During our stay in Hurricane, Utah some friends invited us to hike The Subway in Zion National Park. We only knew two things about The Subway: 1) it’s one of Zion’s most popular hikes 2) a permit is required and can be very hard to get. Our friends said if we wanted to go, this was the time to do it as permits are far easier to come by in November than the Spring, Summer and Fall. We didn’t hesitate, we were in.
The week leading up to our hike I did as much research as I could. I remembered hearing from acquaintances last year that they had rented special gear to do this hike and I wanted to be sure we were properly outfitted. Of the many websites I visited, I acquired little knowledge of this famous hike. Guides said it ranged anywhere from 7 miles to 10 miles. Some people rented water shoes, others did not. It could take half a day or all day. We really didn’t know what to expect.
We ended up stopping by Zion Adventure Company in Springdale for the inside scoop. There’s really no better way to get the info you want than from locals in the know. The gist of The Subway was that we’d be hiking down in to the Left Fork of North Creek where we would follow the creek approximately 3-4 miles to our end destination of “The Subway” then returning the way we came. Water shoes and/or neoprene socks were recommended as we’d be likely to cross in and out of the water multiple times.
Seth, Drea and myself opted for the water shoe and neoprene sock rentals. Seth ended up wearing his Chaco sandals for about half the hike while Mark decided to stick with his trusty waterproof Keen hiking boots.
The route we took is commonly referred to as “From the bottom up”. We got started on the trail at 8:30am and made the round-trip hike of 7.5 miles in 8 hours. That included about a 30 minute stop at The Subway. Yes…I said 7.5 miles in 8 hours. I would say it’s more accurate to describe this hike as a scramble over boulders, large and small, including water crossings and straight up trekking through a stream than a trail. In other words, one of the coolest hikes we’ve ever been on.
Mark and Seth chose to hike along the outer edges of the stream, keeping their feet dry for much of the hike, while Drea & I chose to get our money’s worth out of our water shoe rental and walk thru the water as much as possible. The water was surprisingly pleasant for November and there was something about walking thru the stream that made this hike so much fun.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have any extra time to dilly dally on this hike. With only 9.5 hours of daylight in the day, this 8 hour hike ate up most of it. I could have spent hours and hours properly photographing this hike but instead I just soaked up as much of the beauty as I could and took a few snapshots along the way. No matter how much or little time you spend photographing this hike, photos will never do it justice. It’s something you must see for yourself. This is a bucket-list worthy hike that I recommend to anyone heading to Zion.
The steep descent that leads to the valley floor:
This was when the scenery began blowing us away. It was hard not to have a camera out at all times:
When you have shoes on that are meant to be worn in water, it’s hard not to play in the water:
There isn’t one defined trail. This hike is more about forging your own path of least resistance and for us girls it was thru the creek:
My Kuhl pants could not have been a better choice for this hike. They’re so lightweight that they hardly even felt wet:
Here we are reaching our destination, The Subway:
Inside “The Subway”:
The point at which the water became too deep to continue. AKA our turnaround point:
A huge thanks to Seth & Drea for the invite! We had such a blast and never would have done this hike otherwise. We simply had no idea just how incredible it was.
Tips for hiking The Subway in Zion National Park:
- Don’t do this hike solo. With all the scrambling and slippery surfaces, it would be really easy to get injured on this hike. There is no cell service in the canyon.
- Take hiking poles. This really helped us with stability up and over all the boulders.
- Do rent the water shoes and neoprene socks but consider bringing other shoes too. The last .5 mile of the hike is straight up out of the canyon. After walking for 7 hours in the water shoes and socks, my feet desperately wanted to breath during the hot trek up hill. Had it been any warmer than 60 degrees my feet would have been terribly hot and uncomfortable.
- Know how much daylight you have to work with and be sure you’re on track to return to your vehicle before dark. Hiking this trail in November meant no crowds (we only saw three other people) which was awesome, but the trade off was how little daylight there was. We could have easily used a few extra hours to soak up the scenery but there wasn’t enough daylight to do so. Hiking out of that canyon after dark would be incredibly challenging as the trail is not very well-defined.
- One turn is made on this hike and it can be very easy to miss if you’re not paying attention. When you hike down the face of the canyon and reach the creek bed you turn left and begin hiking up the creek. Before beginning up the creek, make a mental note of where you made the turn. We ended up crossing paths with a solo hiker who was concerned we all missed the turn. We knew we had not but he felt certain we had. Due to a language barrier we weren’t able to communicate to him why we knew we were on the right track. Luckily he just followed us, otherwise I’m not sure he would have made it out safely.
- Be aware of the possibility of flash-floods. You would not want to be caught in this canyon during a flash flood.
- This is a strenuous hike with the last hour being the hardest section. Make sure you have plenty of food, water and stamina to tackle this adventure.