11 routes · Hiking
The Subway (Bottom-Up)
Zion National Park
Hike and scramble into a hidden section of slot canyon made famous by photographers.
- 11 km
- 493 m
- 493 m
- 3-4 hrs
- Low Point
- 1.4 km
- High Point
- 1.7 km
The Subway is a photo-famous section of slot canyon resembling an underground railway tube. It makes a natural light show of soft sunlight bouncing off rock and reflecting on water in picture-perfect geometry. This natural artwork is so often photographed that you might think it a staple destination for Zion National Park visitors, but it’s actually buried deep in a wild corner of the park. It is accessible only by onerous hiking through a desert wash, and only allowed with a special permit.
There are two routes to reach the Subway, both of which require permits. The “Top-Down” approach requires rappels and swims, among other challenges, but the “Bottom-Up” is a non-technical and more direct route. It is not without its own difficulties, but they are well worth it for the incredible scenery in this remote region of Zion National Park. The Subway section itself is fairly short. The adventure is in the journey to get there.
The bottom-up route begins at the Left Fork trailhead along Kolob Terrace Road. A well-marked trail leads to a canyon rim then descends sharply to the bottom, into Left Fork of North Creek. The streambed then becomes the trail, which you follow all the way to The Subway. This requires boulder scrambling on uneven terrain, and stream crossing when water levels are higher.
Much of this canyon route is exposed to sun, and during warmer months can become incredibly hot. Plan accordingly: bring plenty of water and food, and closely monitor weather conditions and forecasts in the days and hours leading up to your adventure. Remember, the last place you want to be in canyon country during a rainstorm is at the bottom of a confined slot canyon.
To justly limit the numbers in this pristine part of the park, the National Park Service issues permits through a lottery system. You should plan in advance how to apply for and claim your permit. Find details about permits at the Zion National Park website.
Sources: https://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/thesubway.htm https://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/subwaypermits.htm
Hiking challenging trails where simple scrambling, with the occasional use of the hands, is a distinct possibility. The trails are often filled with all manner of obstacles both small and large, and the hills are very steep. Obstacles and challenges are often unexpected and can be unpredictable.
Best time to visit
- Water features
- Forestry or heavy vegetation