Echo Canyon Canyoneering Adventure
Echo Canyon is an amazing and complex canyon located in the main Zion Canyon at Weeping Rock just opposite to Angels Landing. The middle section of Echo Canyon, also known as Middle Echo, offers a wonderful canyoneering adventure. Throughout the trail, you can find short rappels, water pools and access to chilly swims. The pools are always full due to the large watershed with the water staying cool, even during the summer. You may have to cross some pools filled with decaying vegetables, so make sure to get some masks or smell proof gadgets if possible, if you are visiting this section in ZNP. This route is not suggested for hikers who are not experienced due to the technical canyoneering skills that are needed to complete this section successfully.
Echo Canyon is normally covered with ice and snow during winter season, which causes it’s closures during the winter months. Avoid visiting the section until the snow melts completely to avoid dangerous incidents. Consult the wilderness desk for more information on weather conditions before attempting the trail.
If you are planning to visit Echo Canyon, be sure to get a backcountry permit from the visitor’s center. The NPS allows only 12 people into Echo Canyon every day. Get more information on backcountry permit reservations at the Zion Visitor Center or check the Zion Permit’s website for more info.
Some essential equipment for this specific trail include a 20 inch rope for rappels, a 50 inch webbing for a sling and for handlines, climbing harnesses, helmets, drybags, and rapid links. It is recommended to get wetsuits even in summer as the water will be very cold.
The Echo Canyon canyoneering trail can take 3 to 6 hours to complete round-trip. This time includes the 1-3hrs it takes to get to the middle of Echo Canyon. The trailhead starts at the Weeping Rock,continues up to the Observation Point towards East rim Trail, where the zigzag route will lead you to the Echo Canyon. The trail, for a short time, continues on the dry streambed from where you can see the narrow slot section known as Middle Echo Canyon. The trail continues on the slots above and you will quickly reach the trail junction. Here at the East Rim Trail you can see the route splits off from the main canyon and from the famous Observation Point trail.
Follow the East Rim Trail as it goes around Echo Canyon. From the trail junction, it will be 5 to 10 minutes of hiking leading you across the major drainage, to the main entrance into the Middle Echo Canyon. You can also find easy access to the bottom of the drainage. The subterranean canyon hike involves small rappels with approximately 20 feet floating detachment, cold swims and down climbs. Rappel-1 is off of a chockstone towards a swimming pool. Rappel-2 is off of bolts towards a waist deep pool with rappel-3 leading you into the smaller pool. The bottom of rappel-3 is the dark pool or ‘semi-keeper’ pool to swim, but this large pool collects lots of vegetable wastes and emits foul smell that is unbearable, that is why avoid this part of the trial is advised. Because of this smelly canyon people do not do solo hiking. Rappel-4 will lead you into another dark pool.
Beyond the strenuous technical section of Middle Echo Canyon, there are several down climbs away from the logjams and boulders and contain a few swims. It is said that Echo Chamber is the most interesting section where you can see tall curved shaped walls. These walls make excellent reverberations, where if you make any sound, the hikers on the a trail above can hear your voice. Once you finish the trial, you will rejoin the Observation Point Trail.
- Seasons: The best time to visit is during the fall and summer months. It has not been as crowded during these last seasons, but Echo Canyon is still worth the visit. It is advisable to come after a good rainstorm, so that all the stagnated water in the pools are cleared out.
- Warning: You must check with Zion Canyon authorities if you are planning to visit Echo Canyon in winter season. During the winter the canyon will be covered with snow and ice and most of the trial will be closed due to the weather conditions. The snow and the ice melt only during the spring season. It is advisable to consult the park management before visiting this section of Zion.
- Middle Echo Hike: You can hike Middle Echo Canyon from the Observation Point Trail junction, but the stagnated water, logjam, and scummy pools are the biggest obstacles that may not allow you to proceed further. The foul smell and the dry conditions make it difficult to hike the Echo.
- Lower Echo Canyon: Visitors must take the Observation Point Trail intersection to reach the canyon’s downstream section. You must have a backcountry permit to explore this part of the canyon. Remember, it is illegal to exit the canyon by rock climbing over weeping rock.
Conclusion: The best time to visit Echo Canyon is when the water is fresh in the pools, after a rainstorm, so the pools are clear from foul and smelly water and the potholes will be filled with fresh water. This section offers you a wonderful hiking experience. The echo canyon hike is better than a keyhole canyon, yet less stressful than Pine Creek and, like anything in Zion, a gorgeous view. The Echo Canyon is not as popular due to the smelly surroundings but it offers an outstanding canyoneering experience.