Echo Canyon is a technical canyoneering adventure that will require complete technical gear. The route normally requires 4 to 5 hours to complete. Echo Canyon is rated 3B II using the Canyon Rating System. You will need a Zion backcountry permit to enter the technical section of Echo Canyon.
The route contains several short rappels, all less than 30-feet in height. You will need a 60-foot rope, 50-feet of webbing, several shoulder length slings, a couple double length slings several, rapid links, a prusik system and a drybag for your gear.
This canyon requires plenty of swimming and wading. The water is cold and a minimum of a shorty wetsuit is required, and a full wetsuit or drysuit is advised. You might want something warm and dry to put on when you complete this canyon so throw a fleece into your drybag. Do not solo this canyon. The slot contains several semi-keeper potholes, which should not be a problem for teams of two or more. However, during certain water conditions a solo canyoneer might have trouble exiting these semi-keeper potholes.
A GPS is useful. Good map reading skills and the USGS 7.5' map titled "Temple of Sinawava" are essential. Navigation for this adventure is easy. All waypoints and maps for this route use the WGS84 datum. Echo Canyon has a moderate flash flood danger, check the weather report at the Visitor Center when you pick up your permit. The entire drainage and a clear view of the western sky are visible before committing to the canyon.
From the Zion Canyon Visitor's Center take the Zion Canyon Shuttle to the Weeping Rock Picnic Area located in Zion Canyon. This is the trailhead for the popular Weeping Rock, Hidden Canyon, Observation Point, Cable Mountain and East Mesa Trails.
From the Weeping Rock Picnic Area (N37° 16' 16", W112° 56' 18"), take the paved East Rim Trail towards Observation Point and Cable Mountain. The route snakes up the side of the mountain, past the Hidden Canyon Trail (N37° 16' 08", W112° 56' 14"), crosses Echo Canyon (N37° 16' 21", W112° 55' 56") and climbs toward the rim. The hike up offers a good look into a section of the Echo Canyon Narrows. Two miles and approximately one hour from the Weeping Rock Trailhead the Observation Point and Cable Mountain trails separate. The junction is signed (N37° 16' 26", W112° 55' 38"). Take the south (right) fork towards Cable Mountain. From the Observation Point/Cable Mountain junction hike up the Cable Mountain trail for 3/4 miles to where the trail crosses the main Echo Canyon drainage (N37° 16' 40", W112° 55' 14"). From here its all down hill as you enter the drainage and begin following it downstream. Let the fun begin. The canyon will begin to slot up almost immediately.
You willencounter several short rappels, downclimbing and pools of ice cold water that might be scummy or clear depending on recent conditions. The route contains at least three potholes that can be difficult to escape in certain water conditions. All three potholes can normally be defeated with partner assist techniques or using a pack toss. A pack toss is simply tying a rope to your backpack and tossing it downstream and over the obstacle to give you a handline to climb out of the pothole. When water levels are high a couple of the rappels will deposit you in deep pools of water that require a floating disconnect from your rappel rope. The canyon can be strange in that one pool of water might be clear and the next filled with floating logs and decaying pinecones.
Near the mid-point of your route you will encounter a small deep pothole followed immediately by a short rappel into a large deep pothole. These two deep potholes can be a little difficult to exit under certain conditions and are often referred to as semi-keeper potholes. Two people will not have trouble exiting these potholes, most people are able to climb out solo with some effort.
After the final rappel the slots personality changes from technical to beautiful. The slot opens up at an intersection and than narrows back up to form the "Echo Chamber". The acoustics in this section of the canyon are fantastic so give it a good yell. There is some downclimbing and wading through this section of canyon but nothing very difficult.
Soon enough you will reach the point where the Observation Point/Cable Mountain trail crosses Echo Canyon. You must exit Echo Canyon here and hike back down the trail.
If you continue down Echo Canyon below the Observation Point/Cable Mountain trail you must leave fixed ropes because it is against Zion Park regulations to rappel into the Weeping Rock area.
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