked with a sign. While in Chimney Rock Canyon, three large side canyons will join the main canyon on the left (west). These side canyons are good places to set up camp if you are on an overnight trip.

When you reach the junction with Spring Canyon, continue downstream
(right/east) to access Lower Spring Canyon. From this point it is six and a half miles to the Fremont River. Approximately one mile down canyon, you will encounter a short section of narrows. There are two ten foot dry falls in the narrows. A short piece of rope is helpful to lower packs. The narrows can be bypassed by following a route on the left (north) side of the canyon which is marked by rock cairns. This route has steep, loose, exposed sections. Use caution, especially if wet, snowy or icy conditions exist.

Below the narrows, continue down canyon approximately five more miles to the river. The river is normally less than thigh deep and is not difficult to ford. Use caution if flood conditions are present, which may produce swift, deep water and floating debris. If you left a vehicle at the picnic area on Highway 24, it will be located a short distance upstream from the point you exit the canyon. Chimney Rock parking area is located seven miles west on Highway 24. Hitchhiking is not permitted in national parks.

Directions: From Picnic Parking Area, Lower Spring Canyon Access: Drive eastward from the Visitor Center 3.6 miles on Highway 24. Park at the picnic area. Spring Canyon is located across the Fremont River and a short distance downstream of the picnic area parking lot.

Elevation: 6,700 feet

Ending Elevation: 5,240 feet

Usage: Moderate

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Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

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The details, dates, and prices mentioned here were accurate at the time of publication.

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