Canyoneering Route Description

Watson Canyon - 3A II
Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Quick Facts

10-23-16, 5 people, 1 Day (Travel time in route 3.4 hours) Pictures Icon

Time Required - 3 to 4 hours
Distance - 2.4 miles Total, 0.8 miles Technical
Rappels - 2 Rappels, Longest Rappel 15 feet. Will need at least 60 feet of rope.
Elevation Range - 8170 - 7500 Feet
Shuttle Required - No Vehicle - High Clearance, 4WD Permit Required - No

Gear Used for Canyon

Rappelling and anchor gear, Ropes and or pull cords for rappels up to 60 feet and 20 feet of 1 inch webbing for sling placement.  Longest rap is only 15 feet but anchors set back require longer rope.

General Comments

Watson Canyon is in a portion of Sulphur Creek about 4 miles north of Torrey, Utah. From the town of Torrey, the drive into the trailhead will take roughly 30 to 45 minutes. The canyon is actually in the Loa District of Fishlake National Forest but is listed with the Capitol Reef National Park canyons due to its proximity to Capitol Reef.

Watson Canyon is a short route where the lower portions of the canyon are very pretty and worth visiting. Most (but not all) of the drops in Watson Canyon are downclimbs offering a fun day of practicing down climbing and partner assist techniques. Rap 2 (last rap) is the only mandatory rappel in the canyon and will require about 65 feet of rope travel. Thanks to Ryan Cornia for first sharing this route on his web site.

Driving Directions

To get to the Trailhead

From the west end of Torrey, Utah leave highway 24 / Main Street and travel north on Sand Creek Road / 520W (exSandCrk-520W).

About 0.73 miles north is a fork in the road (exFR146 ) shortly after pavement ends where forest service road FR146 forks off to the left (northwest). Turn left onto FR146 with signs saying you are going to Fish Lake National Forest.

About 0.63 miles farther the road passes (SandCrkRes) by a reservoir on the right (east) and some water tanks on the left (west). Continue northwest on road FR146 soon crossing over Sand Creek.

About 0.17 miles farther is a side road branches off to the left labeled 207. Stay on FR146 (the main road) going around a right hand bend then up a hill with a short section that is rocky.

About 0.75 miles farther is a road junction (exSandSulphur) with a sign indicating Sand Creek to the left (west) and Sulphur Basin to the right (east). Turn right (east) toward Sulphur Basin.

About 475 feet farther is a sharp bend in the road (GreatWestrn01) and a a side road going off to the right (east). Stay on the main road going up to the northwest then north again.

About 0.6 miles farther the road gets rough where high clearance is needed (GreatWestrn02).

About 0.7 miles farther the road smooths out a little again (GreatWestrn03).

About 1 mile farther the road starts crossing sections of slickrock (GreatWestrn04) as it goes up a right then left switch back. High clearance will be needed in this section.

About 0.8 miles farther is a sharp left bend in the road (pkWatson). Park here with room for 2 to 3 vehicles to start the route for Watson Canyon. If you drive northwest up from here about 800 feet and see a wooden sign for Sand Flat and Paradise Flat, you have driven a little too far.

To leave the Exit Vehicle / Escape Pod

No exit vehicle is needed.  This is done as a loop route.

Maps

GPS coordinate information listed at the bottom.  For information about waypoint naming and map symbols, refer to the Glossary page.

Map Link Icon
Click the links for maps of the route.
Map of the drive into the route.
Map of the entire route.

Details

The Approach:
From the parking spot (pkWatson) walk east through an open area which soon turns into an old side road.

About 0.18 miles from the car the old road you are walking crosses a small drainage (Watson01). Turn left and follow northeast down the drainage.

About 250 feet down the small drainage is a very easy downclimb / scramble of about 12 feet (Watson02).

About 100 feet farther the small drainage ends and dumps into Sulphur Creek with an easy scramble to start Watson Canyon (yWatsonTp)

The Canyoneering / Technical Section:
Once in Watson Canyon (yWatsonTp), urn right and follow east down the wash.

About 430 feet farther is an easy downclimb of about 6 feet (Watson03).

About 0.950 feet farther is a slickrock trough to walk and scramble through (Watson04) then a short walk to rap 1.

Rap 1 (dWatsonR1) is anchored about 15 feet overhead from a tree on the RDC side and drops about 15 feet. From the bottom walk down canyon under a large choke stone / boulder and continue following wash. Depending on skill level this drop can be downclimbed or partner assisted.

About 700 feet farther is a wide downclimb of about 8 feet (Watson05-Slot) with a little bit of a challenge just as the canyon begins to slot up and pass through sandstone. This section is where Watson Canyon begins to get deep and pretty.

About 400 feet farther is an easy downclimb of about 6 feet (Watson06).

About 100 feet farther is a drop that winds down left then right over 4 stages (Watson07). This drop looks intimidating from the top since you can not see around the corner, but once you start down you can see how gentle this series is.

Stage 1 is an easy downclimb of about 5 feet, Stage 2 is a trough like slope of about 6 feet. Stage 3 is a vertical 8 foot downclimb that can be stemmed or easily partner assisted. Stage 4 is a very easy scramble of about 6 feet.

About 100 feet farther is a section of canyon (Watson08) has about 4 easy downclimbs ranging from 5 to 8 feet.

A little over 200 feet farther you will pass under the first of two (Watson09) very tall dead trees that have fallen over and are leaning on the canyon walls high overhead.

About 200 feet farther is an easy downclimb / slide of about 10 feet (Watson10) down a fluted trough. Followed by a downclimb over a boulder of about 12 feet that is best done as a partner assist but taller people can stem down. Followed by 2 more easy downclimbs of about 6 and 10 feet.  Shortly down canyon is rap 2.

Rap 2 (dWatsonR2) is anchored from a large rock about 25 feet back and drops about 30 feet.

About 400 feet down canyon is the bottom of Watson Canyon (yWatsonBt) at a confluence in Sulphur Creek.

The Exit:
From the bottom of Watson Canyon (yWatsonBt) continue down stream about 330 feet to a drop of about 12 feet (Watson11) in the wash that you do not need to go down. From the top of the drop leave the wash on the right (south) side and scramble up steep loose dirt and gravel for 60 feet and contour down canyon to the tree filled dirt slopes continuing up.

After getting to the tree filled dirt slopes (Watson12) leading south up out of Sulphur Creek route find up the very steep hill side for about 500 feet to the top of the hill. You will gain a little over 300 feet from the creek bed up to the top of the dirt slope.

At the top out of the hill (Watson13) walk about 900 feet due west to intersect with the old road that will lead back to the car parking area.

When you reach the old road (Watson14) turn right and walk northwest about 0.8 miles back to the car parking spot (pkWatson).

GPS Waypoint Information

GPX Files Available for DOWNLOAD.
Downloadable GPX files for many of the canyons listed here are now available at the BG-Gear Store.  In addition to the waypoints, the GPX files also offer routes and tracks for the canyon.  Over time more GPX files will be added.

If you want to avoid manually adding waypoints into your GPS or mapping software, want the additional routes and tracks or simply want to support the efforts put into BluuGnome, head over to the BG-Gear Store and grab the files that interest you.

Elevations are approximate.  Waypoints with no elevation data will display NaN in place of the elevation.

For information about my waypoint naming convention and map symbols, refer to the Glossary page.

Notes for GPS information:
BEFORE
entering coordinates from this website, please ensure your system (GPS or mapping software) is set to the same datum used here.  Waypoint coordinates are listed with WGS84 datum and in Lat/Lon hddd.ddddd° format.  Entering coordinate information with inconsistent datum's can result in the waypoints being off by hundreds of feet.  It is important to keep this in mind when entering waypoints from any source.

Watson (1) - Drive to Trailhead
  1. exSandCrk-520W          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.29907   W -111.43235        Elev: NaN Feet
    Turn off for Sand Creek Road which is also called 520 West in the town of Torrey.
  2. exFR146          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.30993   W -111.43250        Elev: NaN Feet
    Fork in the road shortly after pavement ends where forest service road FR146 forks off to the left (northwest). Turn left onto FR146 with signs saying you are going to Fish Lake National Forest.
  3. SandCrkRes          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.31630   W -111.44067        Elev: NaN Feet
    Passing by a reservoir on the right (east) and some water tanks on the left (west). Continue northwest on road FR146 soon crossing over Sand Creek.
  4. exFR207          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.31846   W -111.44243        Elev: NaN Feet
    Road branches off to the left labeled 207. Stay on FR146 (the main road) going around a right hand bend then up a hill with a short section that is rocky.
  5. exSandSulphur          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.32818   W -111.44054        Elev: NaN Feet
    Road junction with a sign indicating Sand Creek to the left (west) and Sulphur Basin to the right (east). Turn right (east) toward Sulphur Basin.
  6. GreatWestrn01          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.32851   W -111.43942        Elev: NaN Feet
    Sharp bend in the road and a a side road going off to the right (east). Stay on the main road going up to the northwest then north again.
  7. GreatWestrn02          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.33604   W -111.44310        Elev: NaN Feet
    Road gets rough where high clearance is needed.
  8. GreatWestrn03          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.34528   W -111.44905        Elev: NaN Feet
    Road smooths out a little again.
  9. GreatWestrn04          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.35785   W -111.44942        Elev: NaN Feet
    Road starts crossing sections of slickrock as it goes up a right then left switch back. High clearance will be needed in this section.
  10. pkWatson          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.36084   W -111.44072        Elev: 8,170 Feet
    Sharp left bend in the road. Park here with room for 2 to 3 vehicles to start the route for Watson Canyon. If you drive northwest up from here about 800 feet and see a wooden sign for Sand Flat and Paradise Flat, you have driven a little too far. To start the route to Watson Canyon walk east through an open area which soon turns into an old side road.
Watson (2) - Approach and Canyon
  1. pkWatson          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.36084   W -111.44072        Elev: 8,170 Feet
    Sharp left bend in the road. Park here with room for 2 to 3 vehicles to start the route for Watson Canyon. If you drive northwest up from here about 800 feet and see a wooden sign for Sand Flat and Paradise Flat, you have driven a little too far. To start the route to Watson Canyon walk east through an open area which soon turns into an old side road.
  2. Watson01          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.35948   W -111.43835        Elev: 8,080 Feet
    The old road you are walking crosses a small drainage. Turn left and follow northeast down the drainage.
  3. Watson02          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.35975   W -111.43758        Elev: NaN Feet
    Very easy downclimb / scramble of about 12 feet.
  4. yWatsonTp          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.35998   W -111.43735        Elev: 8,015 Feet
    Easy scramble down from the small drainage down into the main drainage of Watson Canyon. Turn right and follow east down the wash.
  5. Watson03          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.35948   W -111.43606        Elev: NaN Feet
    Easy downclimb of about 6 feet.
  6. Watson04          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.35912   W -111.43358        Elev: 7,902 Feet
    Slickrock trough to walk and scramble through.
  7. dWatsonR1          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.35886   W -111.43328        Elev: NaN Feet
    Rap 1 - Watson Canyon. Anchored about 15 feet overhead from a tree on the RDC side and drops about 15 feet. From the bottom walk down canyon under a large choke stone / boulder and continue following wash. Depending on skill level this drop can be downclimbed or partner assisted.
  8. Watson05-Slot          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.35840   W -111.43105        Elev: NaN Feet
    Wide downclimb of about 8 feet with a little bit of a challenge just as the canyon begins to slot up and pass through sandstone. This section is where Watson Canyon begins to get deep and pretty.
  9. Watson06          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.35787   W -111.42993        Elev: NaN Feet
    Easy downclimb of about 6 feet.
  10. Watson07          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.35779   W -111.42958        Elev: NaN Feet
    Drop that winds down left then right over 4 stages. This drop looks intimidating from the top since you can not see around the corner but once you start down you see how gentle this series is. Stage 1 is an easy downclimb of about 5 feet, Stage 2 is a trough like slope of about 6 feet. Stage 3 is a vertical 8 foot downclimb that can be stemmed or easily partner assisted. Stage 4 is a very easy scramble of aobut 6 feet.
  11. Watson08          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.35769   W -111.42921        Elev: NaN Feet
    This section of canyon has about 4 easy downclimbs ranging from 5 to 8 feet.
  12. Watson09          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.35742   W -111.42836        Elev: NaN Feet
    Passing under the first of two very tall dead trees that have fallen over and are leaning on the canyon walls high overhead.
  13. Watson10          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.35723   W -111.42768        Elev: NaN Feet
    Easy downclimb / slide of about 10 feet down a fluted trough. Followed by a downclimb over a boulder of about 12 feet that is best done as a partner assist but taller people can stem down. Followed by 2 more easy downclimbs of about 6 and 10 feet.
  14. dWatsonR2          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.35714   W -111.42711        Elev: NaN Feet
    Rap 2 - Watson Canyon. Anchored from a large rock about 25 feet back and drops about 30 feet.
  15. yWatsonBt          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.35711   W -111.42570        Elev: 7,540 Feet
    Bottom of Watson Canyon at a confluence in Sulphur Creek.
Watson (3) - Exit
  1. yWatsonBt          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.35711   W -111.42570        Elev: 7,540 Feet
    Bottom of Watson Canyon at a confluence in Sulphur Creek.
  2. Watson11          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.35679   W -111.42463        Elev: 7,500 Feet
    Drop of about 12 feet in the wash that you do not need to go down. From the top of the drop leave the wash on the right (south) side and scramble up steep loose dirt and gravel for 60 feet and contour down canyon to the tree filled dirt slopes continuing up.
  3. Watson12          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.35666   W -111.42450        Elev: NaN Feet
    After getting to the tree filled dirt slopes leading south up out of Sulphur Creek route find up the very steep hill side for about 500 feet to the top of the hill. You will gain a little over 300 feet from the creek bed up to the top of the dirt slope.
  4. Watson13          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.35576   W -111.42583        Elev: 7,820 Feet
    Slope tops out wide open level ground. Walk about 900 feet due west to intersect with the old road that will lead back to the car parking area.
  5. Watson14          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.35589   W -111.42894        Elev: NaN Feet
    Route rejoins an old road. Turn right and walk northwest about 0.8 miles back to the car parking spot.
  6. Watson01          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.35948   W -111.43835        Elev: 8,080 Feet
    The old road you are walking crosses a small drainage. Turn left and follow northeast down the drainage.
  7. pkWatson          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.36084   W -111.44072        Elev: 8,170 Feet
    Sharp left bend in the road. Park here with room for 2 to 3 vehicles to start the route for Watson Canyon. If you drive northwest up from here about 800 feet and see a wooden sign for Sand Flat and Paradise Flat, you have driven a little too far. To start the route to Watson Canyon walk east through an open area which soon turns into an old side road.