Surprise Canyon Trail
ElevationAscent: 374' 114 m
Descent: -7' -2 m
High: 5,272' 1,607 m
Low: 4,900' 1,493 m
GradeAvg Grade: 6% (4°)
Max Grade: 27% (15°)
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“A sandy run below towering canyon walls.”— Eric Ashley
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.
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Land Manager: NPS - Capitol Reef National Park