The Zion national park still has to offer even more than the known hikes in the Zion Canyon. Another highlight in my opinion is the "Subway", a rock tunnel in shape of an underground shaft located in the nordwest part of the park.
For the hike you require a permit which is available in two different ways: you can obtain it from an internet lottery or as a usual walk-in permit. Up to now I have made very good experiences with the walk-in permit. You don't have to have a fix date so you can try to get one depending on the weather. The chance to get a permit is not so bad, as long as you are not there on a weekend. Further information and reservation possibilities are given with the links at the end of this page. Please, also note that a reservation on internet must be done some months before.
There are two different possibilities to get to the Subway: from the top via Wildcat Canyon Trailhead and from the bottom via Left Fork Trailhead. The first variant requires special equipment and a very good condition in any case since you go the complete distance of the Wildcat Canyon up to the Left Fork Trailhead. You also need some swimming equipment. So the other, just 5 miles long, variant (Left Fork Trailhead - Subway - Left Fork Trailhead) is mostly preferred.
Hike and equipment:
You leave the Zion National Park at the west exit (Springdale) and drive 3 miles up to the small place named Virgin. "Kolob Road" is signposted directly at the entrance to the town on the right side. By the way, shortly before the entrance to the town a rather modern RV park is on the left. After you have passed the residential area the sign of the Zion National Park and the "red" street comes up very soon. After a little bit more than 7 miles you reach the parking lot of "Left Fork Trailhead".
For the 4.5 miles roundtrip hike you need plenty of water, fruit, some granola bars and of course good hiking boots / trekking sandals and walking sticks. Neoprene socks are advantageous. I have bought used ones for myself in Springdale for $5. The photo equipment should be packed in a water resistant bag. Therefore you can get the very affordable thin sea bags. For the better protection from wounds Zip-Off trousers/pans should not be missing. In addition it is advisable to take along a thin coat against hypothermia, because it can be very breezy especially in the Subway.
Impressions of my hike to the Subway::
I got on the way almost too late and left the Campground in Springdale at around 8.30 am. After about 35 minutes I reached the parking area and some cars were already there. After my second breakfast (banana, granola bar and water) I started the strenuous hike.
The first minutes of the hike are very easy because the trail leads over a plateau. After I had crossed the dried out Grapevine Wash I reached the rim of the Lava Cliffs - a breathtaking view into the wide valley. Descending with walking sticks and steady shoes was slippery but absolutely feasible. The steep path descends on loose rocks in short time. In the valley I changed my shoes and put on trekking sandals and neoprene socks. Thus I struggled upstream with the help of the walking sticks which was not very easy. Indeed, I was always able to recognize the way - but often the trail didn´t continue and I had to cross the river. The sticks were very advantageous because I would have lain down sometimes without them. Anyway the way was very diverse: climbing, bending down, jumping from various obstacles (shrubs, trees, rocks) - of course not without getting some wounds. But that was not so bad at the moment because I had a destination. Somewhere dinosaurs traces could be seen in the rock, but I was too busy with watching out for branches, stones and looking for the Cascades of the Virgin River *g*. Then after some hours I reached the wonderful cascades where I unpacked my camera from the water resistant sea bag for the first time. Unfortunately, a part of the cascades was already in the shade, but I did not want to cross this slimy part with the camera.
Short time after you see a rock on the right sight you are able to see the curved shape of the subway. I still had 100 meters to go until I reached the entrance. I was happy that I have made it but I´ve actually thought that the subway is bigger.With my camera and tripod in one hand and sticks in the other hand I went through the subway. It was windy here and you ´ll need a jacket.
After about 15 minutes I started my way back. This time the trail seems to be much shorter. On the one hand because I remembered many places, on the other hand because I wanted to be at the parking area before sunset. After about 2.5 hours I arrived at the same place where I have changed the shoes and then climbed up the precipitous slope once more for half an hour. The walking sticks were very important and worth their price proved to be really worth their price. It was also not too simple to find the right way up - I simply tried to follow the footprints what was not always quite easy.
The last image has a rollover-effect!
The subway is definitely worth a day hike for those who are physically fairly fit, have no fear of wet feet, scratches and blue spots. Indeed, neither the distance, nor the other circumstances (weather, physical fitness etc.) should be underestimated. Turning back is no disgrace - I have also done that in 2003. But then in the second attempt it worked, even if I was surely groggy at the end also because of the heavy backpack (tripod, camera, water).
Last Update: 02/17/2008