9 - 9.5 Miles Round Trip
600 Ft. Elevation
Year Round Access
The Subway is one of the most popular hiking trails in Zion. That’s saying a lot, considering Zion has some of the best hiking in the country. The Subway is a strenuous and technically difficult hiking trail. There are many things about the Subway that make it unique, exciting, and challenging.
Due to the difficult nature of this hiking trail, it is especially important for hikers to have complete knowledge of the trail ahead of time. Knowing things like the best season to hike, what gear to bring, what to expect during the hike, and helpful tips and tricks can make all the difference.
The following is a breakdown of some of the more important aspects to be aware of when preparing to hike the Subway. When hikers are well prepared for what they will encounter, their chances of having a fun and safe trip increase greatly, meaning a hike in the Subway in Zion National Park can be the trip of a lifetime.
The Subway Experience
Once a permit is obtained, hikers can make their way to the Subway. There are two different ways to traverse this strenuous trail. The first is top-down, and the second is bottom-up. Both ways are incredibly difficult and physically demanding, but of the two, top down is the least difficult. Because of this, most hikers choose to hike the Subway from the top down. The hike can take anywhere from six to twelve hours, depending on hiker experience and time spent sightseeing through the hike. The following information is based off those who will be hiking the Subway from the top down, which is the most fun and least strenuous way to explore.
To access the Subway to begin a top down hike, hikers will start at the Wildcat Trailhead. This trailhead is located on Kolob Reservoir Road and is the beginning of the journey to the Subway.
Confluence Left Fork
The first part of hiking the Subway involves a hike along the tops of the ridges. Hikers will go along these ridges until they reach a steep hillside. This hillside leads into the slot. From here, hikers will follow the trail, hiking downstream, and conquering obstacles as they encounter them.
Subway Lower End
The most difficult area of the hike ends at this part of the Subway. This is a beautiful part of the hike, with a waterfall, arching walls, and even a boulder with dinosaur tracks from the Jurassic period. These beautiful sights are well worth the difficult hike.
Once hikers reach the exit of the Subway, there is signage marking a trail that leads to Left Fork Trailhead. Hikers may want to take a bit of a break before starting the last portion of this hike. This climb is intense, hot, and steep. Once the difficult climb is over, a shuttle will be waiting at the Left Fork Trailhead. The concludes the incredible hike through the Subway.
When to Hike
The Subway is open for hiking during every season, though fall and summer are the best times to hike. There are positives and negatives to hiking this trail during each season. By understanding what to expect at the Subway during each season, hikers can choose the ideal time of year for their preferences.
No matter which season hikers decide to conquer the Subway, it is important to pay attention to the condition of the area.
Each season brings different concerns involving weather conditions, so every hiker should pay attention to weather conditions, look out for signs of poor conditions, and be aware of local alerts and closures. Following these important actions can ensure a safe trip no matter the season.
Winter is a beautiful time of year in Zion National Park, but it can also make hiking difficult or, in some cases, impossible. The temperature is cold, usually around or slightly above freezing, and ice begins to accumulate during this time. Areas of the Subway that do not receive much sunlight are more prone to ice buildup. The cold temperatures, short days, and ice buildup make winter the least recommended season to hike the Subway, but if conditions cooperate it can be done.
Spring in Zion brings temperatures slightly higher than winter, usually in the mid-forties to fifties during the day. These warmer temperatures are responsible for melting the ice accumulated during winter. This ice melt can result in dangerous water levels and faster moving currents. Because of this, hiking in the Subway during this time should be done with caution. Hikers should always look for signs of potential danger before heading into the Subway to ensure their safety and prevent having to be rescued.
Summer is one of the more popular seasons for people to visit Zion National Park. This has a lot to do with the fantastic weather. Lasting rain is less likely and temperatures are usually quite warm, around eighty degrees during the day. This makes hiking the Subway even more enjoyable. Since there are areas of the Subway that require hikers to go through, and sometimes submerge themselves, in water, having a warmer temperature helps a lot. These warm temperatures can prove to be a bit too hot for some hikers. To combat this, hikers can start their hike by 8 am to try and beat the sweltering sun. The end of the trip will still be hot, but at least the more strenuous parts can be done in comfortable weather.
Fall is another popular time for hikers to head to Zion. The temperatures are mild, usually in the mid-sixties to seventies, and there are no extreme weather conditions to deal with. Hiking the Subway in the fall can be especially beautiful thanks to all the fallen leaves floating in the water. It transforms the trail into a red and orange wonderland. Since water temperatures in the Subway are always chilly, lower temperatures during the fall can make traversing water more uncomfortable. Despite that, fall is an incredible time to hike through the famous Subway
Have the Right Gear
Having the right gear for the hike is one of the most important things about hiking the Subway. Heading into this strenuous hike without being prepared can result in having to be rescued, personal injury, or even death. Therefore, having the right gear is so important. The following is the basic gear that will be needed to hike the Subway. It is important for hikers to analyze the trail ahead of time to decide if they would like to bring any additional items.
Hikers should bring enough water with them for the whole trip. A wearable water container, like a hydration pack, is a great idea. If there is a water emergency, the water in the springs of the Subway can be filtered to drink, but having a proper supply before heading on the hike is a much better idea.
A map is the best and easiest thing hikers should bring to keep themselves out of harm’s way. Those without a map are more likely to travel onto impassable terrain or miss the exit. This can have dire consequences. Those horrible situations can be avoided by bringing a map and having decent navigational skills.
The exact clothing worn will depend on the season and weather conditions during the hike. However, there are a few common articles of clothing that are important. Hikers should have clothing that covers the body and wicks moisture away. This helps prevent scrapes and cuts to the skin while also keeping hikers cool. In cooler weather, hikers may want a wetsuit for the wetter parts of the hike. This not only makes the trip more comfortable, but also reduces the risk of exposure or hypothermia in cooler weather.
A pair of well-fitting, comfortable, and effective hiking boots is essential for a hike through the Subway. The right boots will help hikers have a secure foothold, make walking comfortable, and be water resistant. A trip through the Subway, or any trail, without the right hiking boots, will be miserable at best, and impossible at worst.
This is another item that should not be left behind. Rappelling, steep scrambles, and high climbs will require the use of a helmet. Since these riskier activities can easily result in injury, hikers should always be sure to protect their most important body part- their head.
A dry bag will make the trip much more comfortable. During deeper wading and swims, a dry bag can protect gear by holding it tightly in a waterproof bag. This will be useful in a few different areas of the Subway. When not in use, dry bags fold up to be compact and go right into your hiking bag. This is an easy item to bring that can prevent having to make the whole hike soaking wet and uncomfortable.
There are many areas that will require the knowledge and use of rappelling equipment. The anchors for rappels are all bolted, so setting ropes from bolted anchors is something all hikers of the Subway should be familiar with. Hikers will want to bring along a rope, probably about sixty feet depending on the hike, and will obviously need to know how to rappel.
Getting a Permit
While it may sound like a trip through the Subway is tricky, the trickiest part is getting the opportunity to do so. Like with many areas of Zion National Park and other parks, a permit is required to get into the Subway. Using Zion’s online system, there are two main ways to obtain a permit to hike the Subway, but both depend on the luck of the draw.
Three months prior to a hiker’s trip, they can enter a lottery application for $5.00. After that, it’s a waiting game. The fifth day of the month after entering the lottery, applicants will receive an email letting them know if they have been awarded a reservation. After that, once they arrive at the park, they can get their actual permit at the park visitor center.
Last Minute Drawing
The Last-Minute Drawing lets hikers submit for a reservation two to seven days before their planned trip. These reservations work in the same way that the Advance Lottery system works. Hikers who are lucky enough to be granted a reservation will stop by the visitor center and be on their way to an exciting adventure.
Take a Hike
Hiking the Subway is one of the most incredible experiences many hikers will ever have. For experienced hikers, this trip will be challenging, exciting, and memorable. The many different obstacles are part of what makes the Subway so incredible.
Hikers who have prepared using the above information are sure to have a safe, fun, and exciting journey. Hiking this beautiful area in Zion National Park is truly a once-in-a-lifetime, unforgettable experience.