Echo Canyon

Echo Canyon
Zion National Park
Technical Canyoneering

          The upper slot in Echo Canyon is a great technical adventure. Think of it as Keyhole Canyon on steroids, or perhaps a beginners version of Imlay Canyon. This is the most under-rated canyon in Zion National Park. I have no idea why this canyon is not a lot more popular, because it is as beautiful and fun as anything in Zion National Park. Add this slot canyon to your must do list.

General Information:
Click Here for Google Earth KMZ file.Click Here for Map          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.

If attempting this route before July you might encounter huge debris fields of snow inside Echo Canyon that have avalanched down the sides of Cable Mountain. This can create a difficult, scary and very dangerous situation. Often half-a-dozen major snowdrifts in the range of 75 feet tall and 100 feet long will be encountered. You will be presented with major ice barricades, bergschrund type lips that form and collapse, snow bridges, seracs and other unstable conditions. If spring and early summer conditions are unknown, then every member of your team should be equipped with at least an ice axe. Additional snow and ice gear will improve your odds of success. These snow conditions do not occur every year, but when conditions are right Echo Canyon can easily become an early season trap. You have been warned!

Wading through Echo Canyon Stormy & Hank Moon in the first semi-keeper pothole.

Trailhead Information:
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.

About to go for a swim. Shauna at one of Several Rappels.

Route Information:
          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 will encounter 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.

More Swimming Near the Echo Chamber

          Enjoy a short entertaining video of a trip through Echo Canyon.


Full Meal Deal:
          Experienced, fast moving and physically fit canyoneers can combine Echo Canyon and Mystery Canyon into one long day by starting at Weeping Rock. The "Combo Platter" should only be attempted by skilled canyoneers, in a small party, with a very early start. After finishing Echo Canyon it is a good idea to reevaluate your condition and the amount of daylight remaining.

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