The Subway portion of the Left Fork of North Creek, Zion National Park, Utah.
We are visiting some wonderful areas during this two month trip, but the one place I have been looking forward to over all others was the Subway in Zion. What a fascinating place!
It is interesting, I didn’t notice the leaves in the pool moving, but I guess the 30 second exposure was enough time to capture even minor movement.
To access the Subway, you need a backcountry permit. The Park Service issues up to 50 per day. When we checked on the permit count at the end of the day on Tuesday, they had only issued 2 for Wednesday – we knew it would be a perfect day! The Subway is not a very large area, I can’t imagine sharing it with 50 other people! We did see the other 2 permittees, one on our hike out, the other was a photographer who choose not to photograph the actual Subway. Janine and I had the marvelous place all to ourselves! I understand last weekend they sold out the 50 permits, and I believe in the summer they can be hard to get and require advance reservations. They do set aside 40% for walk-ups the day before, but you better be their early during the busy times.
The trail-head is about a 45 minute drive from the main Zion entrance in Springdale, west of the main Zion Canyon area. The hike in is time consuming. It is only 4.5 miles each way, but it isn’t on a park maintained trail – the going is somewhat slow as you scramble over boulders, cross the creek numerous times, and backtrack around obstacles. The guide books say to allow 2.5 hours each way – it took us less time, but I think that is a reasonable estimate.
Even though there isn’t a maintained trail, the route isn’t hard to follow. A short distance from the trail-head, you drop 400 feet down a hillside into the North Creek Canyon. From there, you follow the main creek bed upstream until you reach the Subway. The best chance for getting lost would be to miss the climb back out of the canyon at the end of the day. If you make a mental note of the hills around the canyon near the exit at the beginning of your hike, the exit route is pretty obvious. In addition, the Park Service has a couple of signs in the bottom of the canyon notating the exit route.
I have a few recommendations. We hiked in our canyon shoes which can be rented in Springdale from the Zion Adventure Company. The rock in the Subway is very slick, we didn’t have a bit of trouble using these shoes with their unique ability to grip rock. It also made the hike easier as we often just stayed in the creek bed. Bring extra food and water. You figure if you spend a hour or two taking photos, and five hours hiking, it can be a long day. I finished off both my large Nalgen bottles of water and it wasn’t a hot day.
The Subway isn’t the only attraction in the area – there are some other really cool photo opportunities near the entrance to the Subway – I will post a couple of shots over the next couple of days. I’m getting a big queue of photos to post – I guess that is the beauty of being in a place like Zion!
I should add, you can hike down through the Subway from upstream, but that does involve some technical ability and ropes. The route I described is from the “bottom”, and the preferred route when hauling a lot of photo gear.
Here are more photos of Zion National Park and the Subway.