| The Subway, Zion National Park
Route: Left Fork of North Creek TH (out and back)
Total Distance/Total Time: 5.87 mi / 5 hours
I always thought the Subway seemed like a magical place in Zion National Park so I made it a must-do when I spent 5 days there in April 2009.
There are two main trailheads from which to reach the Subway. The Wildcat Canyon TH is the technical route and requires a car shuttle. I chose the non-technical route, Left Fork of North TH, which does not require a shuttle or technical canyoneering gear.
I started at 10 am. The trail starts out flat for the first mile until you reach the lip of the canyon. The trail then goes straight down for about 400' to the Left Fork of North Creek. From there, the route is straight forward: follow the creek northwest to the Subway, *only* about 2 miles away.
The view from the lip of the canyon:
At the bottom of the canyon you begin following the creek northwest. It is very important you don't miss the exit back up the canyon on the way out ( N37*17' 19.1" W 113*05' 07.9").
After reaching the creek at the bottom, the fun begins. There are cairns marking the route but they don't have to be followed; just follow the creek. In fact, it seemed like walking in the creek was often easier than walking on the "trail", which is a boulder and log strewn mess created by many flash floods.
I wasted a lot of time looking for cairns before I realized the path of least resistance is up to the hiker. If you were prepared for wet feet (I wore Keens and kayaking socks) you can just walk in the creek. The unprepared have to try to follow the trail, which crosses the creek dozens of times anyhow.
My opinion: there are two routes up. For those who don't mind getting wet, follow the creek and use the trail only when necessary. If you want to stay dry (which is impossible, really) try to follow the cairns and trail. I had much more fun in the water than on the trail.
At N 37*17' 58.0" W 113*04' 12.0" you will cross some excellent dinosaur tracks preserved in mudstone. They are on two slabs that lean toward the trail on the left (north) side of the creek (if ascending). They are at eye level and above, so if you are looking at the trail you'll miss them.
With my GPS for perspective:
From there, you continue the bushwhack. Before the Subway you pass many cascading waterfalls.
Before you reach the Subway (N 37*18' 32.0" W 113* 03' 07.0"), the creek bottom turns from sand and boulders to sandstone. Wet and with algae, the sandstone is quite slippery.
To go further requires crossing a couple of deep pools (at least they were deep when I was there in April during spring run-off). A fall visit would yield diffferent conditions, I'm sure. Bring dry bags for your electronics.
Where the canyon becomes a slot, the pools get deeper.
The hike ends at Keyhole Falls, which is about 12' high. The alternate route from Wildcat Canyon requires a rap of these falls.
From there, hike back out, being careful not to miss the exit to the canyon lip. The hike out is not pleasant but short.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):