Fiddle Me This is an unusual canyon for Zion. The first descent and most subsequent descents have all been done using ghosting techniques, even in wet almost mucky conditions. The canyon is north-facing and beautiful, though most of the beauty is of a woodland variety, being more vegetated than other Zion canyons. It features a short approach and easy exit. It is in the heart of Zion in plain sight but only ‘discovered’ in 2013. A new classic!
That this canyon will maintain its pristine, minimum-impact nature is my hope. The anchors used for descents are lots of FiddleSticks, one or two SandTraps, two to four rock bollards, some assisted downclimbs and careful attention to NOT getting the rope stuck. Parties NOT up to this challenge could leave natural-colored slings using the abundant boulders for anchors rather than pulling out the drill and making holes. Please.
The canyon descends from Stave Springs on the East Rim Trail and finishes in Echo Canyon not far above the normal start of Middle Echo. Those with the cold-water protection, time, energy and the additional permit can continue through Middle Echo Canyon. Most parties will choose to escape to the Echo Canyon Trail and climb back up to the Stave Spring Trailhead, an hour plus to the top. In hot weather, hiking down to the main canyon might work better. The Stave Spring trailhead is accessed through the Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort.
GPS Point: WGS84 12N 331603mE 4126258 Stave Spring Trailhead
4A/B III ★★★☆☆
YES. Ask for “Stave Spring Canyon”. Group size limit is six. A separate permit is required to continue through Middle Echo Canyon.
Zion Wilderness Desk: 435-772-0170
Zion EMERGENCY: 435-772-3322
Summer or fall
200 feet (61m) pretty much exactly
Canyon starts near the Stave Springs / East Rim Trail access point on the Zion Ponderosa Ranch. An official ZNP trail returns to the trailhead.
Helmet, rappelling gear, FiddleSticks, SandTrap; webbing and rapid links as backup.
COLD WATER PROTECTION
There is potential for a few short swims. The north-facing nature of the canyon means it tends to be somewhat cold and holds water after rain. Continuing down Echo requires a wetsuit at all times.
None available. Bring Plenty.
FLASH FLOOD RISK
Low. The collection zone above the canyon is small. Escapes are available fairly often.
Most anchors are ghosted using FiddleSticks. Some degree of anchor ingenuity is important for a successful descent of this canyon.
Summer: north-facing and high in altitude = perfect!
Fall: as the weather gets cold or wet, cold water protection will be required.
Winter: the canyon is unlikely to be passable with snow in it, and snow will persist as long here as anywhere. Not recommended.
Spring: snow and ice will be slow to melt out of this canyon. Unlikely to be a good time.
Access to the trailhead is via the Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort and the “Stave Spring” trailhead. The dirt roads can be difficult or impassable after rain.
Driving Directions: From Springdale, drive north and east on Route 9, through the Pine Creek Tunnel, past Checkerboard Mesa and out the East Entrance of the park. Two miles further, turn left onto the North Fork Road. Drive five miles and turn left into the Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort. If the North Fork Road turns to dirt, you have gone too far. Turn around and return about ½ mile to the Zion Ponderosa. Reset your odometer upon entering the Ponderosa.
Entering the Ponderosa, do not go left and down to the main buildings, but follow the road around to the right past a ‘cabin’ (pretty nice cabin) and over the crest of a hill, where the road turns to dirt. Follow this road about 0.7 miles to an intersection with a sign indicating Observation Point straight ahead and Cable Mountain to the left. Turn left toward Cable Mountain. Follow the main dirt road (right at a Y) 0.6 miles to another Y intersection. Here go left and then right, past another Cable Mountain sign. Follow this road 0.6 miles to where it ends at a parking lot just inside the park boundary. The last 0.1 miles of road is rough, and there are a couple parking spots off to the side for less-capable vehicles.
Walking Directions: from the trailhead, walk out the old fire road and follow as it curves around to the left. At 0.5 miles, it intersects with the Echo Canyon Trail. Turn right onto the new trail. Follow as it winds its way across the meadowy flats next to a shallow drainage. About 0.5 miles along, the trail crosses the drainage and starts to veer away from and above the wash. Leave the trail and follow the wash.
The first short cliffband in the wash is passed on the right, down an easy gully a few yards downcanyon. The second drop is passed on the left by cutting across a steep vegetated hillside until one can descend easily back into the wash. Continue another few minutes to the head of a large, steep drop.
The first rappel is a full 200 feet. Fiddle off a tree, choosing a knot location that will avoid getting the FiddleStick stuck. Rap 80 feet to a pothole ledge and an easily-avoided pool and then over the next edge and down to a usually-muddy flat. Make sure the rope reaches before going over the second edge. Since you are FiddleSticking and have a large ledge to pass a knot on, it is possible to complete the canyon with 2 x 120 real ropes and a 200 foot pull cord, if you want.
From the bottom of Rappel 1, walk 30 feet to the next drop. Several short rappels follow one after the other, anchorable by FiddleSticks off trees or re-positioned rocks and with the occasional bollard anchor.
Soon enough, the canyon opens up and there is easy walking for 20 minutes. The canyon then hits a wall and turns left with a short drop that can be downclimbed or Fiddled. For a team engaged in assisted downclimbs and aggressive spotting, the second section has more downclimbs and fewer actual rappels. Several more little drops lead to a double-pool rappel that can be anchored off a SandTrap. (A sling around a chockstone might be here as well.) In wet conditions, the second pool will be a swim.
After a twenty-minute open section, the third section begins as the watercourse enters the final slot section. This section showed signs of passage when we descended it in Fall 2013. A rap off a small tree starts the section. A short rappel and some downclimbing leads into a pit. Straight ahead, a steep hill in a narrow slot leads to a tall drop with a scarcity of anchor possibilities. From the pit, a partner-boost allows a left-exit of the pit to a route around that tall drop, using downclimbs, meat anchors and aggressive spotting to safely pass a few short drops.
One final rappel off a chockstone or SandTrap completes the Fiddle Me This part of the canyon, as the main fork of Echo is reached. Walk downcanyon 50 feet, and a blocky slot/ramp/gully on the far (right) side of the canyon allows an easy climb up to the Echo Canyon Trail. Or, continue down Echo Canyon – a few short rappels and downclimbs lead to the normal entrance of Middle Echo. In wet conditions, there might be a swim or two in there.
Turn right on the Echo Canyon Trail and follow it up the very nice, open slickrock bowl of Echo Canyon. After about ½ mile, the trail drops down right, crosses the main fork of Echo Canyon and starts up a moderately-steep ridge. Follow the ridge up 800 feet to the start of the canyon then back to the trailhead.
In hot weather and with a car available down below, it might be better to descend the trail to Weeping Rock.
The first two sections were first descended in Aug 28, 2013 by Emma Raisl, Casey Wall and Tom Jones. Jonathan Zambella and friends descended it a week or two later and continued through the third section, finding slings from a prior descent.
I’ve done the canyon four or five times since then. I find it a pleasant adventure even in high summer. The double-pool “SandTrap place” is not always amenable to using a SandTrap or FiddleStick, and several people have used slings around rock pinches there. The canyon has a tendency to be muddy, or perhaps I just happen to do the canyon after rain.