The Subway


Useful Information

photography
Zion National Park, Utah. Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress. Public Domain.
Location: Zion National Park. Zion Visitor center, west on UT-9 for 19km to Virgin. Turn right on Kolob Terrace Road Kolob Terrace Road at the Left Fork Trailhead (bottom up) or Wildcat Canyon Trailhead (Top down). (37.309444, -113.050556)
Open: All year daily dawn to dusk.
Permit required.
[2019]
Fee: Adults USD 15.
Advance Lottery: USD 5.
[2019]
Classification: GorgeGorge
Light: n/a
Dimension: L=14.6km, VR=398m.
Guided tours: D=10h.
Canyon Rating System: 2B III.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:
Address: Zion National Park, 1 Zion Park Blvd., State Route 9, Springdale, UT 84767, Tel: +1-435-772-3256. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History


Description

photography
Angels Landing in Zion National Park. Public Domain.
photography
Angels Landing in Zion National Park. Public Domain.

The Subway is a gorge which has a quite unique profile, almost circular like the original London tube. But this is only one point at the 15km long hike, the others are Keyhole Falls, The Crack, and Dinosaur Tracks. This is actually not a trail, it is a canyoning trip through the left fork of North Creek, it is a rather long day hike and labeled difficult. You have to cross the river various times and sometimes even swim through a pond. The wet rocks are slippery and dangerous. And the gorge is prone to flash floods so check the weather and ask park rangers immediately before you start. This is definitely only for experienced hikers.

Nevertheless this hike is quite popular, so much that a permit system has to be used to limit the number of hikers to protect the gorge. And as there are still too many visitors and to avoid years of booked out permits, the Zion NP has create a lottery for permits. You can buy a lottery ticket for USD 5 per month, and if you win you have to pay additionally for the permit.

Starting at the trailhead its a three hour walk. Fisrt along the plateau, the down into the gorge and finally along and in the creek to the area with all the sights. Halfway to the subway are the Dinosaur Tracks or dino prints. The sandstone was crossed by dinosaurs while it was deposited and still soft. The next layer of sand filled the tracks and protected them. Now they are part of the rock, and can be seen at the the right place. As this is not developed at all, there is no sign, so we recommend to take the GPS coordinates with you.

After a nice series of small steps in the layered sandstone, which creates a strange waterfall-staircase, you reach The Crack. This is a sandstone layer with a straight crack in the middle. Most of the water flows through the crack with white foam offering quite a contrast to the yellow sandstone. Excess water flows calmly over the plate, keeping the rock wet.

After a few minutes walk you finally reach the Subway. Photographers should be there in the morning, because that's the only time when just a little sunlight enters the gorge. The sunlight gives the gorge a fantastic glow. But it requires to start the walk at sunset or even a little earlier, which is also recommended because of the lower temperature. If the water is low the pools have a green glow, if it is too high the water becomes brown from sand and clay. The tunnel is almost round, but not straight. The floor is almost straight, but has some pools with water. Like any gorge it meanders and above the tunnel is a regular gorge or slot canyon.

From here the trail becomes quite difficult, it requires climbing gear both upwards and downwards. Keyhole Falls is the endpoint for all except mountaineers with gear. Nevertheless some do the trail as a one way trip top to bottom. Beneath this waterfall there are numerous others, cold pools to swim, and kilometers of wading in water. This is definitely a canyoning tour of some difficulty. And you need to organize a car at the other trailhead. Optimal is a small group and two cars.

The subway and the adjacent gorge have a serious flash flood danger. When you pick up your permit at the Visitor Center check the weather report and ask the ranger for dangers.