Hiking the Subway Bottom-Up Trail Description
Zion National Park, Utah
Hiking the Subway Bottom-Up Trail Description – The Left Fork of North Creek in Zion National Park, also known as the Subway, is one of the park’s more popular and iconic hikes, taking you along (and through) the river to a tube-like, undercut slot canyon resembling an urban subway tunnel. It had become so popular, the crowding had put a strain on the land so a permit system was implemented, including an advance lottery, with only 80 permits given out per day. There are two routes used to complete the hike – one from the top-down, requiring rappelling (up to 30′), short down-climbs, and swimming through pools, and the second from the bottom-up, which is non-technical and no (mandatory) swimming. This is the Subway bottom-up trail description with no technical climbing.
Trailhead, the Subway Bottom Up: Left Fork Trailhead (Roughly 8.2 miles up the Kolob Terrace Road from the town of Virgin)
Distance: 9 miles roundtrip, out-and-back. (I’ve also read 6-7 miles. It felt like more than 9…)
Rating: “Moderate” non-technical (See my description below. The National Parks Service has this listed as “strenuous”)
Elevation Change: 400-ft descent from trailhead to bottom of canyon, then gradual 600-ft elevation gain up the canyon
Permits: Required (except November to March, due to low demand)
My Description / Rant of the Trail: Before I hiked this, I did a bunch of research and there seemed to be a lot of dire descriptions out there, which really prepared us for the worst. I kept reading over and over again how “strenuous” this hike is and how difficult finding the route can be. Maybe it was tougher a few years ago and things have changed, but the route was fairly easy to follow. A flash flood would alter the landscape and trail in a heart-beat, but when we hiked it (May 8, 2014), the trail was packed down, maintained, and there were cairns leading the way. There were a couple of “this doesn’t seem right” moments, but it was easy to recognize and backtrack a few feet. That happens with a lot of hikes. Plus, you’re hiking up a canyon – if you can’t keep one big-ass cliff to your left and the other big-ass cliff to your right, you probably shouldn’t be out in the backcountry anyway. In the end, it was a long day, but it was not a ‘difficult’ hike by any means. Sure, if hiked once or twice a year, I’d probably consider this tougher, but if you spend any time hiking at all, this should be a walk in the park for you. Literally.