Subway Slot Canyon from Top to Bottom

A 10 mile hike from start to finish. From surreal, slippery red rocks and gorgeous views…

1235277_10103666295361550_2283895746205064019_n swimming, rappelling and climbing our way through the narrow slot canyon.


Exploring the colorful formations within the subway tunnel was magical.


Our journey was especially satisfying after months of planning and persistence. This is a hard place to hike; as we overcame both bureaucratic (paperwork!) and divine (rain!) obstacles for the opportunity to hike this exclusive route. Only 40 permits per day are issued, all managed through a (bassackwards) lottery system that we had to enter four months prior to our planned dates. Word to the wise: have everyone in your group enter the lottery and include a range of dates to ensure you secure a spot. Our group of four was awarded a permit for Sunday, September 21st, rain or shine.


RAIN. Rain had been pouring on Zion for weeks, causing high water levels and flash flooding risks in the slot canyons. We were ‘advised’ not to attempt this route in such conditions, but if we must, we were told to start at the bottom and hike up instead of rappelling down. The bottom half of the canyon is wide and safe (read.. boring).

Reluctant to half-ass our canyoneering experience, after dreaming about this trip for months, we all decided to start at the top and go all the way.

First rappel of the Zion Subway journey

First rappel of the Zion Subway journey

What do you get when you decide to do the Subway from top to bottom when everyone else is scared away by rain? You get the whole canyon to yourself.


You get more swimming, more waterfalls, more fun.


There are indeed narrow areas that you need to be smart about, especially when the water levels are this high. Flash floods come and go quickly in the slot canyons.

keyhole slot

keyhole slot

I’ve learned from watching videos of various Subway experiences that each journey is different. The weather and climate play an important role in setting the tone for your adventure.

The Subway tunnel itself is spectacular, but the journey isn’t over when you make it to your destination.


There are still at least three more hours of hiking down the (now wider) canyon, wading down the river the whole way. Experiencing the bottom-half of the subway canyon made us all thankful that we started at the top. The bottom is beautiful, but it’s hard to be too impressed with a chapel when you’ve just seen Notre Dame.

The end of the journey was hard. I imagine a return journey would be easier with an understanding of the trail and what to expect. Towards the end, we were constantly wondering where the canyon ‘exit’ would be, with only the cairns to lead the way. The exit was thankfully well marked, with a giant ‘arrow shaped’ cairn showing us where to climb out from the canyon; one last feat while muscles are shaking and screaming that they have nothing left. From the top, you can see the start of the trail far in the distance, a tall white peak marks the start of the slot canyon. Ah.. exhaustion mixed with accomplishment is such a satisfying feeling.



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