JOE’S GUIDE TO ZION NATIONAL PARKCitrusMilo.com
THE SUBWAY FROM THE BOTTOM (Non-Technical Hike)

Route Description Photos 1 2 3

The Subway From the Bottom HikeOverview:
If you want to avoid the swimming and rappelling of the Subway "top-down" route but you still want to see some of the beauty of the Subway, you can hike up the Left Fork from the "bottom." Starting and ending at the Left Fork Trailhead (roughly 8.2 miles up the Kolob Terrace Road from the town of Virgin), this route is a completely non-technical hike up the Left Fork of North Creek to the Subway section (almost 3.3 miles one way).  The complete hike may take anywhere between 5 to 9 hours and is a full day in some beautiful remote scenery.

Logistics:
The Left Fork/Subway is one of the few canyons that requires a wilderness permit even for the non-technical "from the bottom" route. This canyon has gained epic popularity and the National Park Service has an advanced lottery and permit reservation system in place to allocate permits to 80 people a day. (Camping is not permitted in the Left Fork.) For more information on permit reservations and the lottery system for the Subway, please see the Zion Permits website.

Detailed Description:
The Left Fork Trailhead is actually several hundred feet above the Left Fork of North Creek. From the parking lot, follow the mostly level well-maintained trail as it heads northeast for roughly half a mile. Soon enough, you will reach the cliffs overlooking the Left Fork; continue along the trail as it makes a fairly steep descent, zigzagging down roughly 400 feet to reach the streambed of the Left Fork. While this section has a lot of loose rock and sand and may be intimidating to some, it isn't very treacherous.

Before you start hiking up the canyon, take a look back at where you came down from. Note the black volcanic rock outcropping that you came down from and take note of the exit signs and spot where the trail meets the water. You will need to locate this spot later this afternoon! (Many tired hikers have accidentally hiked past the exit sign, resulting in several extra hours of misery.)

Now it's time to hike up the canyon! You will alternate between following sections of trails of use along the banks, boulder-hopping, and hiking right in the stream course. Since 2011, the National Park Service has done a good job of constructing obvious trails of use along the banks to make life easier for hikers. (If you see old trails of use that are blocked by logs and sticks or "do not hike here" signs, please avoid them and allow them to return to nature. Many old trails of use were of questionable value and only serve to erode the canyon.) Early in the hike, the trails of use are quite prevalant, but eventually you will have to do some significant hiking in the stream itself. Do not waste energy trying to avoid this; everybody gets their feet and legs wet on this hike.

After roughly two miles of hiking, the not-so-interesting scenery starts to turn beautiful as the canyon becomes less obstructed and more solid slickrock appears at the bottom of the stream. You will pass several cascades and then two roughly 15-foot tall waterfalls that are the favorite subjects of many photographers. The Subway From the Bottom Hike Both waterfalls can be bypassed by hiking around on the right/south side of the canyon. These cascades and waterfalls feel like a grand staircase leading up to a sacred temple, but take great care as the rock here is incredibly slippery. Upstream from the second waterfall, look for the narrow "train track" crack that most of the water flows through.

Soon enough, the canyon makes a sharp turn to the right/south where you will see the dramatic lower Subway--a very short section of canyon where both walls come together very close and a larger tubular oval has been cut out by the flowing water. This is the spot where everybody gets the famous Subway photos. Enjoy the light, the flowing water in the emerald pools, and the numerous unique pothole and weeping wall formations. This is truly a unique and magical spot in the desert. The lower Subway is the turnaround spot for this hike, but if you're willing to get wet, you can continue back into the pools to what's known as the "waterfall room" to see a small 20-foot tall little waterfall created by a logjam. (The water may be waist-deep or require swimming depending on how much sand is in the potholes; conditions change after every flash flood.)

When you have had your fill, it's time to retrace your steps and hike back out! The hike out should seem a bit easier, but allow plenty of time and remember to keep an eye out for the exit spot! (A GPS is very useful to keep track of your progress and to make sure that you didn't miss the exit or attempt to exit too early up Lee Valey!) The steep 400-foot ascent back up to the Left Fork Trailhead can be quite grueling after a long day of hiking, but it will be over soon enough.

The Subway From the Bottom topo map Lower Left Fork Map:
Left Fork Trailhead to The Subway.

Note: While viewing the map, click on the map
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WARNING:
The Subway From the Bottom HikeAllow plenty of time to do this hike and keep track of time! It takes a full day of hiking to see the Subway. If you start late and hike slowly, you will have to turn around before seeing the highlight of the canyon. Do not lose track of time and get caught in the Left Fork after dark.

Seasons and Spring Runoff:
The hiking season for the Subway is typically late spring through autumn, but conditions are much more difficult during the spring runoff which usually takes place during April and May. If you have any concerns about conditions, please ask the rangers at the Wilderness Desk to get the latest information.

Joe's Spin:
While the scenery of the top-down route is much more spectacular, the Subway "from the bottom" route allows hikers to see at least some of the beautiful rock formations of the slot section. The lower part of this canyon isn't the most stunning, but it is still a great place to hike.

VIEW THE PHOTOGRAPHS! Return to the Kolob Terrace

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