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Hidden and Echo Canyons: a pair of easily explored canyons in Zion National Park

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In the heart of Zion, Hidden and Echo canyons give you a good taste of the varied off-trail adventures to be had in Zion’s backcountry, as you explore a lush hanging canyon and a narrow slot, easy enough for hiking, but wild enough to feel out of the beaten path.

Unlike the previously described canyons, route finding is straightforward, as you can hike to the entrance of the canyon on a good trail. Although some scrambling over boulders is required, it is not as intimidating as in Keyhole Canyon. You can normally hike Hidden Canyon without getting your feet wet. In dry conditions, you could hike Echo Canyon without wadding in water.

The trailhead for both canyons starts at the Weeping Rock trailhead (7th stop on the Zion Canyon Shuttle). At the beginning, you will be following steep switchbacks along the popular Observation Point Trail.

Hidden Canyon

After about 0.5 miles on the Observation Point Trail, you come to a junction. Turn right towards the path less traveled. Unlike the Observation Point Trail, the Hidden Canyon trail doesn’t lead to a spectacular viewpoint. Instead, the trail takes you to the mouth of a narrow hanging canyon. There are a few exposed sections equipped with chains and stair steps. Because the trail stops at the canyon entrance (1 mile from trailhead, 800 feet elevation gain), exploring the canyon gives a good taste of backcountry hiking. You have to contend with a number of obstacles, however you cannot get lost between the narrow walls.

The canyon is full of possibilities for photographing intimate scenes. You’ll pass surprisingly lush plant communities, fern and moss-covered walls, and a small arch on your right, 0.5 miles into the canyon.

Although you can go about a mile to the base of a dry fall, most hikers will want to stop shortly after the arch, when the climbing over rocks on your left becomes quite exposed and awkward. Going up may look easy, but we had to help some hikers to go down, which is always more difficult, as the ledge is slopping and it is difficult to see your feet.

The light in the canyon is best in mid-morning or mid-afternoon, when the sun doesn’t reach directly into the canyon bottom. At those times, the soft glow of light, reflected off the canyon walls, fills shadows with a warm color. Earlier and later in the day, only the tops of the canyon rims are lit by sunlight and the depths are in deep shadow.

Echo Canyon

At about mile 2, after passing through tall walls, the Observation Point Trail crosses a wash. If you continue up the trail, you will soon reach a tunnel-like section, with a mysterious dark slot right at the edge of the trail, below you. That slot is Echo Canyon. Hidden Canyon is no longer a secret, but few know about Echo Canyon.

To enter it, walk right into the canyon at the wash. During a dry summer, you can continue for up to 2 miles! However, the water level in the canyons was quite high last June (as seen in Pine Creek Canyon). Since I wasn’t ready to wade this time, I contented myself with photographs from the entrance. Like for Keyhole Canyon, a full exploration of Echo Canyon requires technical canyoneering.

Zion Canyons: Part 4 of 5. 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

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