This is one of the most exotic places of Zion National Park. You can reach the trailhead from Amber Inn Bed and Breakfast by driving less than 1/2 hour. No more than 50 visitors per day is currently allowed to go on the Subway trail, and you have to apply for a permit with Zion Park in advance.
There are two ways of reaching the Subway: the first one is strenuous, and the second one is even more strenuous. (We will describe only the first one below).
The trip to the Subway involves descending about 650 ft along the edge of a mountain (and ascending it on the way back), finding the path through numerous obstacles such as large boulders and wood logs, crossing the creek over many times, and being very careful not to hurt yourself on the way. The length of the trip is about 4.5 miles one way, so you must devote a whole day and start early, in order to be able to get back until dark (overnight camping is not allowed around Subway).
Be sure to take enough drinking water with you (one gallon per person is a good rule of thumb). Be sure to wear good hiking boots, and be prepared to walk in water, often on very slippery surface.
The best way to visit the Subway is to discover it on your own. Get the permit, go on the trail, and when you reach it, you will know it. If you want to be surprised this way, stop reading here. If you do want to read more about the trip and see the pictures, scroll down…
Discovering the Subway
To reach the trailhead to the Subway from Amber Inn Bed and Breakfast, drive from Rockville west to Virgin (about 7 miles), and take the road to Kolob Reservoir. (Get the exact driving instructions from the park ranger when getting the permit).
The first half mile of the trip is easy: you walk on top of an ancient volcano, encountering many pieces of stone, large and small, made of lava. Then the trail becomes much more difficult, as it descends steeply, from the top of the mountain down to the creek. This is a good test of your physical strength: if you feel rather tired after you get down, better not to go on the rest of the trip, and come back.
The path to the Subway goes along the creek, upstream. Some parts of the path are relatively easy, but often you encounter large boulders, which you cannot pass other than by climbing over them. Often you cannot see where the path goes, and you have to try several ways before you get on the right one. In some places the only way to advance is by wading in the water of the creek.
If you take this trip in summer, the weather may be rather hot. Fortunately, you can cool off by immersing yourself in the creek, as often as you like. Or you can wet your shirt in the water, and that will keep you cool for a while, too.
The creek runs between large red rocks, sculpted by the millions years of running water. It’s hard to believe, but water used to be running much higher than it is now.
After hiking for several hours, climbing over countless number of boulders, crossing the creek many times over, you begin to wonder whether it’s worth to continue the trip. That’s the signal that you are close to the goal. Just when you are ready to go back, the surroundings start to change. The side mountains come closer, their walls become higher, the creek becomes wide and shallow…
… and as you make another turn, you see it: the Subway.
After you see it from inside, you stop wondering why people have chosen this name for it.
What lies ahead? You have to see for yourself…