The Subway – Zion – UT (6.5.16)

Views as we set out on the trialhead

We usually save the best for last don’t we? A group of buddies (Mike, Stevo, and Adrien) and I decided to trek to Zion National Park in southwestern Utah in search for adventure.  On our last day we had permits to The Subway, a rock formation on the Left Fork of North Creek residing on the west side of the park, far from the main valley of Zion. There are two ways to visit The Subway, one as a technical canyoneering route from the top down, or a non-technical hike from the bottom up. Due to time restraints for the day we decided to hike from the bottom up, and we weren’t disappointed!

Just before the drop off into the creek

We woke early and packed our camp up, piled into our vehicles, and headed west down Highway 9 towards Virgin, where we would turn north down the open road to the trailhead. Utah is such a beautiful place.  An open landscape with orange and red rock plateaus to the right, small plateau mounds to the left, and rolling hills ahead lead us to our turnoff. Bluebird, virtually cloudless skies welcomed us on the winding road through farm fields to the dirt pull off for the trailhead.

Pushing up the canyon, the sun peaks over the red rocks

Once we pulled in there were a couple of park rangers that told us there was a guy down below that hurt his leg and couldn’t hike out so they were going to arrange a helo to come up and grab him. Little things like this always make me nervous before a hike, like bad juju or something. It didn’t help the fact that Stevo had been complaining about his knee having troubles as the weekend progressed and he put more miles on it. Brushing it off we pushed down the trail with excitement to see The Subway at the end of our 3.5 mile hike. The trail took a dive-bomb off the rim down into the canyon! Loose gravel dominated the trail as it twisted and turned dropping 600 feet to the creek below.

Green, blue, and red, colors were gorgeous

In the bottom the light was perfect. We hiked northeast up the canyon and it was early enough that the sun just lit up the canopies above in golden light. We crossed back and forth over the creek, boulder hopping, traversing sandy creek banks, and large rock faces obstacles. Turn after turn there was something interesting to see. Soon the canyon began to change. The tall walls from afar started to close in and you could see the impact of water high up from long ago where it carved the rock face smooth. Miniature waterfalls and small swimming pools dotted the landscape, and the lush green canopy continued to slowly close in to shade us from the sun above. The creek began to flow over large stepped slickrock steps, creating mini falls, and we were forced to walk down the creek in the thin layer of water over the slickrock.

Slickrock began to take over the bottom of the creek as it began to widen and the depth of the creek thinned

The canyon curled right and we finally entered the first area where it was no longer a typical creek bed canyon and the rock formations became more predominant. The water cut away, shaped, and formed everything around us. The small cascading falls became larger and taller causing us to climb around on the tree covered sides to bypass. Long smoothed-over cracks were found in areas of the slickrock, as well as small circular holes called potholes where the water pooled and flowed through. I can only speculate that upon formation, these areas had less dense rock which was eaten away by erosion causing the beautiful formations we were surrounded by.

Looking down the last turn towards The Subway

We finally reached the last turn before The Subway and we all gathered together before pushing on so we could all see it at once. What a view! It looked as though the water tunneled straight through solid rock to form a Subway tube through the bottom of the canyon. It was strange how cylindrical the formation was, nothing else around was like it except in this one tight spot in the canyon the perfect conditions came together to create this remarkable place. We pushed to the back of the Subway where a few consecutive deep pools awaited. One after another we hopped in and waded in the cold 50 degree water that came chest deep, just to make it to the Key Hole waterfall in the back. Mike jumped in, taking a brisk shower in the falls.  Wheeeww boy was it cold!

The Subway
Past The Subway just before the KeyHole waterfall

Soon after we all returned to the Subway, all smiles. It’s amazing how some places can totally regenerate you. All the exhaustion of the day is just lifted form your shoulders and you are ready to get back to it. This is one of those places. Although I am not the largest fan of the permit system, I can respect it for protecting this very special place from being overrun and overused. At any rate, it was a beautiful day and we got to see something special. We returned the way we came without incident, piled in our cars, and headed home. This adventure for this weekend was over, until the next one!

  • Heading down the trail from the top
large 6 foot fall towards the end of the hike
large 6 foot fall towards the end of the hike (click to enlarge)
another tall 6 -10 foot fall
another tall 6 -10 foot fall (click to enlarge)
Crack formation just before The Subway



  • Weather: Hi 80s, Low 60s, Sunny
  • Water: 2.0 liters
  • Food: Salt and Venigar chips, 1 Cliff Builders Bar, 1 bag of Cheese-its, 1 plum, 1 powerbar
  • Time: 4 hours
  • Distance: 7 miles Round Trip
  • Accumulated Gain: 1,200 feet


  • Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)
  • Black Diamond trekking poles


  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Cotton T shirt
  • Nike Running Shorts
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox