The Canadian sat eighth after her first run at the skeleton world championship but put together three strong subsequent efforts to capture a bronze medal.
The Calgary native posted a time of four minutes 40.01 seconds to earn her first career world championship medal.
"'I'm absolutely thrilled. I have no words," she said. "To be truthful, I thought about a medal before the race, but being eighth in the first run I thought it wasn't possible.
"Then I put down three good runs and I am just so happy."
Shelley Rudman of Britain won her first skeleton world championship after fending off a strong challenge from American Noelle Pikus-Pace. Rudman's one-second lead from the opening two runs Thursday was cut to 0.57 seconds by Pikus-Pace, who was fastest in the final two runs and took silver.
Following her slow start, Reid found herself .10 seconds out of third place heading into the final run.
"Even after the first day it was so tight that I knew I could climb up, but I didn't know if I could medal," she said. "Duff (coach Duff Gibson) and I had a chat between the third and fourth run and he said ‘The person who has the best run will get the medal.'"
Mellisa Hollingsworth of Eckville, Alta., a two-time World Cup champion and Olympic bronze medallist, was fifth in 4:40.36.
"I was happy to have a final good run, but it is extremely obvious to me that I have to focus on skeleton and get training this summer," said Hollingsworth, who has also been competing in rodeo during the off-season. "I missed the medals because of my start.
"The coaches are extremely supportive, and we are getting my new sled in the lineup. I was getting used to it, but I just wasn't confident enough on it yet."
Cassie Hawrysh of Brandon, Man., was 12th in 4:42.59.
Reid has enjoyed a solid campaign, kicking off the pre-Olympic season with her first career World Cup medal by winning the season-opener in Lake Placid, N.Y. She finished second two weeks later in Whistler, B.C., and added another silver medal in La Plagne, France.
And on Friday she reached the podium at Temple, the world's lone non-refrigerated track that has hosted the 1928 and 1948 Olympic Winter Games.
"It is super cool to win a medal here," she said. "This is where the sport was born and it is such a special track.
"This year really feels surreal. I always felt I could medal at worlds, but I didn't expect it at the beginning of the year."
Pikus-Pace, the 2007 world champion in St. Moritz, got silver in her comeback season after a two-year competitive break from the sport.
"What a great day," Pikus-Pace said. "I felt so much better today and I am excited to be on the medal stand."
One course record was broken by junior world champion Elena Nikitina of Russia, who got the fastest start on the historic course at 5.20 seconds to the first time check.
Racers now head to Sochi, Russia, to complete the World Cup season in two weeks on the new sliding track built for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
The final two runs of the men's skeleton will be held Saturday.
— With files from The Associated Press.