Surprise Canyon
Death Valley Backpacking
An Epic Experience

Trip Details

Type: Backpacking

Trip Code: DVSC

Duration: 5 Days

Distance: 28-38 mi/45-58 km

Fitness: 4
Comfort: 1
Solitude: 5

Origin: Las Vegas, Nevada

Cost: $1150/person

Trip Description:

Death Valley is home to numerous and varied landscapes and geology, and Surprise Canyon is one of its true treasures.  The mouth of Surprise Canyon sits in the Surprise Canyon Wilderness, just west of Death Valley.  It cuts the gorgeous Panamint Range, and it, along with its several tributaries are prime territory for wonderful hiking and exploration.  Of the many surprises in this excellent canyon, there is running water, a well-preserved ghost town, narrows, and fascinating geology (surprise!).  The Surprise Canyon Backpacking tour is a must for anyone looking to hike in one of the more remote and spectacular places in Death Valley, and trust us, you will not be dissapointed.

**Note:  Though Death Valley can be hot in the summer, Surprise Canyon is a supreme warmer month hike 

  1. Surprise Canyon, Death Valley
  2. Surprise Canyon, Death Valley
  3. Surprise Canyon, Death Valley
  4. Surprise Canyon, Death Valley
  5. Hiking the Narrows of Surprise Canyon, Death Valley
  6. Panamint City Ghost Town, Death Valley
  7. Panamint City Ghost Town, Death Valley
  8. Surprise Canyon, Death Valley
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Trip Itinerary

Day 1:

The Surprise Canyon Backpacking tour begins with a fun day of orientation and light hiking exploration of Death Valley.  Starting from Las Vegas, we will drive through Red Rock Canyon NCA on our way to Furnace Creek in Death Valley, where we will explore some of the developed parts of this wonderful park.  We'll head down to Badwater Basin and the lowest point in North America before we stretch our legs in Mosaic Canyon, one of Death Valley's premier hikes.  After a great day, we'll head out of the park into the Surprise Canyon Wilderness, where we will make camp at the mouth of Surprise Canyon.  Your geologist/guide will prepare an excellent dinner while we contemplate the excellent journey ahead. 
Drive Time: 5 hours
Distance & Elevation: 3 miles, 160 foot descent
Light Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 2:

Day 2 begins our hike up Surprise Canyon.  Be ready, this canyon is spectacular!  We will traverse Surprise Creek, through Limekiln Eden, a hidden and splendorous grotto of trickling falls and hanging gardens.  After climbing up through narrows and dry falls, we will reach Panamint City, a ghost town whose mining boom days have left several buildings, mine shafts, equipment, and even a few hidden treasures (sorry, no gold).  We will make our basecamp in the area, and use the afternoon to explore the ghost town site and maybe a couple of excellent side canyons.
Distance & Elevation: 7 miles, 4000 foot ascent
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Days 3 & 4:

Our third and fourth will include more great hiking, as we explore several tributary canyons and make our way up to Panamint Pass for outrageous views of Death Valley.  Time, weather, and group feeling permitting, we may make a run at Sentinel Peak, whose summit towers at nearly 10,000 feet with epic views of the Panamints, Funerals, Death Valley, and all the way out to the Sierra Nevada.
Distance & Elevation: 6-10 miles/day, up to 2000 foot elevation gain/loss each day
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5:
​Our final day begins with sunrise yoga on the rocks, and a relaxed morning in camp.  We will begin our trek down the same way we came, ending at our waiting shuttle.  After this epic trip, we'll celebrate like a geologist; with a cold beverage at a local watering hole.
Distance & Elevation:  6 miles, 4000 foot descent
Breakfast, Lunch
Drive TIme: 4.5 hours

*Final itineraries are occasionally subject to change due to permit/campsite availability, park restrictions/closures, weather conditions and/or road closures.

What’s Included:
A professional, degreed, licensed and medically trained geologist/guide
All necessary gear: backpack, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, trekking poles
All cooking/eating gear: bowls, cups, utensils (your geologist/guide will prepare all trail meals)
All food, including a mix of fresh and pre-made backcountry meals
Roundtrip Transportation from your hotel in Las Vegas to Death Valley and all activities/attractions
Entrance fees, camping fees, and backcountry permits

Meals: what to expect
We provide all your meals from a light breakfast on day 1 through lunch the last day. Your geologist/guide will prepare a variety of meals on the trail that will fit the day's activity. Feel free to tell us about your food preferences, as we're more than happy to tailor the menu to your needs/desires. Some specialty diets may require an additional fee.

All meals will consist of one entree, prepared by your geologist/guide.  Fresh options will be limited, as backpacking typically requires lightweight, non-perishable foods.  There will be trail snacks that consist of nuts, fruits, chocolate, and other "gorp" style mixes.

We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian, kosher and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee

What’s Not Included:
Transportation to/from Las Vegas, Nevada
Lodging the night before/after the trip
Clothing, raingear, and footwear
Personal toiletries, sunscreen
Water bottles/hydration bladder
Headlamp or flashlight
Guide gratuity (suggested 10-15% of trip cost)
*Upon booking you will receive a detailed trip information packet

How many people are in the group?
Most backpacking trips in Death Valley will accommodate 5 people plus one geologist/guide. On occasion, a group may be as large as 8 people plus 2 guides.

Are there age restrictions?
Children under 12 are generally not permitted on any of Blue Marble's scheduled trips.  This can be negotiable on private tours, please contact us to discuss this policy

How do I sign up?
In order to confirm a reservation , we require an initial deposit of $500 per person, with the final balance due 90 days prior to the trip’s departure. If you book a trip within 90 days of the trip’s scheduled departure, then full payment is due at the time of booking.  Your deposit is payable over the phone by Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, or Discover. Checks by mail are fine as well, as are bank transfers ($35 transfer fee). Call our office Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm Arizona time. 1-602-904-2536
Travel Logistics

Where does the trip begin/end?
This trip will begin/end in Las Vegas, Nevada and you will need to spend the night prior to your trip’s scheduled departure in Las Vegas. You will want to fly into either St. George, Utah (2 hour drive) or Las Vegas. Please visit our  Travel Resources  page for information on airports, shuttles/rental cars and recommended hotels.

Where do you meet our guides?
We will hold a pre-trip orientation at 4:30pm the evening prior to your trip’s departure at the host hotel in Las Vegas. Departure times and logistics for the following morning will be discussed at the orientation.  Most trips will depart between 5am and 6am.

*This meeting is not mandatory, but highly recommended, as we will depart early the next morning. If you are unable to attend, please let us know in advance so that we can make alternate arrangements.

What do we do with our car and extra stuff?
We will provide all transportation to/from trailheads for the duration of the trip. We will pick you up at the host hotel in Las Vegas and return you there at the trip’s conclusion. Guests staying at the host hotel can leave their cars at the hotel. These hotels will often store your luggage for you, as well. If not, we are happy to store extra luggage at a secure location for the duration of the trip. If you are staying at a different hotel, you will need to check with them as to whether you can leave your car there

What time will we get back on the last day?
Expect to be back in Las Vegas by 6pm at the latest on the last day of the trip. Some trips will return earlier but we cannot make any guarantees. In general, it is recommended that you do not plan to fly home on the same day your trip finishes. Since each trip has slightly different logistics, feel free to contact us with specific questions related to the expected return time for your trip.

Trip Dates

2017 Dates
May: 15-19
June: 15-19
September 6-10

2018 Dates
May: 15-19
June: 15-19
September 6-10

More dates to come soon…
Don’t see your dates? Custom dates may be available!
Call 1-602-904-2536 or email us  for details.