Surprise Canyon Backpacking

Stovepipe Wells, California

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If there is one place in Death Valley National Park that makes sense to explore with a backpack, it has to be Surprise Canyon. In a desert world-famous for its extreme dryness and record-high temperatures, this anomalous canyon is blessed with several streams, and for a change you do not have to carry massive amounts of water. It is also exceptionally beautiful. From the end of the road in the lower canyon, you hike through a series of idyllic springs coursed by spirited creeks to Panamint City, one of the most remote and historically significant mining centers in the California desert. Lost in seldomvisited high-desert country, within walking distance of perennial streams, this legendary site is a wonderful camping location from which to explore the area on leisurely hikes for two days.

Surprise Canyon (Backpacking) Professional Review and Guide

"If there is one place in Death Valley National Park that makes sense to explore with a backpack, it has to be Surprise Canyon. In a desert world-famous for its extreme dryness and record-high temperatures, this anomalous canyon is blessed with several streams, and for a change you do not have to carry massive amounts of water. It is also exceptionally beautiful. From the end of the road in the lower canyon, you hike through a series of idyllic springs coursed by spirited creeks to Panamint City, one of the most remote and historically significant mining centers in the California desert. Lost in seldomvisited high-desert country, within walking distance of perennial streams, this legendary site is a wonderful camping location from which to explore the area on leisurely hikes for two days."

Activity Type: Backpacking, Hiking
Nearby City: Stovepipe Wells
Distance: 24
Elevation Gain: 9,600 feet
Trail Type: Shuttle
Skill Level: Moderate to Difficult
Duration: 4 days
Season: Spring and fall
Local Contacts: Death Valley National Park
Local Maps: USGS 7.5-min. Ballarat, Panamint, and Telescope Peak
Driving Directions: Directions to Surprise Canyon (Backpacking)

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May 2018