Can you hear me now? Science shows its powers at Echo Canyon

Echo Canyon Trail inside Colorado National Monument offers a short, gentle hike that is close to home and follows the canyon bottom to its boxed end.


Echo Canyon

Drive time and distance: 10 minutes, 5 miles

Length: 3 miles round trip

Hiking Time: 1 hour

Difficulty: Easy

“HELLO, hello, hello,” we yelled as we hiked into Echo Canyon over the newest stretch of trail, recently completed thanks to an $8,000 REI grant to the Colorado National Monument Association.

A number of years ago, I accompanied Fruita Monument High School science teacher Steve Cunningham and his AP Biology class on a hike into No Thoroughfare Canyon, a few hundred yards north of here. The young scientists were in search of canyon tree frogs.

These unique amphibians are found from the southwestern United States through central Mexico. In Colorado, however, they exist only along the south rim of the Colorado River west of Grand Junction and in John Brown Canyon near Gateway.

Daughter Bridgette was in Mr. Cunningham’s class at the time. She and her fellow students discovered that tree frogs are little suckers — they could hide in the palm of your hand. Yet, a tree frog’s call is described as “the bleat of a goat or a hoarse sheep,” in author Geoffrey Hammerson’s great book, “Amphibians and Reptiles in Colorado.”

Canyon tree frogs don’t climb trees. Rather, they retreat to rock crevices in hot weather and during the cold season. Most activity occurs from May to September, along small bodies of water in Echo, No Thoroughfare, and a few other canyons west of town.

We’re a little late in the season to find the tree frogs, but as we hiked and talked about tree frogs, we ran into Mr. Cunningham and another science teacher from Fruita Monument, Bill Schaefer.

Coincidence? I think not.

“I’d never been into this canyon until last week,” said Cunningham, who for years had been taking his biology students into No Thoroughfare Canyon instead. “I just had to come back to show Mr. Schaefer. This is a great little canyon.”

Especially now that it’s totally protected inside the boundaries of Colorado National Monument.

A couple of months ago I wrote about an unsung hero who watched over the tree frogs in Echo Canyon. Bob Harris, whose private property was crossed by the Echo Canyon Trail, was nice enough to share his property with all of us through an agreement with Mesa County Land Trust, BLM and National Park Service.

Recently, however, construction of about one-quarter mile of new trail, and the posting of signs directing the public away from Mr. Harris’ land, was completed Sept. 25, National Public Lands Day.

As part of a grant from REI, the recreational outdoor equipment co-op, work also included rehabilitating about a half-mile trail on Mr. Harris’ property.

“This grant helped us formally thank Mr. Harris for his generosity in allowing a trail through his property for these many years,” said Michelle Wheatley, spokesperson for the monument.

To find Echo Canyon, take Grand Avenue over the Colorado River as it turns into Broadway. Turn left at Monument Road and stay on that into Colorado National Monument.

You’ll pass the BLM Tabeguache Lunch Loops trail head on your way. There, you’ll spy the new bike park recently built by COPMOBA, the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Association (also with assistance from an REI grant. See the Oct. 16 Daily Sentinel for a great article by Paul Shockley on the bike park).

Anyway, keep going past the Lunch Loop Bike Park and, with a $20 annual pass, (or National Parks Golden Eagle Pass), you may proceed through the monument entrance.

If not, cough up $7 for private, non-commercial vehicles, $4 for individual hikers, bicyclists or motorcyclists. Passes are good for seven consecutive days. Fees apply to those 16 years old and older.

About two-tenths of a mile past the entrance, there’s a parking lot on the left-hand (south) side of the road.  The Echo Canyon trail head is located at the south end of this parking lot. Signs also point to Old Gordon Trail, No Thoroughfare Canyon and Devil’s Kitchen.

The trail crosses the wash in the bottom of No Thoroughfare Canyon. Once in the wash, follow the new signs to both Old Gordon Trail and Echo Canyon trail.

The Echo Canyon Trail offers a short, gentle hike that follows the canyon bottom to its boxed end. This scenery is similar to No Thoroughfare Canyon — same rock, same rock formation. Even the waterfall at the boxed end of Echo Canyon, about a mile and a half from the parking lot, looks quite similar to the first waterfall in No Thoroughfare Canyon.

But Echo Canyon is quite unique. As Wheatley said, “This is a very special canyon.”

No kidding,” noted Mr. Cunningham as we crossed paths the other day. “I’d love to see the spill off those rocks after a fresh rain in the box canyon,” he said, as he and Mr. Schaefer continued on their way, shouting, “HELLO,” every now and then to see if they could really hear their own echoes.


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