We were invited to hike the Subway in Zion National Park in southern Utah. We didn’t want to pass up this rare opportunity, so we made plans to head out Monday August 27, 2018, do the hike, and return the evening of Tuesday August 28, 2018. We chose to go boondocking instead of trying to find an organized campground or RV park. The place we chose was just north of the Virgin River. The views were amazing and we were quite literally all alone until other members of the family arrived. Our trailer sat at location 37.2025525,-113.2318394 and can be seen on the Google map image to the left.
We were originally headed to the location just to the south of the one shown, but the dirt road between the two campsites was rutty, rocky, and fairly inclined in places. You may be able to travel east on the road leaving the spot we camped and then come south and back west to the site on the river, but we didn’t bother checking since our site was so nice for our needs.
On Tuesday morning we awoke early, ate breakfast, and headed through Virgin, Utah and up to the trailhead. The trail begins level, wanders through a beautiful forest, and then heads down through slick rock. At the bottom of the canyon you encounter a small stream. In many places the stream is the “trail” and at times it is deep enough that you have to swim and push your gear in dry bags. There are a few places where the drop-offs are significant enough to require rappelling, but this just adds to the fun and charm of the place.
The canyon views are simply amazing on this hike. There is so much to see and experience. There are cacti, water grasses, pines, sandy bottom stretches of the stream, boulder fields, fish, frogs, and much more. If you do this hike, the one thing you will experience, and likely remember for some time to come, is the icy cold water. It is amazing that water can be this cold in the middle of a dessert. At the places where you have to plunge in, it takes your breath away, but it is fun and refreshing.
The hike is named after a small portion of the canyon known as the Subway. Just before you round the corner and enter into the “Subway”, you come across a log that has probably been photographed more than any dead tree anywhere else in the world. I found the lighting so amazing that I was compelled to take my own image, just like everyone else. What puzzles me is that this log has been photographed so many times, but how? How does this log survive the flash floods that sculpt this place. They come frequently and they’re no doubt ferocious. They move trees, carve rock, and push huge boulders.
As much as I loved the color in the canyon, when I looked up and around I was blown away by the beauty of the entire place. There is red rock, green trees, and brilliant blue sky. It was quiet with just the noise of the stream flowing over the rocks.
Coming around this beautiful corner you are met with a view of the Subway. It looks like a huge rock pipe gouged round and smooth by those mysterious floods that do this, but leave that dead stick in place just up stream. What surprised me were the pools in the floor of this part of the canyon. The whole place was quite impressive. If the water temperature would have been 60° or higher we would have spent significant time in these natural hot tubs, but whatever temperature they actually are was too cold for long sessions of relaxing.
Further down the trail the canyon widens, the stream becomes shallow, and hikers are greeted with views of beautiful waterfalls and scenery. The wider canyon exposes you and the water to more sunlight which in turn warms both significantly, making the water much more inviting.
Beyond these falls the hiking is primarily wading through the river or hiking on a mix of smooth trails and boulder fields. The final mile or so is a very steep ascent up the canyon wall and then across the rim to a parking lot. The climb is approximately 400 vertical feet, but after miles of beautiful hiking it seems like a vertical wall in the desert!
Now that I’ve been home one day my legs are sore and stiff, but I look forward to doing this hike again. It also makes me want to learn more about the area and other amazing hikes.
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