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The Zion Subway – Top Down Canyoneering Route – Zion National Park

You may have seen the iconic pictures of the Zion Subway before; the canyon walls carved to create a subway shaped tube, emerald pools of water…it’s absolutely gorgeous. That section is accessed from two ways; top down and bottom up. The bottom up route is a difficult hike, but it does not include any technical sections. Top down is a different story, requiring 2~3 rappels and several canyoneering obstacle sections. Do not attempt this route if you do not have the proper gear and training.

The advantage of the top down route is it includes a lot of beautiful sections you miss coming in the other way.

I was lucky enough to win permits in the Zion lottery system for the Subway for the second time. The water had been running high all winter and spring, so it has a brownish color instead of the emerald color, but that didn’t make the canyon any less beautiful. This was my second time through and I wasn’t even finished before I knew I would be trying for permits again. Beautiful, fun and challenging, the Zion Subway should be on your list.

Stats: 11.77 miles, 6 hours, 971 ft ascent (plus or minus. Gaia is not super accurate in canyons.)

Note: I will work on a trail guide for the bottom up route. I WON’T be making one for any technical routes. I don’t have enough experience canyoneering to be giving people advice….Except to tell you that if you want to learn the sport, do your homework. Take classes and learn as much as you can before trying it. Canyoneering is an easy sport to get in over your head when you are starting out and the punishment for error is often extremely steep.
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6 replies
  1. Amanda Borowczyk
    Amanda Borowczyk says:

    Loved the filming & editing, best video of the Subway hike I've seen!! I'm lucky to have the opportunity to hike it this August – and as you've said, top-down gives you more sections of the Subway right? (Such as the Log at 1:45?) From my research there's one final rapel in between that one in the actual Lower Subway that the ''bottom-up'' hikers see as final destination? We've been trying to figure out which way to hike to get the most out this beautiful canyon!!


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