Upper Spring Canyon
ElevationAscent: 1,201' 366 m
Descent: -1,763' -537 m
High: 7,629' 2,325 m
Low: 5,889' 1,795 m
GradeAvg Grade: 3% (2°)
Max Grade: 29% (16°)
Current trail conditions
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“A strenuously long but technically moderate trek into Spring Canyon housing the famous "W" passage.”— Hunter R
Whether done in a day or as a backpack (permit required), Upper Spring is a point-to-point hike that requires a shuttle between the two trailheads or a 3.9-mile road hike back to the starting point. The shuttle vehicle or a bike should be left at the Chimney Rock Trailhead, which is 3.1 miles west of the visitor center on Highway 24. Please note that you'll have to make your exit on the Chimney Rock Trail and the Chimney Rock Canyon before reaching the parking area. Parking is available on the outside of the circle, and there is a pit toilet.
To start the journey, drive west to the Holt Draw Trailhead which is 7.0 miles west of the visitor center on Highway 24 at milepost 72.4, outside of the park. A short track heads north from the pavement, ending in 150 yards at a fence. Park there, or closer to the paved road if the track is too rough for your vehicle.
For more than a mile, the route follows an old road and then the stream bed of Sulphur Creek at a gentle grade. A steep climb out of the drainage leads to a pleasant stroll across the high bench of Cooks Mesa to the base of the climb up through the fabled “W,” a passage through a wall of red Wingate sandstone. Minor scrambling is required to pass through the cleft and descend to Upper Spring Canyon. After passing one significant obstacle and several smaller ones, the journey down canyon is easy going.
After reaching the end of Upper Spring Canyon in a triple junction with Chimney Rock Canyon and Lower Spring Canyon, follow Chimney Rock Canyon to your shuttle vehicle or bike. The way out to Chimney Rock Canyon and the Chimney Rock Trail is preceded by a lovely section of mature cottonwoods under heavily veiled Wingate walls.
This content was contributed by author Rick Stinchfield. For a comprehensive hiking guide to Capitol Reef National Park and to see more by Rick, click here.
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