Root Family

Root Family

Aug 20, 2012

The Subway August 20 2012

I put in for permits for the Left Fork of North Creek (the Subway) at Zion National Park back in April.  Didn't win the lottery to be able to do a trip in July.  Put in for permits in May and won the lottery for my third choice date in August.  Tyler would have to miss a football practice in order to come on this trip, but he was game and we made arrangements. 

When we arrived at Zion on the 19th we set up camp in The Watchman campground and let the kids play around down at the Virgin river for a bit while we waited for Tyler's parents and April and Bill to arrive. Tyler's parents had graciously offered to watch Bailey and Waylon while we did this hike.

Playing in the river

Just after everyone else arrived we started driving up the canyon with the intension of showing my parents the cool swimming hole at Pine Creek and cool off for a bit, however the weather wasn't looking good and a light rain quickly turned into a heavy down-pour. We quickly jumped on a shuttle bus, hoping to see the rare splendor of a canyon like Zion with waterfalls pouring out of every area of the canyon. We got off at Weeping Rock to check out the falls there and were treated to seeing a whole new waterfall begin over the ledge.  It was awesome to see the power of nature, flashfloods starting all over the park, but it did also cause me to start having some worries about our plans to hike the Subway the next day.  In order to pick up my permit at the backcountry desk earlier I did have to sign saying that I knew the route, the risks, and would not enter if there was a chance of flashflood.

Weeping Rock

The view looking out on the canyon from Weeping Rock

Back at camp our additional hiking friends (Matt & Amy) arrived later that evening and we received a phone call from some other friends (Brian & Tara) who would also be joining us and were staying in town at a hotel.  We went to bed planning to get up and hike but had already discussed the need for a backup plan.  In our tent Tyler and I couldn't sleep at all.  The rain was pouring and it was stuffy in the tent.  We broke out our headlamps, books and maps and spent hours concocting various alternate hikes for the following day.  We both wanted to do the Subway so bad but I even started to get excited about the alternate as it looked unlikely that we'd get to see the Subway.

We got up according to plan and rendezvoused to head up the Kolob Terrace Road.  At the trailhead we met some hikers who said there was a group stuck from yesterday, a flashflood had started and they had sought higher ground but then couldn't get down.  This was daunting and we all felt the need to be responsible, but also the desire to just do it.  We decided we were a tough group, relatively experienced, in-shape and enthusiastic.  We were just going to hike smart and fast.

At the Trail head

I fully expected the canyon to be an awesome hike, but just like the West Rim trail, the views from the very start were amazing!  We were up above the main canyon of Zion and could see tons of other canyons as we headed down toward Russell Gulch.  Pine trees and red rock together in the same view are like a perfect mixture of both my homes, I grew up in Montana, but having been in Utah now for 13 years I'm in love with the red rock.    

We slowly descended further down until we reached the tree whose roots through broken rock we could finally follow to enter the Left Fork of North Creek.  There we did another evaluation of the gray skies, noticed a lot of blue starting to appear and decided again that we weren't turning back.  Minutes later we had reached our first swim.

Looking down on the left fork

Working our way down the slippery hill

The first swimmer

The canyon was wet and beautiful right from the start, even if the water was all chocolatey, it was still such an amazing experience. We had the entire canyon to ourselves that day.

At one point we had to find a bypass route due to the tightness of the bowling alley. Lots of branches had gotten stuck behind it and the water was flowing too fast to attempt to go over/under them. Luckily we found another route around as we backtracked up the canyon a bit.

Turning around

The bypass

Beautiful narrows

Eventually we found ourself at the famous keyhole slot

Around the corner from the keyhole slot is the last rappel down into the "Subway" section

The Subway

After The Subway the scenery continues to be beautiful, but eventually it turns back into a regular creek, with lots of boulder hopping for 3-4+ miles until you reach the steep climb out of the canyon.

Red rock creek bed

Waterfalls everywhere

Group shot

It was so hot. One last soak in the water before climbing out of the canyon

On our way out of town we stopped at the Orchard in Springdale to buy some fresh fruit and let the kids play around a bit.

The Subway is so beautiful and a hike I'd jump on any time I get the chance. Such beautiful scenery and an amazing opportunity to see the canyon in such rare form.

Here is a video of our trip through the canyon.