Surprise Field Office

Hiking Logo  Hiking and Backpacking 

The best way to see parts of the Surprise Field Office area's beautiful scenery, diverse wildlife and wide open spaces is on foot.  There are no constructed hiking trails in the Surprise Field area however, there are many opportunities for cross country hiking and hiking along two-track roads.  If you are used to hiking on constructed trails, be sure to budget extra time to hike similar distances cross country. Also be sure to pack extra water, since springs and water sources are not always reliable.

The temperatures in the high desert can vary widely and change rapidly all months of the year, so bring clothing and supplies for any conditions. Be sure to stop by the Surprise Field Office before starting your trip to get current road conditions, wildland fire conditions, maps and any seasonal information. 

  • Always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.

Please see our Desert Visitors Guide for preparedness tips. 

Hiking Tips 

  • Watch the weather! Many roads that access trails become impassable when wet!
  • Bring plenty of food and water. If you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated.
  • Wear sturdy hiking gear and layer your clothing for rapid weather changes.
  • Minimize wildlife disturbance and protect water quality by camping at least 200 feet from streams.
  • Use a backpack stove instead of building a fire.
  • Human waste and toilet paper should be buried in a small “cathole” (six to eight inches deep and at least 200 feet from a water source).
  • Know your own hiking and navigation skills. 
  • Bring a basic first aid kit.
  • Winter snow and summer heat may make the hikes impossible.
  • Understand navigation with and without GPS and know how to navigate by map. Deep canyons will often render GPS useless.
  • Pack out what you pack in.
  • Leave No Trace. Keep these beautiful areas wild for future visitors!


Hiking Trails

The South Warner Wilderness Study Area Trails are popular seasonal hiking trails in the lower elevations of the Warner Mountain range. 

The South Warner trailhead

The trail from this point provides a gentle slope for the first ½ mile and then becomes more steep and arduous. The trail is more suitable for experienced hikers. The trail climbs 500ft in elevation and levels off to gradual mountain drainage. The trail currently ends at a vista point looking over the Surprise Valley. The terrain consists of sage and rabbit brush but also holds some fir and aspen stands of trees. Mule Deer and Pronghorn are frequent to the trail and encounters are likely. The trail is approx. 1.5 miles long.

Getting there from Cedarville:  Head south on County Road 1 for approx.15 miles. Turn right on County road 42. Proceed 1.5 miles. Turn right onto a 4WD dirt road with trailhead markers. Proceed ½ mile to trailhead parking.

The North Barber Creek trailhead

The trail from this point is very gradual and follows North Barber Creek. The mixture of pines and aspen make for great scenery and excellent opportunity for picnicking. The trail ends at the United States Forest Service Wilderness Boundary. This trail is more suitable for novice hikers and runs about ¾ of a mile.

Getting there from Cedarville:  Head south on County Road 1 for approx. 15 miles. Turn right on County road 42. Proceed 2.5 miles. Turn right onto dirt road with trailhead markers.

During your journey on these trails you will enjoy a series of spectacular views of the Surprise Valley, large stands of Aspen and fir trees, large rock formations as well as abundant wildlife.

When to go: The trails are open year-round however due to snow the best time to visit the trails is in the spring and summer months.


 Explore Nearby

Black Rock Desert High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area

Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge

Modoc National Forest