The Subway, also known as the Left Fork of North Creek, is one of Zion National Park's most popular and most technical slot canyons. It should not be attempted by those who are not experienced in canyoneering, route finding and desert travel unless with a guide.
Named for its tube like walls, the Subway is a spectacular and diverse backcountry trek. Only day hikes are permitted.
There are two routes to attempt the Subway: bottom-up and top-down. Both are approximately nine miles roundtrip.
Bottom-Up: This route is the less technical of the two. It's a 6-10 hour hike with no marked trail. Hikers will be in and out of North Creek all day and climbing over many boulders. It's easy to get lost on this route, so be sure to bring route finding materials including a detailed route description. This route begins and ends at the Left Fork Trailhead.
Top-Down: This is the more technical of the two routes as it requires canyoneering experience including rappelling. At 9.5 miles from one end to the other, you'll need harnesses, rappelling gear and 60-feet of rope. This route requires long swims through water that is often extremely cold, even in the height of the summer. Wet suits are highly recommended. This route starts at the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead and ends at the Left Fork Trailhead.
Flash floods are one of the biggest risks when hiking in desert slot canyons. They can appear seemingly out of nowhere, even when it's not actively raining where you are. Know the signs of a flash flood and never enter a slot canyon when the weather forecast predicts heavy rain or flooding in the area.
The Subway is one of the most popular hikes in Zion and requires a permit year-round.
April through October, an advanced permit lottery is available via Zion's website at www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/subwaypermits.htm. Submit your $5.00 non-refundable application fee three months prior to your desired hike date and cross your fingers that your name gets drawn. Permits are awarded on the fifth day of the month after application. For example, if you wish to hike the Subway in July, submit an application in April and you'll be notified on May 5th if you've won the lottery.
Rarely, not all advanced permits will be claimed after the lottery. Check the calendar on the permit web page within three months of your desired trip date to see if any permits remain and to apply.
There are always some last minute permits available for the Subway. You can apply for the Last Minute Drawing between two and seven days of your desired hike date on the permit web page. On the extremely rare occasion there are still permits left after this drawing, walk-in permits may be available the day before your hike.
Need a map? Download an official Zion National Park map for basic road and attraction locations. Want a detailed topographical map of trails in the park? Buy the NatGeo Trails Illustrated Map for Zion National Park at REI.com. The map includes trails, trailheads, points of interest, campgrounds, lakes and much more. Or get the complete Utah National Parks Map Pack with five topographic maps. All of the NatGeo maps are printed on waterproof, tear-resistant material.