OverviewAs technical canyons go, Echo is considered to be fairly easy. Even though the canyon is bolted and considered fairly easy, don’t get the wrong idea that this canyon is for the inexperienced. It would be foolhardy for anyone to try and descend Echo Canyon without the proper skills.
This canyon is highly recommended for those that have the proper skills needed, but whom are not ready for challenging canyons elsewhere in Zion or on the Colorado Plateau. At a minimum every member of the group should be well versed in rope skills used by rock climbers/canyoneers and especially in rappelling.
Even though the canyon isn't very technical, this is still a beautiful route. Highlights include an interesting narrows, high walls, and cold pools.
In any case, the canyon should not be underestimated. The canyon has a reputation for having some of the coldest water in Zion and snow and ice can persist in the canyon until June. There is one pothole that can be difficult to exit at times, so it is highly recommended that you don't go alone.
Once you acquire the proper skills, Echo is a good first technical canyon and it will give some good practice to inexperienced canyoneers. It is also a pleasant and enjoyable romp of a few hours for more experienced or intermediate canyoneers.
Getting ThereThe canyon is accessed through the shuttle bus system. This makes access very easy.
Because you must ride the shuttle bus system in the only season that is practical to descend Echo Canyon, detailed directions are not needed.
From the Springdale or the Zion Visitor Center (or any other shuttle stop in Zion Canyon), simply take the shuttle bus to Weeping Rock. The hike to the head of the Middle Echo Canyon begins here.
Route DescriptionFrom the Weeping Rock Trailhead, ascend the Observation Point Trail. Stay on the route to Observation Point, ignoring a short branch to the left and Weeping Rock (which is still worth a nice side trip) and a trail to the right to Hidden Canyon.
Bear left at Hidden Canyon Junction and follow the trail as it climbs up into Echo Canyon. Follow Echo Canyon for a while until the trail climbs out of Echo Canyon and follows a bench left and above the Echo Narrows.
You will turn right at a junction with the (less used) Echo Canyon trail. Follow the trail and rim of the Echo Slot around the bend (10 minutes or so) and until crossing a major drainage. Leave the maintained trail here and follow the trail of sorts along the rim of this small drainage until you can drop into the drainage. Follow this drainage to the Echo Canyon slot.
Once you reach the floor of the Echo Canyon Slot, it is worth taking a few minutes to explore up canyon. This is the Upper Echo Canyon Slot. The main route goes down canyon. After taking a few minutes to explore the Upper Slot, return back to where you dropped into Echo Canyon and follow the canyon down.
There are several downclimbs or rappels of up to just under 20 feet. Most are bolted. There is one pothole that is rumored to be difficult to get out of in certain conditions In May 2007, we found this no problem at all, but it was harder in May 2016. My son and I did fine with a partner assist however. Conditions might change, so always go prepared for a possible difficult exit out of a pothole!). If you are alone or an inexperienced climber, it is high recommend that you never go alone. Even if you are experienced, it is better to go with a partner. In any case, a partner assist should be all that is needed all or most of the time.
In 2016, there was a new rappel at the beginning of what is known as the Echo Chamber. It is off a log jam. There are up to five rappels in the canyon, but conditions change. In 2007, we were able to downclimb or partner assist all of them, but in 2016 they seemed harder, perhaps because I am nine years older and also since things were much wetter and slipperier.
The canyon always has at least a few cold pools to wade or swim. We had one swimmer and several waders. If it’s been a long time since the latest rain storm or snow runoff, the pools can get dirty and stinky.
Continue down canyon through the technical section, stopping whenever possible in order to enjoy the scenery (for my first time through, we blasted through way to fast!). The last long section of the slot is non-technical, but usually has several shallow pools to wade. Eventually the canyon crosses the main Observation Point Trail where you crossed Echo Canyon on the way up.
Follow the trail back to the trailhead and shuttle bus. Most people complete this route in 3-5 hours.