One of Zion National Park's most fascinating landmarks is The Subway. The
exquisitely carved Subway is found in the Left Fork of North Creek in the
park's western section. It is a culmination of many spectacular water features
found in North Creek including falls, cascades, water "staircases", pools,
tubs, and swimming holes.
The Subway and North Creek are not that well known to tourists because there
is no formal "trail". Hikers and backpackers work their way into the canyon
and then follow the stream. While the lower canyon is a challenging but nontechnical
route, the upper canyon beyond the Subway is one of Zion's great adventures
requiring rappelling, routefinding, and swimming.
(Photo right: A "reverse angle" of The Subway, taken from the inside looking out.)
The Hike to the Subway (Lower Canyon)
The biggest challenges to hiking lower North Creek to the Subway are finding
the unmarked parking area along Kolob Reservoir Road and then getting into
the bottom of the canyon. There are many foot paths to the edge of the canyon
all of which come to a steep talus (loose rocks) slope. The route then works
down this steep slope to the canyon bottom. The loose footing was quite
disconcerting. The 400 foot drop in elevation made the return hike strenuous.
The stream is perennial making the canyon bottom lush and inviting. The lower
canyon is fairly wide (though sheer walled) making it sunny and warm. The many
trees provide shade and keep it comfortable.
One of the neat features of this canyon are the two huge slabs of dinosaur
tracks located on the north side of the stream about 2.5 miles from the
starting point. There are about 70 foot prints many of which are quite
distinct (photo right).
The first few miles of the hike require much boulder hopping along the
obstacle strewn stream bed. After perhaps three miles the canyon narrows
and the stream bed becomes solid rock. Here you will find beautiful
water formations including cascades, falls, and staircases. There are pools in which to take a dip.
The nature of the canyon changes again as you reach the Subway.
Its cave-like opening is an entry into a completely different world.
Dark, cool, and narrow, it typifies the mysterious world of Zion made famous by the Narrows.
The slippery, rocky floor of the Subway features a series of cold pools or tubs.
Upstream the pools become deeper and more prevalent, finally making it impossible
to proceed further up the canyon bottom. Technical climbers may continue
upstream by ascending the canyon wall to a terrace. There are bolts in the wall
at this point.
Outdoor persons who wish to hike or camp in the Left Fork of North Creek (The Subway) should contact the
Zion Backcountry Office for backcountry permits and reservations.
(The complete hike is generally done as a one way downstream trip. It starts at the Wildcat Canyon trailhead, then
accesses North Creek via Russell Gulch.)
Location. From St. George, Utah, go north on
Interstate-15, then east on state-9 about 30 miles. Go north on the Kolob Reservoir
Road at the town of Virgin. Proceed about 8 miles, then look for cars parked in the
woods on the east side of the road.
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