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Surprise Canyon & Headquarters Canyon

Canyons of the Waterpocket Fold | Southern Utah Wanderings
Friday & Saturday, October 9-10, 2020

While Jared and I had an early dinner in Tropic on Friday evening after hiking through Lower Hackberry Canyon earlier in the day, we discussed our plans for the remainder of the evening and for Saturday. We already knew that Saturday was going to be our last day of the trip since we both needed to get home to get ready for the upcoming week and the following weekend, but we really had no other plans at this point. I suggested that we should head over to the Burr Trail to find a campsite for the night and then we could spend a few hours hiking in Capitol Reef National Park on Saturday morning before heading back home. We decided this sounded like a good plan since it would help cut down some of our drive time back home on Saturday, so after we were done eating we headed in that direction. I guess we would be finishing our week-long trip into Southern Utah at Capitol Reef again, just like last year!

After leaving Tropic we headed east across the Escalante Mountains to Boulder and then followed the Burr Trail towards Capitol Reef. Of course, while we were driving we witnessed the best light, clouds and sunset of the entire week, but we were in a hurry to find a campsite before it got too dark out so we didn’t have a chance to stop for photos along the way. Still, it was a very scenic and beautiful evening drive! As we drove along the Burr Trail we were both surprised by how many people were camped along the way, we had never seen so many people camped along here before and were getting worried that we might have trouble finding a spot. Luckily, shortly after turning off down the Wolverine Loop Road we found an open campsite near the upper end of Horse Canyon that we have stayed at before, so we pulled in and got camp set up in the last light of the evening. We arrived just in time to catch the very end of a spectacular sunset!

An quick photo over color-changing cottonwood trees of The Gulch as we descended into Long Canyon. This was the only shot I took during our drive this evening.

The Gulch

The very end of a colorful sunset from our campsite along the Wolverine Loop Road.

Color Explosion

My Jeep and the last sunset of our week-long trip.

The Last Sunset

After we got camp set up and the sunset was finally over, we sat outside and watched the dark sky for a while before getting to bed.

Just like the rest of the week, I slept very well overnight and we woke up with the sunrise on Saturday morning. We packed up camp for the last time and then headed to Capitol Reef so we could go on two short hikes into the Waterpocket Fold this morning before heading home early. As we drove down the Burr Trail switchbacks we were yet again following another section of the Hayduke Trail, so I am pretty sure we crossed paths with the Hayduke Trail every day this week!

Our first short hike this morning was into Surprise Canyon.

Surprise Canyon Trailhead

Entering Surprise Canyon

It was surprisingly warm and humid in this canyon this morning.


Green & Gold

Surprise Canyon

Canyon Bottom

Narrow Canyon

Rocky Bottom

Temple View

Leaving Surprise Canyon

Leaving Surprise Canyon

After leaving Surprise Canyon we drove a short distance down to the road to the trailhead for Headquarters Canyon.

Headquarters Canyon Trailhead

We followed the trail into the depths of the Waterpocket Fold.

Slotting Up

This canyon actually turned into a real slot canyon for a little bit.

Through The Slot

The temperature in this canyon was much cooler and more comfortable than Surprise Canyon was, and I thought it was more scenic, too.

Down The Ramp

View From the Top

Leaving Headquarters Canyon

Headquarters Canyon

Back into the Slot Canyon

Back Into the Slot

Headquarters Slot

I really enjoyed the short hike into Headquarters Canyon and thought it was a great hike to finish up the week with!

Racing Stripes

After returning to our vehicles Jared and I went our separate ways as we left to head back home. We had another great week exploring the Colorado Plateau and look forward to planning next year’s trip!

>> Surprise Canyon & Headquarters Canyon Photo Gallery

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