Home Travel Tips Guides The Subway At Zion National Park: Hiking Guide

The Subway At Zion National Park: Hiking Guide

The Subway At Zion National Park: Hiking Guide


Welcome to Zion National Park, home to breathtaking landscapes and awe-inspiring natural wonders. Among its many iconic attractions, the Subway stands out as a must-visit destination for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. This unique and challenging hike takes you through the heart of the park, immersing you in a stunning slot canyon with striking and sculpted rock formations.

The Subway hike offers a thrilling adventure that combines hiking, scrambling, and even some canyoneering. It is a true test of skill, endurance, and determination, rewarding those who persevere with unparalleled views and a sense of accomplishment.

As you embark on this remarkable journey, you’ll navigate through narrow passageways, scramble over boulders, wade through crystal clear pools, and marvel at walls that resemble ribbons of stone twisting and curving around you. The Subway is a testament to the power and beauty of nature’s forces over thousands of years.

Though this hike is known for its challenging terrain, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is well worth the effort. In this guide, we’ll provide you with all the essential information you need to plan and conquer the Subway at Zion National Park.

From logistics and permits to gear and safety, we’ll cover everything you need to know to embark on this incredible adventure. Get ready to witness the raw beauty of the Subway and create lasting memories in one of the most picturesque locations in the United States.


How to Get to Zion National Park

Getting to Zion National Park is relatively straightforward, as it is located in southwestern Utah and is easily accessible by various means of transportation. Here are the main options for reaching the park:

  • By Air: If you are coming from a distant location, flying into a nearby airport is a convenient option. The closest major airports to Zion National Park are Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS) in Nevada, and Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) in Utah. From these airports, you can rent a car and drive to the park, or take a shuttle service.
  • By Car: Driving to Zion National Park allows for flexibility and the opportunity to explore the surrounding areas. The park is located near the junction of Interstate 15 and State Route 9, making it easily accessible from major cities in the region. From Las Vegas, it is approximately a 2.5-hour drive, while from Salt Lake City, it takes about 4.5 hours.
  • By Shuttle: Zion National Park offers a convenient shuttle system, known as the Zion Canyon Shuttle, which operates within the park between the visitor center and various trailheads. If you prefer not to drive, you can park your car in the nearby town of Springdale and take the shuttle into the park. This eco-friendly option can help alleviate traffic congestion during peak seasons.

Once you have arrived at Zion National Park, you will need to consider how to get around within the park. The Zion Canyon Shuttle mentioned above is an excellent way to access popular trailheads and scenic points without the hassle of parking. Additionally, there are designated parking areas available for those who prefer to drive their own vehicles.

It is essential to plan your transportation in advance to ensure a smooth trip to Zion National Park. Depending on your preferences and convenience, choose the option that suits you best to reach this natural paradise and start your Subway adventure.


Overview of the Subway Hike

The Subway hike at Zion National Park is a challenging and exhilarating adventure that takes hikers through a stunning slot canyon. The name “Subway” comes from the smooth, curved walls that resemble a subway tunnel, sculpted by water over millions of years.

The hike can be completed as a through-hike, starting at the top and ending at the bottom, or as an out-and-back hike, starting and ending at the same point. The through-hike is more challenging and requires advanced canyoneering skills, while the out-and-back option is suitable for hikers with moderate experience.

The total length of the Subway hike is approximately 9.5 miles (15.3 kilometers) for the through-hike and 6 miles (9.7 kilometers) for the out-and-back hike. It typically takes a full day to complete, depending on your pace and the time spent exploring the stunning surroundings.

Throughout the hike, you’ll encounter a variety of obstacles, including scrambling over rocks, navigating through narrow passageways, and swimming through pools of water. The hike also requires some route finding skills, as it is not as well-marked as other trails in the park. Having a detailed map or GPS device is highly recommended.

One of the highlights of the Subway hike is reaching the iconic Subway section, where the walls curve and twist dramatically around you. It’s a photographer’s paradise, with opportunities to capture stunning shots of the unique rock formations and the crystal-clear water running through the canyon.

It’s important to note that the Subway hike is considered a technical hike and should only be attempted by hikers with the appropriate skills and equipment. Some sections require rappelling and canyoneering gear, such as harnesses, ropes, and helmets. If you’re not experienced in canyoneering, it’s recommended to hire a professional guide or join a guided tour to ensure your safety.

Overall, the Subway hike offers a remarkable and unforgettable experience to those who are willing to take on the challenge. The combination of breathtaking natural beauty and the thrill of conquering the obstacles makes it a bucket-list hike for adventurers and nature enthusiasts from around the world.


Essential Gear and Preparation

Proper gear and preparation are crucial for a safe and enjoyable Subway hike at Zion National Park. Here’s a list of essential items and tips to help you make the most of your adventure:

  • Hiking Boots: Invest in a good pair of sturdy hiking boots that provide ankle support and traction. The terrain can be challenging, so it’s important to have footwear that will keep you comfortable and stable.
  • Clothing: Dress in layers and wear moisture-wicking, quick-drying clothing. Start with a lightweight base layer, add a mid-layer for insulation, and have a waterproof or windproof outer layer for protection. Don’t forget a hat and sunglasses to shield yourself from the sun.
  • Backpack: Choose a comfortable backpack with sufficient capacity to carry all your gear, snacks, water, and extra layers. Look for a backpack with adjustable straps and padding for a custom fit.
  • Water and Snacks: Hydration is key, so be sure to bring enough water to last the entire hike. The general recommendation is to carry at least 1 liter of water per hour of hiking. Pack energy-boosting snacks like granola bars, trail mix, and fruit to keep your energy levels up.
  • Navigation Tools: Carry a detailed map or a GPS device to help you navigate the trail. The Subway hike can be challenging to follow, so having reliable navigation tools is essential.
  • First Aid Kit: It’s always a good idea to have a basic first aid kit on hand. Include items like bandages, antiseptic wipes, blister pads, pain relievers, and any necessary personal medications.
  • Sunscreen and Insect Repellent: Protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays with a high SPF sunscreen. Additionally, apply insect repellent to ward off pesky bugs that may be present along the trail.
  • Camera: Capture the beauty of the Subway hike by bringing a camera or smartphone to document your adventure. Make sure to pack extra batteries or a portable charger to keep your devices powered throughout the hike.
  • Permits: Obtain the necessary permits for the Subway hike. As this is a popular route, permits are limited and can be obtained through a lottery system. Plan ahead and secure your permit in advance.
  • Physical Fitness and Training: The Subway hike is physically demanding, requiring endurance and strength. Prepare yourself by engaging in regular cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and hiking practice to ensure you are ready for the challenges ahead.

Remember, preparation is key for a successful and safe Subway hike. Take the time to gather the necessary gear, plan your route, and assess your fitness level to ensure an unforgettable adventure at Zion National Park.


Permits and Regulations

Permits and regulations play a crucial role in preserving the natural beauty and ensuring a safe experience for hikers on the Subway hike at Zion National Park. Here’s what you need to know:

Permits: Permits are required for all hikers on the Subway hike, regardless of whether you plan to do the through-hike or the out-and-back option. Due to the limited capacity and high demand, permits are issued through a lottery system. You must apply for a permit in advance and be selected during the lottery to secure your spot. The lottery opens several months in advance, so plan your trip accordingly.

Regulations: It’s important to follow the regulations set by the National Park Service to protect the fragile ecosystem and ensure the safety of hikers:

  • Group Size: Groups are limited to a maximum of 12 people for the Subway hike. If you’re planning to hike with a larger group, you’ll need to split into smaller groups and maintain a distance to minimize your impact on the environment.
  • Leave No Trace: Adhere to the principles of Leave No Trace. Pack out all trash, minimize your impact on vegetation and wildlife, and leave the area as you found it. This helps preserve the beauty of the Subway and ensures its enjoyment for future generations.
  • Wilderness Skills: The Subway hike requires advanced hiking and canyoneering skills. It’s important to have proper equipment, knowledge of navigation, and familiarity with rappelling techniques if attempting the through-hike. Only experienced hikers should undertake this route.
  • Seasonal Restrictions: Certain portions of the Subway hike may be closed during high water flow periods or due to other hazardous conditions. Check the park’s website or visitor center for up-to-date information and trail conditions before planning your hike.
  • Respect Wildlife: As with any outdoor experience, it’s important to respect the wildlife and maintain a safe distance. Do not feed or approach animals, and give them space to go about their natural behaviors without disturbance.
  • Emergency Preparedness: Be prepared for emergencies by carrying a whistle, a signaling mirror, and a first aid kit. Familiarize yourself with emergency procedures and communicate your hiking plans with someone trustworthy.

By obtaining the necessary permits and adhering to the regulations, you can not only ensure compliance with the law but also contribute to the long-term preservation of the Subway and the surrounding environment at Zion National Park.


Weather and Seasonality

Understanding the weather patterns and seasonality of Zion National Park is essential for planning a safe and enjoyable Subway hike. Here’s what you need to know about the weather conditions throughout the year:

Spring (March to May): Spring is an excellent time to visit Zion National Park, as the weather gradually warms up and wildflowers start to bloom. However, be prepared for unpredictable weather, including occasional rain showers. Water levels in the Subway may be higher during this time, so it’s important to check the current conditions and be cautious of flash floods.

Summer (June to August): Summer brings warm temperatures, with highs often exceeding 100°F (38°C) in Zion National Park. It’s crucial to start your hike early in the morning to avoid the midday heat. Carry plenty of water, wear sunscreen, and take frequent breaks to rest and cool down. The Subway can be a good escape from the heat, as the canyon walls provide shade and the water offers a refreshing respite.

Fall (September to November): Fall is another popular time to hike the Subway, as temperatures begin to cool down, making for more comfortable hiking conditions. The vibrant autumn foliage adds an extra touch of beauty to the canyon. Be aware that water levels may start to decrease during this time, affecting the flow and depth of pools in the Subway.

Winter (December to February): Winter in Zion National Park brings colder temperatures, occasional snowfall, and shorter daylight hours. The Subway may be inaccessible or too dangerous to hike due to icy conditions and high water levels. It’s crucial to check for seasonal closures and make sure you have appropriate gear and experience for winter hiking if attempting the Subway during this time.

Regardless of the season, it’s important to regularly check the weather forecast and consult with park authorities for up-to-date information. Flash floods can occur at any time of the year, so be vigilant and avoid entering the Subway if there is a possibility of severe weather.

Remember to pack and dress accordingly for the specific weather conditions you may encounter during your visit to Zion National Park. Stay hydrated, wear appropriate clothing and footwear, and always prioritize your safety when planning your Subway hike.


Trailhead and Parking Information

The Subway hike at Zion National Park has multiple trailheads depending on the route you choose. Here’s an overview of the main trailheads and parking options:

Top-Down (Wilderness Permit Required): For those planning to do the through-hike from the top down, the trailhead is located at the Left Fork Trailhead (Wildcat Canyon Trailhead). This trailhead is accessible from the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead parking area on Kolob Terrace Road. Parking is limited, so it’s recommended to arrive early to secure a spot.

Bottom-Up (No Permit Required): If you’re opting for the out-and-back hike or the Bottom-Up approach, the trailhead is located at the Left Fork North Creek Trailhead, commonly known as the “Bottom-Up” trailhead. This trailhead is accessed from the Zion Wilderness Desk located at the park’s Visitor Center. No permits are required for this approach, but day-use fees apply.

Parking: Parking at Zion National Park can be challenging, particularly during the peak season. It’s strongly recommended to use the park’s shuttle system rather than driving to the trailheads, as parking spaces are limited. The Zion Canyon Shuttle operates regularly between the visitor center and various stops within the park, including the trailheads.

If you plan to drive to the trailheads, arrive early to secure a parking spot, especially during the busy summer months. The earlier you arrive, the better your chances of finding available parking. If the parking lots are full, you may need to park in nearby overflow areas or in the town of Springdale and take the shuttle into the park.

It’s important to note that parking regulations are strictly enforced, and parking in unauthorized areas may result in fines or towing. Always adhere to the designated parking areas and follow the instructions given by park personnel.

Before your trip, check the park’s website or contact the visitor center for the most up-to-date information on parking availability, shuttle schedules, and any temporary closures or restrictions that may affect your plans. Proper planning and flexibility will help ensure a smooth experience when accessing the trailheads for your Subway hike.


The Approach Hike

The approach hike to the Subway at Zion National Park is an essential part of the overall experience. This section of the hike takes you through scenic landscapes and prepares you for the challenges that await in the Subway itself. Here’s what you need to know about the approach hike:

The approach hike begins at either the Left Fork North Creek Trailhead (Bottom-Up) or the Left Fork Trailhead (Top-Down). From the Bottom-Up trailhead, you’ll start by following the North Creek, also known as the “Chamberlain’s Ranch” trail. This section of the hike is approximately 5.5 miles (8.8 kilometers) long and provides stunning views of the surrounding canyon. As you hike, you’ll gradually descend into the canyon, crossing the creek multiple times.

From the Top-Down trailhead, the approach hike covers approximately 4 miles (6.4 kilometers). This section of the hike requires some route finding skills, as the trail is less defined and marked. Be sure to carry a detailed map or a GPS device to navigate this part of the hike effectively.

Both approaches offer unique perspectives of the Zion backcountry and allow you to appreciate the diverse flora and fauna found in the area. Along the way, you may encounter wildlife such as deer, squirrels, and a variety of bird species. Take the time to enjoy the surroundings and capture the beauty with your camera.

It’s important to note that the approach hike involves creek crossings, so be prepared to get your feet wet. Wear appropriate footwear and consider carrying water shoes or sandals to make crossing the creek more comfortable. Some backpackers may choose to wear neoprene socks or waterproof gaiters to keep their feet dry.

The approach hike to reach the Subway is not technically difficult, but it does require physical endurance and proper preparation. It’s essential to carry enough water, food, and necessary gear, as there are no water sources along the trail. Keep in mind that the descent into the canyon can be steep and strenuous, so take breaks as needed and listen to your body’s signals.

Plan for an early start to beat the heat, especially during the summer months. Starting early will not only provide cooler temperatures but also allow you ample time to navigate the Subway and enjoy the surrounding beauty.

As you approach the Subway itself, be prepared for the challenges and excitement that lie ahead. The approach hike serves as a prelude to the main event and builds anticipation for the unique and unforgettable experience that awaits inside the Subway at Zion National Park.


Navigating the Subway

Navigating the Subway at Zion National Park requires careful attention to detail and an understanding of the terrain and route. The Subway itself is a narrow and twisting slot canyon, and it’s important to have the necessary skills and equipment to navigate it safely. Here are some key points to consider:

Route Finding: The Subway is not a marked trail, so it’s crucial to have a detailed map or a GPS device to navigate the route. Familiarize yourself with the key landmarks and waypoints along the way, such as the Crack-in-the-Wall, the Keyhole, and the Subway Tubes, to ensure you stay on course.

Obstacles and Challenges: The Subway presents various obstacles that require careful navigation and maneuvering. You’ll encounter sections with steep drops, water-filled potholes, and slippery rocks. Take your time, assess the conditions, and choose the most appropriate way to traverse each obstacle. Proper gear, such as helmets, harnesses, and canyoneering ropes, may be necessary for certain sections.

Water Pools and Swims: The Subway contains pools of water that may need to be swum through. Depending on the water flow and depth, some pools may be shallow enough to wade through, while others may require swimming. Evaluate your swimming ability and be prepared with a dry bag to protect your gear. Be cautious of submerged obstacles and be aware of changing water conditions.

Anchors and Rappelling: As part of the Top-Down route, you may come across sections requiring rappelling or descending on ropes. These sections often have anchors in place, but it’s essential to evaluate their condition and use your judgment before proceeding. Only attempt rappelling if you have experience or are accompanied by a guide.

Pay Attention to Weather: Weather conditions can significantly impact the Subway hike. Flash floods are a real danger in slot canyons, including the Subway. Check the weather forecast before heading out and be prepared to alter your plans if there is a chance of heavy rain. Monitor the water levels and avoid entering the Subway if there is a risk of flash flooding.

Leave No Trace: As you navigate the Subway, practice Leave No Trace principles. Respect the fragile environment by packing out all trash, avoiding unnecessary damage to vegetation, and minimizing your impact as much as possible. Leave the Subway as pristine as you found it for future hikers to enjoy.

While the Subway presents its challenges, successfully navigating this unique slot canyon is an incredibly rewarding experience. Take your time, stay alert, and immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of the Subway at Zion National Park.


Topography and Landscape

The topography and landscape of the Subway at Zion National Park are nothing short of breathtaking. This unique slot canyon showcases a remarkable display of geological formations, water features, and stunning surroundings. Here’s what you can expect from the topography and landscape as you explore the Subway:

Slot Canyon Formation: The Subway is formed through the erosive power of water over millions of years. The walls of the canyon have been sculpted to create narrow passageways, smooth curves, and intriguing shapes. The name “Subway” comes from the resemblance of the canyon walls to a subway tunnel. It’s a mesmerizing sight that leaves hikers in awe of nature’s forces.

Ribbon-like Walls: As you make your way through the Subway, you’ll be surrounded by walls that resemble ribbons of stone, twisting and curving around you. The layers of sedimentary rock create beautiful patterns and hues, ranging from deep reds to earthy browns and oranges. These vibrant colors, combined with the unique shapes, create a photographic wonderland.

Water Pools and Cascades: Throughout the Subway, you’ll encounter pools of crystal-clear water and small cascades. These pools form in the potholes and depressions of the canyon floor, reflecting the light and adding a magical touch to the landscape. The water depths vary, and some sections may require swimming or wading through shallow pools.

Natural Bridges and Archways: The Subway is adorned with natural bridges and archways, formed by the gradual erosion of the rock over time. These natural features add to the charm and uniqueness of the canyon. Take the time to admire these arches and capture their beauty through your camera lens.

Lush Vegetation: Despite the harsh desert surroundings of Zion National Park, the Subway is home to a surprising diversity of plant life. Mosses, ferns, and hanging gardens thrive in the moist environment created by the waterflow. This lush vegetation provides a striking contrast against the towering rock walls and adds to the visual appeal of the Subway.

Breathtaking Views: The Subway offers incredible viewpoints along the way, where you can pause and take in the vast beauty of the surrounding landscape. Lookout points offer sweeping vistas of the canyon, nearby cliffs, and distant mountain ranges. These viewpoints allow you to fully appreciate the grandeur and scale of the natural wonders that Zion National Park has to offer.

The topography and landscape of the Subway at Zion National Park create a truly remarkable and immersive experience. As you journey through the captivating slot canyon, you’ll be in awe of the incredible geological formations, vibrant colors, and the seamless fusion of water and rock. Prepare to be mesmerized and inspired by the natural beauty that awaits you in the Subway.


Challenges and Hazards

The Subway hike at Zion National Park presents various challenges and potential hazards that hikers need to be aware of and prepared for. Understanding and respecting these challenges is crucial for a safe and successful trek. Here are some of the main challenges and hazards you may encounter:

Technical Terrain: The Subway hike involves navigating through narrow slot canyons, scrambling over rocks, and traversing challenging terrain. The route may require rappelling, downclimbing, or traversing slippery surfaces. It’s important to have the necessary skills and equipment for canyoneering and route finding. Familiarize yourself with the techniques and practice in advance to ensure your ability to navigate safely.

Flash Floods: The risk of flash floods is a significant hazard in slot canyons, including the Subway. Sudden heavy rains far upstream can cause a rapid surge of water through the narrow canyon, resulting in dangerous conditions. Monitor the weather forecast before your hike, and if there is a chance of rain, reconsider your plans and avoid entering the Subway. Be aware of signs of rising water levels and seek higher ground immediately if you encounter sudden rainfall or rising waters.

Water Pools and Swimming: The Subway contains pools of water that may need to be crossed, some of which may require swimming. Assess your swimming ability and be prepared with proper gear, such as dry bags to protect your belongings. Be cautious of submerged obstacles, strong currents, and changing water conditions. It’s important to check the water flow and depth before attempting any crossings, as conditions can vary depending on the time of year and recent precipitation.

Temperature and Hydration: Zion National Park experiences hot and dry conditions, especially during the summer months. The Subway hike exposes hikers to direct sunlight and high temperatures. It’s crucial to stay hydrated by carrying enough water and drinking regularly. Consider using a hydration bladder or water bottle with a filter to replenish your water supply when needed. Start your hike early in the morning to avoid the peak heat of the day, and take frequent breaks in shaded areas to rest and cool down.

Navigation and Route Finding: As a route that is not as well-marked as other popular trails, navigation can be challenging in the Subway. It’s important to have a detailed map or a GPS device and be familiar with the key landmarks and waypoints along the route. Taking a wrong turn or getting lost can lead to significant delays and potential safety risks. If you’re not confident in your navigation skills, consider hiring a guide or joining a guided tour.

Rockfall and Falling Objects: In narrow slot canyons like the Subway, there is a risk of rockfall and falling objects. Be cautious of loose rocks and debris that may dislodge from above. Avoid standing directly beneath cliff edges and keep a safe distance from other hikers above you. Wearing a helmet is recommended to protect against potential hazards.

By acknowledging and preparing for these challenges and hazards, you can take the necessary precautions to mitigate risks and ensure a safe and enjoyable Subway hike. Always prioritize your safety, be vigilant, and stay informed of current conditions and weather forecasts. Remember that it’s better to turn back or modify your plans than to put yourself in danger. With proper preparation and careful navigation, you can conquer the challenges of the Subway and create lasting memories at Zion National Park.


Wildlife and Flora

Zion National Park is not only famous for its stunning geological formations but also for the diverse array of wildlife and flora that call the park home. As you embark on the Subway hike, keep an eye out for these fascinating species and appreciate the vibrant vegetation surrounding you:

Wildlife: The flora and fauna of Zion National Park are adapted to the desert environment, and hikers may encounter a variety of wildlife during their Subway hike. Look out for mule deer, squirrels, rabbits, and a wide range of bird species, including the iconic California condor. Bighorn sheep are also known to roam the rugged cliffs nearby, so keep your eyes peeled for these majestic creatures. Remember to observe wildlife from a safe distance and never approach or feed them.

Flora: Despite the arid conditions, the Subway and its surroundings are surprisingly lush with vegetation. Ferns, mosses, and vibrant hanging gardens thrive in the wetter areas along the trail. The canyon walls host a variety of desert plant species, such as desert varnish-covered rocks, prickly pear cacti, yuccas, and various types of wildflowers. Take the time to appreciate the resilience and beauty of these plants, especially during the spring when many species are in bloom.

Riparian Habitat: The Subway hike follows the course of North Creek, creating a unique riparian habitat along the way. This oasis-like environment provides water and nourishment for a diverse range of plants and animals. Keep an eye out for trees such as cottonwoods and willows, which are well adapted to water-rich habitats. These trees offer welcome shade and serve as vital sources of food and shelter for wildlife.

Bird Watching: The Subway hike offers excellent birdwatching opportunities. Listen for the melodic songs of canyon wrens and the distinctive calls of peregrine falcons soaring above the cliffs. Keep your binoculars handy to observe the unique behaviors and impressive plumage of various bird species that inhabit Zion National Park. Birdwatching is not only an enjoyable pastime but also a way to connect with the natural world around you.

Leave No Trace: While appreciating the wildlife and flora, remember to follow the principles of Leave No Trace. Avoid trampling vegetation, stick to designated trails, and refrain from plucking flowers or disturbing wildlife habitats. By respecting and protecting the delicate ecosystem, you help preserve the beauty of Zion National Park for future generations to enjoy.

As you hike through the Subway, take the time to observe and appreciate the incredible wildlife and flora that bring the park to life. Remember to always maintain a safe distance from animals, observe from a distance, and leave the environment as you found it. By coexisting harmoniously with the natural world, you can create a positive and sustainable impact on the delicate ecosystem of Zion National Park.


Photography Tips

The Subway hike at Zion National Park offers incredible opportunities for capturing breathtaking photographs. Whether you’re a professional photographer or an amateur enthusiast, here are some tips to help you capture the beauty of the Subway and its surroundings:

1. Plan Your Timing: The lighting conditions can greatly affect the outcome of your photos. Consider scheduling your hike during early morning or late afternoon when the sunlight is softer and casts a warm, golden glow on the canyon walls. Avoid midday when the harsh sunlight can create intense shadows and washed-out visuals.

2. Capture the Details: The Subway is filled with intricate rock formations, flowing water, and unique textures. Take the time to focus on capturing the small details that make the canyon so fascinating. Zoom in on the patterned walls, the reflections in the pools, or the delicate vegetation. These details can add depth and interest to your photos.

3. Wide Angle for the Grandeur: The Subway’s narrow walls may tempt you to use a telephoto lens to capture the details, but don’t forget to switch to a wider angle lens to showcase the grand scale of the canyon. Step back and find perspectives that highlight the vastness of the landscape. This will help convey the awe-inspiring nature of the Subway.

4. Experiment with Shutter Speed: Water features are prevalent in the Subway, offering opportunities for stunning long-exposure shots. Experiment with different shutter speeds to create ethereal effects on flowing water or capture the motion of hikers in the canyon. Make sure to bring a tripod or use stable surfaces to avoid camera shake for longer exposures.

5. Utilize Filters: Filters can be a valuable tool in landscape photography. Consider using a polarizing filter to enhance color saturation and reduce glare on water or rocks. Neutral density filters can help balance exposures in high-contrast scenes, such as bright canyon walls against darker shadows. Graduated filters can also be useful for managing exposure differences between the sky and the ground.

6. Compose with Leading Lines: The Subway’s sinuous walls and flowing creeks offer ample opportunities to incorporate leading lines in your compositions. Use the natural curves and lines of the canyon to guide the viewer’s eye through the frame and create a sense of depth and movement in your photos.

7. Capture the Reflections: The pools of water in the Subway create stunning reflections of the surrounding rock formations. Look for calm spots where the water is still and use them to capture mirror-like reflections. Incorporating these reflections can add a sense of symmetry and elegance to your images.

8. Include People for Scale and Storytelling: If you have fellow hikers in your group, include them in your photos to provide a sense of scale and add depth to the scene. This helps communicate the vastness of the canyon and tells a compelling story of the human experience within nature’s grandeur.

Remember Ethics: When photographing the Subway, always prioritize the preservation and protection of the environment. Avoid trampling vegetation or disturbing wildlife habitats. Be mindful of other hikers’ experiences and keep a respectful distance. Leave the landscape untouched so that others can enjoy its beauty long after you leave.

With these photography tips in mind, embark on your Subway hike ready to capture the awe-inspiring beauty of Zion National Park. Embrace your creativity, experiment with different techniques, and let the natural wonders of the Subway guide your vision.


Leave No Trace Principles

When exploring the Subway at Zion National Park, it’s essential to adhere to the principles of Leave No Trace. These guidelines are designed to minimize our impact on the environment and preserve the natural beauty of the area for future generations to enjoy. Here are the key Leave No Trace principles to keep in mind:

1. Plan and Prepare: Before your Subway hike, research and plan your trip thoroughly. Familiarize yourself with the regulations, obtain the necessary permits, and be aware of any seasonal restrictions or closures. Equip yourself with the proper gear and knowledge to ensure a safe and responsible experience.

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces: Stick to designated trails and established campsites whenever possible. Avoid trampling vegetation and fragile ecosystems. In the Subway, stay on the predetermined route to minimize impact on the surrounding rock formations and delicate environment. Be mindful of where you place your tent and avoid camping near water sources to protect riparian areas.

3. Dispose of Waste Properly: Pack out all of your trash, including food wrappers and personal waste. Leave the Subway and its surroundings cleaner than you found them. Use designated restroom facilities when available and follow the “pack it in, pack it out” principle for all waste. Properly dispose of human waste by following park guidelines or using a portable waste disposal bag. Remember, leaving waste behind can disrupt ecosystems and harm wildlife.

4. Leave What You Find: Refrain from removing any natural objects or artifacts from the Subway. Do not collect rocks, plants, or other items as souvenirs. Leave them for others to appreciate and for the ecosystem to thrive undisturbed. Preserve the integrity of the natural environment and respect the historical and cultural significance of the area.

5. Minimize Campfire Impact: Campfires are not permitted in the Subway or within the park. Follow park regulations regarding campfires and stove usage. Use lightweight camp stoves for cooking and carry out empty fuel canisters. If permitted, only build fires in designated fire rings and use dead and downed wood. Ensure the fire is completely extinguished before leaving the area.

6. Respect Wildlife: Observe wildlife from a safe distance and never approach or feed them. Do not harass or disturb animals in their natural habitat. Use binoculars or telephoto lenses to capture close-up photos without intruding on their space. Remember, altering natural behaviors can have severe consequences for their survival.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors: Respect other hikers and their experience in the Subway. Keep noise levels down and allow others to enjoy the tranquility of the environment. Yield to hikers moving faster than you and follow any park-specific etiquette guidelines. Be a courteous and responsible ambassador of the outdoors to ensure everyone has a memorable and enjoyable experience.

By following these Leave No Trace principles in the Subway and throughout Zion National Park, we can help preserve the natural beauty and ecological integrity of this incredible place. Let’s leave only footprints and memories, allowing future generations to appreciate the pristine wilderness that the Subway offers.


Alternate Routes and Variations

While the classic Subway hike at Zion National Park is a remarkable adventure, there are also alternate routes and variations that offer unique experiences and opportunities to explore the surrounding area. Here are a few options to consider:

Top-Down Variation: Rather than starting the Subway hike from the Bottom-Up trailhead, you can opt for a Top-Down variation. This route requires a wilderness permit and advanced canyoneering skills. It begins at the Left Fork Trailhead (Wildcat Canyon Trailhead) and proceeds through the entire length of the Subway to the Bottom-Up trailhead. The Top-Down variation provides a more challenging and remote experience, with stunning views and technical obstacles along the way.

Bottom-Up Extended Hike: For those seeking a longer hike, consider extending the Bottom-Up approach by connecting to other trails in the area. From the Left Fork North Creek Trailhead, you can continue hiking along the Narrows, a famous section of the Virgin River, to experience another breathtaking slot canyon adventure. Be sure to check conditions and be prepared for water crossings as you explore this additional section of the park.

Subway and Observation Point Combination: Another exciting variation is combining the Subway hike with a visit to Observation Point. This extended hike allows you to experience both the beauty of the Subway and the breathtaking panoramic views from Observation Point. Start with the Subway hike and continue along the East Rim Trail to reach Observation Point, which provides a stunning overlook of Zion Canyon. This combination hike offers a diverse range of scenery and rewards you with two remarkable experiences in one trip.

Guide-Led Tours: If you’re new to canyoneering or prefer the guidance of a knowledgeable expert, consider joining a guide-led tour. Several local companies offer guided Subway hikes, providing you with the opportunity to learn from experienced guides who can navigate the route safely and share their knowledge about the area’s geology and history. This option ensures additional support and allows you to fully immerse yourself in the experience without the need for advanced technical skills.

Whichever alternate route or variation you choose, it’s important to plan and prepare accordingly. Research the specific requirements, obtain the necessary permits, and familiarize yourself with the challenges and considerations of each route. Be aware of your own skill level and comfort zone when selecting an alternate route, ensuring it matches your abilities and experience.

Exploring the alternate routes and variations around the Subway at Zion National Park can provide new perspectives and unique adventures. Whether you’re seeking a more challenging hike, additional natural wonders to explore, or the guidance of experts, these options offer exciting opportunities to create unforgettable memories in this magnificent national park.



The Subway hike at Zion National Park is a thrilling and awe-inspiring adventure that allows you to immerse yourself in the raw beauty of nature. Navigating through the narrow slot canyon, marveling at the sculpted walls, and encountering water-filled potholes are experiences that will stay with you for a lifetime.

As you plan your Subway hike, take the time to prepare adequately. From obtaining permits and studying maps to gathering the right gear and honing your canyoneering skills, thorough preparation ensures a safe and enjoyable experience in this iconic slot canyon.

Respecting the principles of Leave No Trace is crucial in preserving the fragile environment of the Subway and its surroundings. Practice sustainable hiking and camping practices, dispose of waste properly, and be mindful of the impact you have on the landscape. By doing so, you contribute to the preservation of Zion National Park’s natural wonders for future generations to enjoy.

Remember, the Subway poses challenges and potential hazards, from technical terrain and flash flood risks to navigation difficulties. Be prepared, know your limits, and prioritize safety during your hike. If in doubt, hiring a guide or joining a guided tour can provide an extra layer of security and expertise.

Whether you choose the classic Subway hike, explore alternate routes, or combine it with other adventures in the park, Zion National Park promises a truly unforgettable experience. The captivating topography, diverse wildlife, and vibrant flora create a magical environment that will capture your heart and inspire your sense of wonder.

As you traverse the Subway, take the time to savor the moments, appreciate the beauty, and reflect on the power of nature. The Subway at Zion National Park is not just a hike, but a transformative journey that connects you to the wonders of our natural world.

So lace up your hiking boots, prepare your backpack, and get ready to embark on a remarkable adventure in the Subway at Zion National Park. Let the awe-inspiring beauty of the canyon guide you as you create memories that will last a lifetime.


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