Monsoon season

Flash flood creates cool waterfalls at No Thoroughfare, Echo Canyon

Reflections on the pool at the base of Echo Canyon, where hundred-year-old Freemont Cottonwood trees provide an oasis in the desert.

A hiker is dwarfed by the imensity of the spill from the box-ended Echo Canyon on the southern-most flank of Colorado National Monument.

“Leaves of three, let them be.”  Poison sumac and poison oak are known to exist in the area. Look for where they cling to rocks and other vegetation around the moist edge of the pool at the base of Echo Canyon Falls.


Echo Canyon

Drive time and distance: 10 minutes; five miles.

Length: 3.2 miles round trip.

Hiking time: One hour to 90 minutes.

Difficulty: Easy.

Flash flood warnings had our Redlands neighbors on full alert last week.

Some of us raced outside to see if our neighborhood would wash away.

Some of us raced up, after the record-setting rains, to see the pour-offs in No Thoroughfare and Echo Canyons in Colorado National Monument.

Some of us, of course, were two days late and missed the water pouring down from these cool, 100-foot waterfalls. Nonetheless, we were safe and still found plenty of water in the creek beds and pools at the bottom of the falls in both No Thoroughfare and Echo Canyons.

To find these canyons, take Grand Avenue over the Colorado River as it turns into Broadway. Turn left at Monument Road and stay on it into Colorado National Monument. Keep going past the Bureau of Land Management’s Tabeguache Lunch Loop Trail head, 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, noncommercial vehicles, $4 for individual hikers, bicyclists or motorcyclists. Passes are good for seven consecutive days. Fees apply to those 16 years old and above.

About two-tenths of a mile past the entrance, there’s a parking lot on the left hand (south) side of the road. This is a parking area for Serpent’s Trail, Old Gordon Trail, No Thoroughfare Canyon and Devil’s Kitchen. Serpent’s Trail is across the road from the parking area. The trail head for the others is at the south end of the parking lot.

The Echo Canyon Trail in particular offers a short, mostly gentle hike that follows the canyon bottom to its boxed end. There’s one stretch that climbs about 300 feet in elevation on very solid rock, but other than that, it’s pretty easy.

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 unique. It ends in this boxed canyon. No Thoroughfare Canyon continues to the top of Colorado National Monument.

Also, until about four years ago, few people hiked here because private property blocked legal access to the entrance of Echo Canyon. Thanks to the generosity of that private landowner, however, and with help from the National Park Service, numerous volunteers and the local REI store, legal access was obtained, private property was fenced, and a new trail was constructed to accommodate the public.

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

Echo Canyon is one of the few places in Colorado where you can search for 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.

Canyon tree frogs are little suckers. They could hide in the palm of your hand. Yet, a canyon 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.

Check them out early in the morning or in the cool of the evening. It’s still too hot during the daytime.

HELP needed to build trail

The Colorado Plateau Mountain Biking Association (COPMOBA) and U.S. Forest Service are looking for volunteers to help with the final mile of construction of the Mesa Top Trail on Grand Mesa next weekend, Aug. 9-10.

This trail is designed as a “quiet use trail,” connecting Colorado Highway 65 with the recently built Flowing Park Trail. Seven-and-a-half miles of trail were constructed the past two years.

No experience is necessary. All tools and crew leaders will be provided by COPMOBA.

For more information, go to, or call 970-270-8575. Please RSVP via COPMOBA’s Facebook page, so organizers know how many tools and how much food to bring. 


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