Capitol Reef National Park

Surprise Canyon

Surprise Canyon is an easy hike into a deep canyon with towering sandstone walls. This hike is suitable for families with small children. You will pass through or observe a number of the rock formations of the Capitol Reef: first the Entrada Sandstone, then the Carmel formation, the Navajo Sandstone, the Kayneta Sandstone, and finally the Wingate Sandstone.

From the trailhead, follow a worn trail across the flats to a wash that continues into the Waterpocket Fold through a narrow canyon. Eventually, walls of Navajo Sandstone tower above. Continue up the canyon until the route ends in a box canyon. Return the way you came.

Trailhead: Approximately 2 miles south of the Burr Trail/Notom road junction. The trailhead is marked with a sign.

Distance: Two miles round-trip, returning to the trailhead; 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Note: Portions of the route are marked with rock cairns to help guide hikers in areas that might be confusing. There are no dependable sources of water along this route, though precipitation can temporarily fill waterpockets. Take plenty of water with you; don't count on finding water along the route. Occasional heavy rains can cause flash flooding in the bottom of Surprise canyon—keep an eye on the weather.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 27 May 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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