The Subway Trail

HARD 369 reviews
#5 of 94 trails in

The Subway Trail is a 7 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Virgin, Utah that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, rock climbing, and nature trips and is best used from June until October.

Distance: 7.0 miles Elevation Gain: 1,305 feet Route Type: Out & Back

hiking

nature trips

rock climbing

river

views

waterfall

rocky

scramble

no dogs

In order to hike the subway trail, hikers need a PERMIT from the administration of Zion National Park that can be picked up from the visitor center. This is day-use only hike. The Subway Trail can be accessed off of Kolob Terrace Road at the Left Fork Trailhead. The trail gets its name from the pipe-like gorge formed by the canyon walls of North Creek. This is a canyoneering tour through the left fork of North Creek. It is a long day hike to dinosaur tracks, keyhole falls, and the subway. The trail follows a the creek and hikers have to pass through creek in many locations along the hike. The trail is not maintained. It is recommended that you are either an experienced hiker or have an experienced hiker to guide you on this slot canyon trail, as unlike the Narrows, it is a semi-technical hike that can require rappelling and swimming through deep pools of cold water. The subway section of the trail can also be very slippery so proceed with caution. This hike starts from the bottom of the Subway Trail, however many hikers do this trail from the top down off of Wildcat Canyon Trailhead, as the bottom up route is much more difficult. This area can be prone to flash floods so be mindful of rain and talk to park rangers before heading out on your hike if you have any concerns.

hiking
rocky
scramble
1 day ago

Top Down: The Subway Trail is an absolute stunner. It is nestled deep in the canyons of Zion, and truly wonderful but do not underestimate the technicality of the trail. All four raps had solid anchors but are a little tricky either to get into or to land from. In August there is a good amount of swimming. About 4 different occasions where it was too deep to touch. This hike will take you 11 hours, be prepared with plenty of food and a water filter. I hiked it in chacos which were light and worked wonderfully but if you need more stability on even surfaces hiking boots would be better. It’s best if you have a gps since the end of the hike “just follows the river” and it’s fairly easy to miss the exit especially if it’s dusk. Overall, worth doing but make sure you have the skills, the gear and a positive attitude from your group!

hiking
off trail
over grown
rocky
scramble
11 days ago

hiking
rocky
scramble
13 days ago

The Subway Trail is everything I read about it and then some... the top is great with views and simple rock scrambles, the the river trails is harder then I thought it would be. The Keyhole falls and subway ending was breath taking. It was a long days hike if you sight see as you hike. Please be ready for everything as our trip got interesting with a rattlesnake down by the river at about halfway point, the hike out we got hit with heavy rain and hail for about 35 minutes so we had to scramble for cover from a couple rock slides and the rising river. We made it out safe and had a great time.

17 days ago

It would be hard to beat this hike as it provided lots of variety with the steep decline and stream crossing. Hiking the waterfall was the highlight. Appropriate gear such as the wetsuit and waterproof or water shoes are helpful depending on the water height and temperature. Bring plenty of water and snacks and start early. The water was too high to hike much into the subway, but the hike was amazing anyways. We did the hike bottom up. Enjoy!

hiking
scramble
18 days ago

This was an amazing trail and a great experience- hike in the river as much as you can- the NPS would like you to for the environment and it is easier- just bring a pair of dry socks to switch out to for the ascent back up out of the canyon. You are hopping over and around rocks and boulders much of the way. As people have shared, the hardest part of the hike is finding your way back out- just carefully watch yourself on all trails gps and you will find your way. I foolishly got behind some youngsters and did not look at my gps for a bit and ended up doing a much more dicey scramble out of the canyon- fortunately all trails was able to link me back up to the proper trail. Take plenty of water or filtration. Enjoy!

20 days ago

so much to see. so very beautiful ever turn or climb is another amazing view. I loved the hike.

hiking
1 month ago

Marvelous views, and the fact that only 80 people at most can do it per day makes it feel secluded. It's a long way in, but the pools and Subway at the end are worth it. The hike back up to Left Fork TH is definitely killer, though.

hiking
1 month ago

From the top down it's spectacular views & vistas, rock formations and amazingly magical pools and waterfalls. The last several miles coming out of the canyon are tough, though still pretty. The "trail" is mostly scrambling over rocks and river stones, with no flat trail hiking. It gets exhausting after already hiking and climbing miles from the top, but it's so worth it! (We did top down with ropes & harnesses-anchors are already in place, wet suits, dry bags, and water filtration gear to replenish camelbacks. The first time I did Subway years ago we only needed rope to down climb and hand line. Due to the ever-changing conditions the additional gear made for a safer and more enjoyable trip. The park rangers have the best current info).

hiking
1 month ago

Stephen's review below is spot on, though we happily didn't experience any break-ins at the trailhead. The hike itself was extremely pleasant -- we saw ~20 other people in ~8 hours, which is pretty remarkable for Zion -- and not too difficult except for the steep climb in/out of the canyon at the beginning/end. (We did the non-technical bottom-up version, not rappelling top-down.) We hiked in old tennis shoes -- no walking stick, no boots -- and didn't have any major issues with footing. Although there's no visible trail in many places, you can't get too lost since you're following the river. Tons of tadpoles and gorgeous scenery all the way up. The Subway itself wasn't as dramatic as many of the pictures that are out there, and the overall geology of the Narrows is more awe-inspiring, but if you get lucky enough to get a permit (yes, they do check!), do this hike!

hiking
muddy
rocky
scramble
1 month ago

The Subway is a grueling but incredibly rewarding challenge, meant only for able-bodied hikers. When the route is open, you must enter the lottery to obtain a permit from the Wilderness Desk at the Visitors Center (check online a few days before you want to go). Park at Left Fork Trailhead in Kolob Canyon at YOUR OWN RISK! My car was broken into while I was gone, and my wallet was stolen from the glove compartment. Zion Park Rangers informed me this has happened other times at this same parking lot. The canyon entrance is very steep - wear shoes with good tread. I also recommend bringing a pair of lightweight hiking poles. Once in the creekbed, take note of the placement of the Left Fork trailhead sign - it’s very easy to miss this on your way back out. It will be on your downcanyon right side as you exit. From here, the trail goes up the canyon and is not marked in any way whatsoever. There are some sandy spots, some rocky spots, some muddy spots, and frequent river crossings. I changed from hiking boots into old sneakers for this part, and kept my boots dry in my pack. Be careful on the rocks, it’s very easy to slip and fall, and park rangers often have to rescue people with broken ankles from this hike. Go slowly and watch what you’re doing! Although the trail is nonexistent at times, as long as you follow the creek up canyon you won’t get lost. Just stay close to the water. It took us about 5.5 hours to reach The Subway, although we were stopping to take photos and have snack breaks fairly often. There’s no rush, this hike is going to take all day. The views at the Subway were amazing, we sat and had lunch there and watched a group of canyoneers repel down into the natural pools. On the return, I changed back into my hiking boots (with dry socks) for the canyon exit. It doesn’t take too long, but it’s super steep and there are lots of challenging rock scrambles. And at the end of a long/hot hike, it’s pretty exhausting. Was really glad to have dry boots on for that last part. **Keep your eyes open for a big white rock on your upcanyon left as you trek out to the Subway — there are real dinosaur tracks imprinted into the stone!

hiking
no shade
off trail
rocky
scramble
1 month ago

This trail had it all. Definitely one of the best hikes in Zion. You will need to get a permit online through the lottery. We were lucky enough to get The Subway the week before July 4th. Ran into maybe 12-15 people. Everyone was super friendly and added to the overall wonderful experience. It took us 8 hours, including about 1.5-2 hours of playing in the Subway/various waterfalls and snacking. We clocked in 11+ miles. If you can tolerate the freezing water, I would recommend swimming through the narrow canyons to see the Keyhole Falls (this is once you arrive at the Subway). Mind the slippery rocks here and throughout the hike. We ended up hiking through the river on the way back because there were spots where it was that much easier. We brought 2L of water each and an extra 32 oz water bottle to split between two people. It was enough for us, but we made sure to have extra water and snacks in the car waiting for us. Man, I wish I could go back in time and do this hike all over again.

hiking
1 month ago

Epic hike! If you already have permits you likely know what you’re getting yourself into. Don’t be afraid to get wet. Hiking in the river can be easier than the banks at times. If you check out my way points, you’ll see we hiked in the river basically the whole way back.

hiking
1 month ago

I did this trail with a group of friends last year. We’re all pretty average hikers. It took us about 8 hours to complete but we also stopped in the subway to swim and eat lunch. Water shoes are a must! Even with them, about half of us still slipped on slippery rocks and fell in the water. It was hot though so wasn’t a problem. Definitely check the weather. NPS warns against flash flooding in that area. Thankfully it started to rain as we were climbing out of the canyon. The climb back up at the end was the toughest! Definitely pay attention to where you came down from- very easy to miss. Loved this hike. So happy we won the lottery and got a permit for this hike.

hiking
1 month ago

Hiked the bottom up portion. Used trekking poles going into and out of the canyon. Started this hike around 6am which allowed me to have The Subway to myself for a couple hours. It's pretty easy to stay dry going in, but you will get wet in the Subway. Hiking out is faster if you just stay in the water. Absolutely beautiful place, and I've heard the top down is supposed to be even better.

hiking
rocky
1 month ago

Great hike! Did it with a 2 year old strapped to my back. Long, technical hike but well worth the effort and views!

hiking
2 months ago

Amazing hike! We typically look for a really hard hike in every park to escape the crowds and this one was perfect. We ran into maybe 15 people, but 95% of the hike we were alone. We mostly hiked in the water, which was a great temperature. We wore hiking boots with wool socks, didn’t need our fleece jackets, and had no poles (they would have gotten in the way). We each had 3L of water plus about 60 oz extra between the 4 of us and ran out of water. So do take as much as you can so you have some for the brutal climb at the end. Dang it was hard in the beating sun! The Subway is neat. The pools were not as green as the edited photos you see online, but still worth seeing. My favorite part of the hike are the red cascade waterfalls. We slid down them like a slide to prevent falling and it was fun and refreshing. :) We logged 10.4 miles (probably from zig zagging all the way up) and it took us 8 hours with stops and playing with all the frogs.

hiking
2 months ago

We left from the trailhead at 8 am and got to the Subway just after 12 pm. We played and ate and we're back to the trailhead by 5 pm. We are very average hikers. This was one of our absolute favorite hikes. We were concerned that it might be a lame hike until the final slot canyon section but really it was beautiful the whole time and just got better and better as we continued on the trail. We didn't take any neoprene socks or boots or anything. We hiked in gym shoes then switched to sandles or heavy duty water shoes once we were ready to get our feet wet in the water. The water was chilly but actually felt good in the heat of the day. It never got past knee deep until the final 10 minutes when you are in the slot canyon. Swimming through this section was quite cold but our clothes dried off very fast. This hike is very worth the effort but definitely start early and bring plenty of water. It does take a while and the final climb out is tiring after a long day of hiking. We loved it. We got concerned after reading some reviews that it might be too hard for us or too cold but it really was fine and we are only in mediocre shape.

hiking
2 months ago

Left a tan, tactical-looking backpack at the parking lot on 6/8/19. It’s got a white pair of women’s ASICS tennis shoes in it. If anybody in Utah finds it, please let me know. colebunderson@gmail.com Also, the hike was awesome. Careful on the sandstone waterfalls right before the Subway, they’re really slick, easy to fall and bruise a tailbone. Much faster coming back because we weren’t avoiding water and could just walk through the stream rather than follow all the lengths the trail goes to dodging boulders. Started late - about 11. Took 3 hours to get in and probably 2-2.5 getting out. High temp about 90, nobody ever got cold.

hiking
2 months ago

App says 7 miles but it was 10-11 miles. We did not have enough water. Bring more water than you think. Stay close to the river. We did the hike with a 13, 11, 9 year old and a 4 year old. Would not recommend bringing anyone under 10 years old. Beautiful hike. Stop and play in the pools. I recommend renting boots and getting 1/2 size bigger. The Subway was a little underwhelming and the wind was super cold in the Subway itself. So nice to be out of crowds of Zion. We saw 15 people in 8 hours. The last part was a little brutal. Save enough energy and water to get up the canyon at the end.

hiking
off trail
scramble
2 months ago

This is a tough but awesome hike. If you enjoy pathfinding and getting wet you'll have a great time. It's a long day but stick with it to the end and you'll be rewarded. First off, you need a permit to do this trail, obtained via online lottery. Please respect the park and do not come if you don't get a permit. There's plenty of other beautiful places to hike in Zion. The first half mile is fairly flat, before you come to a steep and intimidating downhill, maybe 700ft over a quarter mile. Going down is not too bad with fresh legs and sure feet, but you'll dread the return. At the bottom you'll follow the trail towards the sound of water. There are a few path splits , but as long as you get to the water you'll know where to head. Now you head up the river. You can spend a lot of the time following trails on both sides of the river and avoid getting wet for a while (and one person we met made it quite far staying dry!), but eventually you will need to get wet. My take is that you should follow trails when they're obvious and easy, but at a certain point it's just easier to walk up the stream. The scenery is cool with some cool step-waterfalls and canyon peaks towering over you. There will come a certain point towards the end when you can't avoid getting wet. The canyon walls will start to tower over you and eventually you'll come to the Subway entrance itself. It's all really awesome, though you're limited by how far you can go in unless you're ready to swim for a bit. The way back is about the same (though easier to walk downstream in my opinion, though part of that was probably that it was just easier to traipse downstream). You'll eventually get back to the turn off the river and up the canyon and I won't lie, it's hot, it's hard and it sucks after a long day. But you'll get up it and feel totally justified in eating or drinking whatever you want for dinner. For footwear, I definitely recommend neoprene socks. I probably didn't need them, but they definitely kept my feet a pleasant temperature. I also had canyoneering boots from one of the Springdale outfitters that drained water well. I liked the grip they gave me, especially at the end where it was very slippery in the water. But I also saw plenty of other people just in tennis shoes or even just the neoprene socks who (very slowly and carefully) managed. So do whatever gives you the most comfort in your feet or your wallet. Finally, bring plenty of water or some way to purify. This is a long, long, hard day and it will be super hot when you are heading back.

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