Hidden and Echo Canyons
Sunday, September 30
After a cool and windy night, another clear day dawned over Zion Canyon. Breakfast was a quick and simple affair for some of us, but for Arn and Kyle, it was gourmet-time - with a frying pan, pancake batter, and real maple syrup hand-flown in from Canada. Mercifully, Arn and Kyle shared a few of their fluffy concoctions with the rest of us.
Morning from Watchman Campground
Breakfast at Zion Campground
Breakfast at Zion Campground
The first order of business was securing another campsite for the next day. We had only been able to secure our current campsite for one day, and so we repeated yesterday's ritual of visiting the campground entrance kiosks. Unfortunately, despite the fact it was now Monday (and presumably less busy), there were no openings at all at The Watchman campground. The friendly ranger gave us some tips on how to get a spot at the nearby South Campground, and as a fallback suggested options for camping up near Lava Point, at a completely different and more remote spot in the park.
Last Look at Pancakes
Fortunately, we were able to secure a spot in the first-come, first-serve South Campground. After another ritual of campsite moving, we were safely ensconced in a new spot. Perhaps this time for more than one night!
As I've already mentioned earlier in this report, our attempt to get a permit to the popular Subway canyoneering route had not yet panned out. I had applied for the last minute drawing for the next day, but that left today open. Although we could have re-tackled Lady Mountain, we decided we needed at least one day's break. I solicited input from the others, and the general consensus was that they wanted to see some slot-like canyon stuff. I thought about it for a bit, and concluded that the easiest place to visit such things would be along Zion's East Rim trail. There, we'd be able to quickly and easily explore two nice spots: Hidden Canyon and Echo Canyon.
The East Rim Trail is most easily accessed from within Zion Canyon, at the Weeping Rock parking lot. That meant another ride on the good ol' Zion canyon shuttle. We arrived at the Weeping Rock stop at a very relaxed 12:55pm. Hidden and Echo Canyons are very easy to visit, you see, and do not require all that much time.
The East Rim Trail is one of the two main and busy arterial trails in the park (well, at least the portions into and out of Zion Canyon are). As a result, they are wide and robustly engineered. In fact, the stretches of these trails in Zion Canyon are actually paved.
Starting at the Weeping Rock trailhead, we headed up on the East Rim trail. Switchbacking in broad strokes 400 feet up the slope below Cable Mountain, we soon reached a junction with the side trail to Hidden Canyon.
Classic Angel's Landing View
Junction to Hidden Canyon
Although not the "hiker highway" that is the East Rim trail, the trail into Hidden Canyon is still very well-built. After a series of tight switchbacks, the trail then makes a very ambitious traverse around sheer cliffs partway up big walls above Zion Canyon's floor. There are long sections where very extensive trailwork was done to carve a trail out of the solid sandstone, and a chain-link handrail is in place for the most exposed parts. It's definitely a fun section of trail!
Exposed (but again, with handrails) traverses around two sheer buttresses of sandstone brings one to the mouth of Hidden Canyon. If it were not for the hacked-out trail, there would be no non-climbing way to get to it. Hidden Canyon is essentially a narrow hanging valley down the back side of the Great White Throne, and which separates it from the main mass of the plateau to the east.
Once in hidden canyon, the constructed trail stops, and you are free to simply wander up-canyon. There's nowhere else to go, really, so your options are pretty constrained - unless you want to somehow rock-climb out. The character of the hike quickly changes: instead of having a gulf of "big air" next to you, along with a panoramic view of Zion Canyon below, here in Hidden Canyon we were in a shady, enclosed little spot - a nook nestled against the backside of the Great White Throne. It was shady, cool and tree-lined, with a few pools of water and moss here and there.
Carved steps, Hidden Canyon
Beneath the vertical wall