The Subway – Zion National Park

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Finding the Subway Trail

Most of the National Parks I’ve visited follow a similar layout. You enter through the main gate and are then in the park. Most trails and “attractions” are within those park boundaries. But Zion is different. One of the truly great places to visit, namely, the Subway, is outside of the park… at least initially.

We drove out of the park and down Kolob Reservoir Rd. to reach the trailhead for the bottom up trail. There is a second way to access the Subway, but that requires climbing gear and is semi-technical. We started our hike from the Left Fork of North Creek Trailhead.

It’s a Scramble

From there, we scrambled down a game trail to the bottom of the canyon. As far as I could tell, we passed back into the National Park and were in wilderness area. It’s also worth noting that we needed to obtain a permit for our entire group in order to attempt the hike.

There are some pretty sketchy parts. It’s generous to call this a trail. It is not maintained by the park system.

River Hopping the Whole Way In

Getting to the bottom of the canyon is only the beginning. Every year the “trail” is washed out by the river and flash floods. So there isn’t so much a trial as worn areas from other hikers. As far as I could tell, there was no established path. There aren’t any NPS built bridges at crossings, and there definitly weren’t any signs leading the way.

The trail to the Subway in Zion National Park

We followed the river up the canyon. The path in is roughly 4.5 miles. Although, since there isn’t a definitive trail, our milage was slightly longer than that. A good GPS is nice to have, but really, we just followed the river. We had to cross the river about a dozen times along the way.

A small cascade along the route up to the Subway in Zion National Park.
There are lots of small waterfalls and cascades along the Subway route

The Subway Trail Changes

The subway trail changed several times as we got closer to the subway. the walls of the canyon get narrower and sections start to close in. We had trouble from time to time trying to figure out where the best route was.

The subway trail narrows

Time to Get Our Feet Wet

We continued up the canyon to a section known as the amphitheater. It is a huge section of rock that has been carved into a bowl shape that towers overhead. This section would be the last where our feet would be dry. We brought along neoprene booties, the kind that surfers use. We took off our hiking boots and put not the neoprene. It was time to hike in the river.

The Subway
There is only one route and that is in the water

Only One Route to Take

There was only one route to take once we reached the mouth of the subway, that was in the water. We went in October and we were lucky it was relatively warm. The water was low so we were really only up to our ankles in the deepest sections.

We were fortunate to have the Subway all to ourselves for about a half an hour. We got the rare chance to take some photos with no one around.

The subway with some fall color

Time to Do it All Over

It was then time to turn around and do the whole trek back over again on the way back out.

When we finally scrambled our way back to the top of the hill, we had done close to 11 miles total.


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