The Subway Tunnel hike is one of the top attractions at Zion National Park. Considered one of “Big 3” hikes of Zion, the Subway can be accessed from the top trail or bottom trail which requires different skills and equipment. This hike is often a favorite of Zion, in particular with photographers.
The “top down” trail into the Subway is more exciting. The only way into the tunnel is by rappelling down into the canyon. Someone in the group must be knowledgeable on rappelling, the equipment, and all safety measures. This way into the tunnel also requires some potential swimming.
The “bottom in” trail does not require any technical climbing skills. Aside from the original descent to the riverbed, the trail is relatively flat. This trail requires maneuvering through the river bed and ends at the tunnel. Depending on water levels, you may be required to walk through sections of water.
This hike requires a permit for both directions into the Subway. Head to the visitor center to obtain a permit. Ask the Rangers for up to date information on the hike, the water level, and for any tips based on current conditions. Pemits cost $20 in addition to the National Park fee. If going during the summer, we recommend to show up at or before opening, as there are few permits available.
How to Get There
Bottom In: Trail starts from the Left Fork Trailhead, 10 miles from the visitor center
Top Down: Trail starts from Wildcat Canyon Trailhead
Hiking The Subway Trail Bottom In
Our Hike: 11.0 Miles, 1,450 feet gain, 5 hours 24 minutes
The beginning of the hike is flat and can get muddy. There are excellent viewpoints of the canyon and down to the river. There is a steep descent from these overlooks all the way down to the river.
Once at the riverbed, the trail will stay along the river the rest of the way. There are several times that it is required to cross the river to continue on the trail. Depending on water levels, crossing the river at times may require walking through the water.
For several miles, the trail continues to snake along the river, with small boulders here and there. The landscape and river changes the final mile before arriving at the Subway. There are several cascading waterfalls, some of which hiking across or climbing up is required. This section of the hike can be very slick.
Try to avoid the slippery dark green moss on the rocks. We all fell at least once, getting our legs wet. During this stretch, there are sections where waterproof boots would come in handy. Several times, we walked through water 1 -3 inches deep.
The entrance to the Subway tunnel is grand and obvious. The huge canyon walls on both sides close in, forming the Subway at the bottom.
This is an amazing hike. Go slow and be careful when crossing in water, and be sure to protect your gear as you cross. Be prepared to get wet. Enjoy!
What to Bring on the Hike
Hiking shoes (waterproof recommended)
Bathing suit (if you plan to swim in one of the swimming holes)
Light waterproof jacket
Pack rain cover
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Visited on 01/29/2016.