I've been in two subways in my life. The first is in Washington DC. The second is pictured here. I definitely prefer the latter. The Subway is an incredible geologic landmark. Itís one of those rare places that is barely possible to believe exists, even when you are standing in its midst, in complete awe of the scene before your eyes. It was formed when the Left Fork of the North Creek encountered an ancient lava tube as the stream cut its way deeper into the canyon.
The Left Fork rewards visitors with some of the most spectacular scenery in Zion National Park. The upper section of the canyon formed by the Left Fork narrows to a slot canyon. Itís classified as technical and requires canyoneering skills and climbing equipment. The lower section is non-technical, but is still a moderate to strenuous hike depending on your abilities. In an effort to reduce impact on this increasingly popular area, access is limited to fifty hikers per day. A permit is required from the Zion Visitors Center to hike in either section of the canyon , even for day-hiking.
From the lower trailhead, the hike proceeds easily to the canyon rim for a distance of about three-quarters of a mile. Then there is a steep, four hundred-foot descent to the canyon floor. From there, the hike continues upstream. There are numerous stream crossings, and some easy scrambling is required at times. Along the way, there are several beautiful and picturesque cascades. The turn-around point of the non-technical portion of the hike is at the Subway. The most strenuous part of the hike is the four hundred-foot ascent out of the canyon after nearly eight miles. Total hiking distance to the Subway and back to the lower trailhead is about nine miles.
Iíve been on this hike twice. The first time was in late March of last year. It was a spectacular day of solitude. I literally had the canyon to myself, as I did not see another person on the trail the entire day. However, my photographs from that hike were a bit disappointing. The canyon is not at its photogenic best at that time of year. The deciduous trees are still bare and the best light doesnít make its way to the canyon floor. My second visit was later that year in late September. My photographic efforts that day were much more rewarding. This is one of those places that I hope to be able to return to again and again.
- A tripod is a must for photographing the Left Fork and the Subway successfully.
- A warming filter and a polarizing filter may produce good results.
- Beware of highly contrasting scenes. A graduated neutral density filter may be useful.