Trail Run Project Logo

Surprise Canyon Trail

Intermediate

Trail

1.2 mile 1.9 kilometer point to point
93% Runnable
Intermediate

Elevation

Ascent: 374' 114 m
Descent: -7' -2 m
High: 5,272' 1,607 m
Low: 4,900' 1,493 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 6% (4°)
Max Grade: 27% (15°)

Dogs

No Dogs
Driving directions Take a virtual tour
Zoom in to see details
Map Key

Trail shared by Eric Ashley

A sandy run below towering canyon walls.

Eric Ashley

Features Views

Runner Notes

Predominantly sandy footing and a steep end make for lots of running resistance.

Description

The Surprise Canyon Trail begins by quickly crossing the wide and flat Halls Creek drainage. On the approach, the trail enters and exits a wash a number of times before reaching the mouth of the canyon.

For the remainder of the run, the route will stay on the bottom of the canyon, sometimes on rock, but mostly on sand. A little ways ahead, the canyon begins a series of curves and becomes very deep. The walls rise hundreds of feet above and are decorated with dramatic desert varnish. A recent rockfall has dropped a pretty banded sandstone into the wash just after the bends in the canyon start. A small pour-off and rock jam are easily passed.

The canyon remains impressive and easy to navigate up to an undercut and chockstone. This obstacle can be bypassed by retreating 100 feet down canyon and finding a user-made bypass on the south side. This steep, loose climb drops easily back in the canyon which soon ends in a rubble slope.

Since the canyon beyond the bypass is not quite as interesting as that below, the undercut in the main wash is probably a good point to turn around for most. The return trip changes the light and offers different aspects along the way, and, like most Capitol Reef canyons, the way out is just as good as the way in.

This content was contributed by author Rick Stinchfield. For a comprehensive running guide to Capitol Reef National Park and to see more by Rick, click here.

Flora & Fauna

Surprise Canyon is graced with a rich assortment of shrubs and trees that add
 to the pleasure of the journey. Gambel oak, Fremont barberry, box elder, roundleaf buffaloberry, skunkbush, Utah serviceberry, single leaf ash, Mormon tea, littleleaf mountain mahogany, and virgins bower are all common.

Run this trail?

We need help with the following missing trail information:

Need to Know

Is something wrong? Let us know. Have photos to share? Help fellow runners know what's here.

Contacts

Rate This Trail

Rate Quality


   Clear Rating

Rate Difficulty

Share This Trail

Check In

Check-Ins

none

Trail Ratings

  4.0 from 3 votes

#8429

Overall
  4.0 from 3 votes
5 Star
33%
4 Star
33%
3 Star
33%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Trail Rankings

#351

in Utah

#8,429

Overall
9 Views Last Month
458 Since Sep 1, 2016
Intermediate

0%
0%
67%
33%
0%
0%

Photos

Headed into Surprise Canyon. with permission from G Eaton
Sep 1, 2016 near Escalante, UT
Navigating a section of rocks in Surprise Canyon.
Sep 1, 2016 near Escalante, UT

0 Comments

Trail Run Project is part of the REI Co-op family,
where a life outdoors is a life well lived.

Shop REI Running