How To Discover Nature’s Secret Subway Tunnel (And Hike It!)

The Subway At Zion National Park Will Stun You

Those who have hiked Zion National Park know that this park has just about the best of everything.

Famous hikes include the Narrows, Observation Point, Angels Landing, Weeping Rock and Zion Mountain Ranch. One of the most hidden hikes but most photographed is a canyon called The Subway. It’s not really a secret but it’s definitely hard to get to logistically and you’ll need a bit of luck to get the license.

The narrow passage way is filled with eroded red rock with dark pools. The sun can barely get through to the Subway and it’s quite cold inside even when it is 100 degrees outside.

To say the least, those that have been there have had a magical experience!

Zion Subway

Photo Credit: Joshua Ferguson WSJ

 Visiting The Subway

Getting to Zion National Park is about a 3-hour drive from Las Vegas. Admission is $20 per car to get into the park.

There are two ways you can hike the Subway: Bottom Up or Top Down. You’ll want to make sure you’re fit for the hike as it’s quite strenuous.

Bottom Up Route – If you’re visiting from the bottom up, you’ll want to hike through the Left Fork of North Creek. This route requires route finding, creek crossing and scrambling over boulders. The hike ends at the Left Fork Trailhead on the Kolab Terrace Road. Thee total route is roughly 9 miles.

Top Down Route – This route is roughly 9.5 miles and requires rappelling skills, rope and extensive route finding experience. The route also requires you to swim through deep pools of canyon water. Follow along the trail beginning at the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead and end at the Left Fork Trailhead.

It is possible to do the lower Subway from the bottom without having to do any rappelling and you’ll see some stunning sections of the canyon. It takes half the time (roughly 4 hours round-trip). However, you’ll miss out on the upper canyon which is quite fun.

Zion Subway

Photo Credit: Joshua Ferguson WSJ

Application For Advance Lottery

In order to visit The Subway, you’ll need to obtain a permit which requires an advanced application to an online lottery 3 months in advance. The non-refundable lottery application is $5 and entries are limited to one request per individual per month. Applicants will be sent a notification email on the 5th day of the following month about the status of their request.

The best time to go is between May and September with a group size of 2 to 6.

Zion Subway

Photo Credit: National Geographic

Hiking Safety & What To Bring

Flash floods can be deadly so please check out the weather report prior to leaving for the Subway. You’ll want to ensure you bring plenty of water, a camera, drybags and other hiking necessities.

If you’re a serious photographer, you’ll want to get there in the morning before the sun hits. Since the Subway has dim lighting, you’ll want to get a tripod for the low light conditions.

Zion Subway

Photo Credit: Eric Leifer

Zion Subway



Photo Credit: JJ / Thousandblunders

Well there you have it – Zion’s Subway revealed. Does it make you want to go visit? No doubt The Subway is one of the most fascinating areas of Zion but there are so many things you can do at Zion National Park. Why not make Zion part of your next hiking and adventure trip?

Happy Trails!


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