Middle Echo Canyon Canyoneering Route

Rating:

3B II

Season:

Summer. Middle Echo features 4 very cold swims.

Length:

3 to 5 hours.

Equipment:

40 foot rope and rappelling gear. At least summer level wetsuits are recommended even when it is super hot out.

Drinking Water:

Bring plenty. The water is too gross to pump.

USGS 7.5′ Map:

Temple of Sinawava

Difficulties:

Rappels to 20 feet. Four swims through very cold pools, with floating debris.

Logistics:

Route starts and ends at Weeping Rock.

Permit:

Required.

Flash Flood Danger:

Moderate. Weather report available at Visitor Center .

History

The Echo Canyon trail is the oldest trail in and out of Zion Canyon . Just prior to the turn of the 20th century, Utah Pioneer John Winder reworked the existing Paiute trail up Echo Canyon to drive cattle up to the rim. He was only partially successful, as the trail was still extremely precarious. Here, John is seen canyoneering with his horse in Echo Canyon .

Canyoneering, Echo Canyon, 1913

An early descent in Echo Canyon .  photo: J Cecil Alter, from the collection of E. Irving Alter.  (used without permission!)

Subterranean is the best description for Echo Canyon . This is a splendid journey deep within the sandstone, with a couple short rappels and a handful of short but extremely cold swims, then a splendid exit through interesting narrows with fabulous acoustics. Echo is well hidden and its water remains very cold through the summer. Shortee wetsuits are VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for Echo even in high summer. More protection will be needed in less than blazing hot conditions.


Getting There

Take the shuttle to Weeping Rock and hike up the Echo Canyon Trail toward Observation Point. About 45 minutes from the road, the trail crosses (and briefly follows) Echo Canyon. This is where you will come out. Continue up the trail another 15-20 minutes to an official trail junction. Take the right branch toward Cable Mountain , down toward Echo Canyon . After about 10 minutes, the trail crosses a small canyon. About 40 feet further, step off the trail to the right, and follow a small trail along the rim of the small canyon, and then down steep dirt into the canyon.


Into the Canyon

The canyon narrows up right away, but takes a while to really get going. After about 20 minutes, the first rappel is found, after wading a few gooey looking pools. (The first rappel is off a kind of loose log (as of 5/28/01 ) tied off to a pretty good chockstone. Check this anchor carefully before weighting it). With the first rappel, the canyon goes fully subterranean, almost requiring headlamps. There are four short rappels into pools or to the edge of pools. The pools are big, round, deep, cold, and covered with floating debris. And smell like poo.

Continuing downcanyon, you soon come to the “Echo Chamber” – a cavern with excellent acoustics. A little bit of scrambling and a few short wades brings you to the bottom of the middle section and the established trail. Return to Weeping Rock.