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Friday, August 28, 2015

Zion National Park's "The Subway", Info and Permitting

If you are looking to meet some great people who share similar interests as you, I highly recommend joining a Meetup Group in your area.  I have joined a few different hike/outdoor and dog meetup groups out here and have met some pretty great people (and their pooches). Alicia over at Girl On A Trail is one of the highly knowledgeable and awesome people I have met out here.  She has been super helpful in helping me navigate the whole permitting process for some of the popular National Parks out here.  

The idea of getting a permit to hike somewhere is quite foreign to this East Coaster (the land of few National Parks).  The hardest part was figuring out WHEN to apply.  

After we both failed at getting Rim to Rim Permits (large lottery system, I only got end of season mid week which I couldn't make work) she recommended applying for a permit to hike The Subway (Zion National Park) instead.   Well thanks to Alicia's tip, I applied, got a permit, and am SUPER excited for this hike in October.  

So thanks to Alicia's suggestion, I am going to give you all the info you need to apply for a permit and get ready for this hike.    Plan early because you need to get your permit 3 months in advance! 

Planning and getting a permit to hike 

"The Subway" of Zion National Park


"Though named for mass transit, the Subway sees just 50 people a day. The oddly tubular canyon, tucked in the wilder western part of Utah's Zion National Park, is limited to hikers with permits. A segment of a seven-mile gorge, the Subway opens narrowly to the towering sandstone walls above".  Source

"There are two ways to explore The Subway (the Left Fork of North Creek). Permits are required regardless of the direction of travel. Both trips involve extensive route finding. Visitors are encouraged to do the trip with an experienced hiker of The Subway or obtain a detailed route description. The Subway is a day-use area only.

1.  From the Bottom Up:  This is a strenuous 9-mile round-trip hike through the Left Fork of North Creek that requires route finding, creek crossing, and scrambling over boulders. This hike begins and ends at the Left Fork Trailhead on the Kolob Terrace Road.
(this is the route we are taking- no rappelling for me!)

2.  From the Top Down:  This is a strenuous 9.5-mile hike that requires rappelling skills, 60 feet of rope, and extensive route finding experience. The route also requires swimming through several deep pools of very cold debris-filled water. The trail begins at the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead and ends at the Left Fork Trailhead. Both trailheads are located on the Kolob Terrace Road."
Permit Application:
Due to the popularity of the Subway and Mystery Canyon, the park created an online lottery for reservations. The Advance Lottery does not run from November through March due to a low demand for permits.
1.  The Advance Lottery: 3 months prior  
Advance Lottery applications are completed online. Entries must be submitted three months prior to your planned trip. Entries are limited to one request per individual per month. Entrants can request three prioritized dates. The non-refundable lottery application is $5.00.   Applicants will be sent a notification email on the fifth day of the following month with information about the status of their request. If a reservation is awarded, the permit must be obtained before the trip at a park visitor center. The cost of the permit will be based on your group size.  Apply for the Advance Lottery
Advance Reservations: up to 3 months in advance Occasionally, a few spaces remain after the Advance Lottery has been held. These spaces can be reserved through the Canyoneering Reservation System.   Apply for Reservations After the Lottery has Run 

2.  The Last Minute Drawing: 7-2 days in advance

If no more Calendar Reservations are available, the Last Minute Drawing will become an option 7-2 days before your trip date. In the unlikely event that spaces remain after the Last Minute Drawing, walk-in permits become available the day before your trip date.

Permit Cost:
$10.00 - 1-2 people
$15.00 - 3-7 people
$20.00 - 8-12 people


ABOUT THE HIKE:  From CanyoneeringUSA


  • Rating:  Non-technical, moderately strenuous hike
  • Preferred Season:  Summer, Fall
  • Distance:  3.5 rugged miles (5.3 km) each way
  • Time Commitment:  6 to 10 hours
  • Altitude Gain:  1000 feet (300 m)
  • Shade?:  Most of the hike is in the full sun.
  • Access?:  Starts and finishes at Left Fork Trailhead, on the Kolob Terrace Road
  • Permit Required?:  YES - The same permit applies to The Subway from the Top or Bottom. Permits are required to enter the drainage. See permit section above!
  • Flash Flood Risk:  Moderate - there are only a few sections of sustained narrows.
  • Spring - Expect high, cold water due to spring runoff. If the stream is in flood, access to "the goodies" will be difficult.
  • Summer - HOT! Start early to avoid the heat and be aware the hike out is in full sun.
  • Fall - Generally a great time for this hike - great fall photography along the creek.
  • Winter - Possible snow and ice along the stream and at the red ledges.

  • Sturdy hiking shoes
  • Ample water and food for a full day hike
  • Drinking Water Water is available to purify, but bring ample water


Road Closures:
Note: The Kolob Terrace Road that leads to both entry points of the Left Fork (Subway) will be undergoing major reconstruction from March through the end of October. Three-hour blocks of closures will begin March 2, 2015. Plan accordingly.


  1. Wow that looks like an amazing hike! Have fun!!

  2. Holy crap that looks unreal! And what a process to get a permit haha.

    x- Naomi in Wonderland


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