ECHO CANYON (Middle Echo Canyon)

Route Description Photos 1 2

Echo CanyonOverview:
Echo Canyon is the large canyon complex in the main canyon located just across from Angels Landing. Most hikers catch only a few glimpses into its depths as they hike the Observation Point/East Rim Trails through Echo Canyon, but the middle section of canyon makes for a great and relatively short canyoneering adventure. The route involves several short rappels, downclimbs, and swims through cold and sometimes putrid water, but the subterranean scenery is just as outstanding as other comparable Zion slots like Pine Creek or Keyhole Canyon.

WARNING: This route is not suitable for hikers who have no technical canyoneering experience.

You must get a permit to do this route. The National Park Service limits access to Echo Canyon to 12 people a day. For more information on canyoneering permits and reservations, please see the Zion Wilderness Permits website.

Detailed Description:
The standard Echo Canyon canyoneering route described here could take 3-6 hours total at an average speed with 1-3 hours spent in the belly of the canyon. Starting at the Weeping Rock trailhead, hike up the Observation Point/East Rim Trail as it zigzags up and out of the main canyon into the Echo Canyon pantheon. The trail briefly follows the dry streambed where you can peer into the narrow slot section just before the trail crosses over and heads above. Middle Echo Canyon The CCC-chiseled trail continues above the slot and soon enough you will reach the trail junction where the scraggly East Rim Trail splits off from the main and more popular Observation Point Trail.

Follow the East Rim Trail as it skirts the shelves above Echo Canyon. Within only 5-10 minutes of hiking from the trail junction, you will cross the first major drainage. This is the standard and easy entrance into Middle Echo Canyon. Look for the trail of use that provides fairly easy access down to the bottom of the drainage. This drainage joins up with Echo Canyon proper and now the fun begins!

Echo Canyon doesn't waste any time getting interesting. The next half mile of subterranean canyon involves four short rappels with floating disconnects (each roughly 20 feet), a handful of cold swims and several downclimbs. Rappel 1 is off of a chockstone (down canyon right) into a swimming pool. Rappel 2 is off of bolts into a typically waist-deep pool with rappel 3 right around the corner on the far side of a small little toilet bowl-like pothole. (This pothole may require partner assists to get into and out the other side.) At the bottom of the short little rappel 3 is the dark "semi-keeper" pothole room that is typically a swim. For some reason, this large pool often collects a lot of plant material and has a reputation for being foul and smelling like poo. The exit from this pool could be difficult, as the lip of the exit is smooth and fairly high. In easy high-water conditions, a beached whale move can get you out. In low-water conditions, this exit can be a significant challenge with the exit lip located several feet above water level; be prepared to do a pack toss with a climbing etrier or some other method of pothole escape. This obstacle is why people are warned to not do this canyon solo; a partner can help those having trouble escaping; don't get trapped in the toilet bowl! A bit further down canyon, rappel 4 is an easy rap into yet another dark pool.

Middle Echo CanyonBeyond the technical section, there are still a few downclimbs past boulders and logjams and possibly a few swims. One of the more interesting sections is the canyon's namesake, the so-called "echo chamber" where the tall and curved shape of the walls makes for excellent reverberation. (Hikers on the trail above will enjoy hearing your singing.) Soon enough, you will be back to the world of the living where the slot section opens up and you rejoin the Observation Point Trail.

Random Notes:

Joe's Spin:
When you hit this canyon in fresh water conditions, this is an amazingly wonderful canyoneering experience. A step up from Keyhole Canyon, but less committing than Pine Creek (and arguably more beautiful than both), I'm surprised it's not as popular as some of the other "trade route" canyons in Zion, but perhaps the reputation for scummy pools really turns away a lot of people. Be prepared and equiped to deal with that semi-keeper pothole! When the water is low, this canyon becomes a more serious adventure.

VIEW THE PHOTOGRAPHS! Return to the Main Canyon

Echo Canyon Topo Map

Please note: This web site and all images on this site are the property of Joe Braun © 2018. Unauthorized public or commercial use of any of the images or text on this website without explicit permission is strictly forbidden. View Purchasing and Ordering information.