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Echo Pass Trail, AZ

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HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance Round Trip 4.24 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,602 feet
Elevation Gain 1,258 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,264 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 2-4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 10.56
Interest Ruins & Historic
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
38  2010-09-18 PaleoRob
Author PaleoRob
author avatar Guides 168
Routes 225
Photos 5,981
Trips 1,093 map ( 2,433 miles )
Age 40 Male Gender
Location Grand Junction, CO
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Nov, Apr, Oct → Early
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  5:28am - 7:38pm
Official Route
0 Alternative

Its history is a mystery!
by PaleoRob

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The Echo Peaks anchor the northern end of the Echo Cliffs, a monolithic ridge that extends from Tuba City north to the Colorado River. While not the highest part of the Echo Cliffs, the Echo Peaks stand apart from the rest of the ridge, separated by a low saddle. This gives the peaks their prominence. It is also the destination for this rediscovered trail.

The Echo Pass Trail is steep, hot, shadeless, and without water for its entirety. It is very easy to use over one gallon of water for this hike. Do not attempt this hike in the dead of summer. Even early autumn and late spring could be too hot - always watch the weather. The road to the trailhead crosses several washes and follows one for a short distance. Do not attempt this hike if there is flash-flood danger. At best, you can end up stranded. At worst, you can end up dead.

The human history of the Echo Cliffs area goes back 1000s of years to the Desert Archaic Culture, members of which left their marks on boulders around the Echo Cliffs base. They were followed by the Anasazi, the Utes, the Navajos, and finally by European-Americans. The history of the trail itself is slightly less clear. It is possible that Navajos built the trail as a stock trail to take sheep and horses from one side of the Echo Cliffs to the other. It is also possible that uranium miners in the 1950s and 1960s built the trail for prospecting. Both are real possibilities: crossings of the cliffs are few and far between, and there were many uranium mines active in the Echo Cliffs district. Three enigmatic dates were found along the trail. Near the pass itself is the date 1959, which corresponds to the uranium boom. Near the base of the trail are the dates 73 and 34. 1934 was before Glen Canyon Dam started construction, but after the Navajo Bridge was constructed, eliminating the old Lee's Backbone road. However, according to most histories of the area, no one lived in the area east of the cliffs until you got to Coppermine or Kaibeto. Another possibility is hinted at by the 73 date. If it is 1873, a year after the Second Powell Expedition, this would have been when the Honeymoon Trail and Lee's Ferry were seeing lots of traffic. As the trailhead and spur were off the old Lee's Backbone road, this is certainly a possibility. But, if the date was 1973, it is just some lovers getaway spot. No one in Page I've talked to seems to know anything about the trail, but there have been some attempts to mark the trail. In several spots, you'll find cairns along the way. The idea of a uranium road is appealing, but the road seems too narrow to have ever been used as a jeep road, and I did not find any signs of diggings.

The hike starts at a point above a large wash. If you have a high-high clearance truck, you can probably make it down the sketchy slope and up a side road on the east side of the wash and shave about 0.5 miles off your hike. But turnaround spots are limited up the spur road, and if you miscalculate with your clearance, you end up on the rocks. So from the parking spot, descend the road to the wash bottom, and immediately turn and head back up the wash. You will see a small tributary coming in from the left (east) side and probably some tire tracks. Follow these up out of the wash and onto the sloping alluvial fan. Please stay on the easy-to-follow two-track as it degrades into a one-track as it goes up a canyon. As it bends north, you can catch a glimpse of the Echo Peaks. The trail then bends east again, passing what might be a small seep in wet years. On the north side of the side canyon, you can see some stonework that shored up the old trail. The trail in the bottom of the canyon has been eroded away due to arroyo cutting.

At the end of the seep, there is a barbed-wire fence in pretty poor repair. It is easy to step around or through the fence. Do not continue upcanyon, detour around the pourover to the north (note the cairn), and then head west over a gently sloping slickrock platform. This is made of hard Shinarump Conglomerate, which forms the base of the Chinle Formation. Atop the Shinarump, you'll see some red knolls and a low line of cliffs to your right (north). Climbing up onto the red shale, you should find a faint boot-worn trail to follow. Keep the low cliffs to your right, and as you cross the flats, you'll begin slowly turning north.

Note the cairns at the wash bottom crossings. The route takes on more of a trail-look in this section as you cross the green shale of the Chinle. There is a low black ridge to cross, marked by a cairn. Petrified wood can be seen in this area. Above the ridge, the trail is slightly harder to follow as it goes through more Chinle. It is ill-defined in this area, but you can see a large gully if you look towards the cliff beyond the Chinle. The trail used to switchback up this gully before being washed out. Just to the right (east) of the gully, you can pick up the trail again, this time with easily-defined switchbacks that take you to the top of the next bench. The trail is easy to follow on this bench as it goes around a low knoll. As you round the knoll, look to the northeast. The trail divides near here, but the shorter route is harder to see. The longer route takes a long grade up the ridge to the right and then switchbacks to the top of the ridge you are facing, while the shorter route takes a more direct approach with only a few switchbacks to gain the next ridge. Both trails meet back up in a small depression, from where the trail passes between two large boulders and across some flats. You're close to the half-way point in terms of elevation as you cross this last bench.

There is only one serious stretch of trail left from the plateau, but it can also be challenging to find. Cross the bench, generally heading north-northwest. The trail starts to climb from the base of the talus slope and trends northwest, away from the pass. Finding the entrance to this portion of the trail can be difficult, but once you are on it, there is no way to lose it. It gains altitude gradually, moving away from the pass, and then makes one tight switchback. The trail above the switchback section is generally good, but there are some places with severe exposure due to rockfalls blocking the trail or due to wash-outs. You'll pass by a low draw with a great view of the Echo Peaks and the remains of an old cowboy camp just below the pass. Also, keep your eyes peeled for the 1959 inscription. Just above that is the pass!

At the pass, you can enjoy the view, take a break, or climb higher to the southernmost prominence on the Echo Peaks at 4981 (which, by the way, does have a good echo). The scenery is spectacular - you can see down to the North Rim, Marble Canyon, and Navajo Bridges, and then with a quick turn of the head, you can see Page, Navajo Mountain, and the Kaiparaowitz Plateau. While the Echo Pass Trail does not offer access to any of the Echo Peaks' summits, it may be possible to use it as a starting point for a summit bid. Looking from the pass, you may also notice that the Echo Pass Trail continues down into the divide and disappears in the slickrock that slopes towards the Colorado River. Given the shape of the trail up to the pass, it should be feasible to follow, but where it goes is unknown. After seeing all you wanted to see, return down to your vehicle via the same Echo Pass Trail!

Water Sources
None! Bring all you need, and maybe a little more besides that.

Backpacking is allowed on the Navajo Nation, and several spots offer themselves. Considering the total roundtrip length of barely over 4 miles, it probably would not be worth it unless you are trying to get up to the top of the Echo Peaks or continuing along the trail further.

Check out the Official Route and Triplog.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2010-09-20 PaleoRob
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    guide related
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Permit $$
Navajo Nation Reservation
Navajo Permits & Services

Map Drive
High Clearance possible when dry

To hike
From Page
Drive south on US89 to the junction with US89A at Bitter Springs. Turn right onto US89A and follow it to MP 536. 0.4 miles past MP 536 there is a gate leading to a dirt road on the right side. Turn off, open the gate, and drive through. Don't forget to close the gate. After closing the gate, make an immediate right, and follow the dirt track 0.3 miles to the rim of the canyon. Take the right branch and then slowly and carefully drive down into the wash bottom. Follow the wash downstream for 0.25 miles, and then exit to the north along the well-worn track.

The road divides into several tracks around a red-and-white knoll. Stay left around the knoll, and then turn right when past the knoll. Descend a low rise and then you will come to another canyon lip. This is the parking spot, just off the road on the left, 0.6 miles after you left the wash. It is possible to descend into the wash bottom, turn right, and follow a side track up the bench towards the Echo Pass Trail, but due to the issues getting down to the wash bottom it is also easy enough just to park above the wash.
page created by PaleoRob on Sep 20 2010 7:01 am
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