The Subway Tunnel hike is one of the best hikes in Zion National Park. Considered one of “Big 3” hikes of Zion, the Subway is accessible from the top trail or bottom up which need 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. Knowledge on rappelling, the equipment, and all safety measures is important for at least one member in the group. This way into the tunnel also requires some potential swimming.
The “bottom up” from the Left Fork Trailhead does not need 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, sections of the river may be knee deep, however for most of the year it is ankle deep or lower.
This hike requires a permit for both directions into the Subway. Head to the visitor center to get a permit. Ask the Rangers for up to date information on the hike, the water level, and for any tips based on current conditions. Permits 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 Up: 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 Up
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. Cross the river several times to continue on the trail.
For several miles, the trail continues to snake along the river, with small boulders here and there. The landscape and river changes the last mile before arriving at the Subway. Hike or climb over the cascading waterfalls. This section of the hike is very slippery.
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 ready 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.