Analysing terrain data
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The exposure grade describes the potential consequences of falling or slipping off the path.
Low Exposure: The path is on completely flat land and potential injury is limited to falling over.
Medium Exposure: The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.
High Exposure: Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.
Extreme Exposure: Some trail sections are extremely exposed where falling will almost certainly result in serious injury or death.
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