Jun 24, 2013

Great Hikes- Zion Subway


Zion Subway Hike

Zion Subway, not as insanely popular as Angels Landing but, is another popular attraction among the adventure seekers in Zion National Park. This is a magnificent destination as well as a wonderfully beautiful and pleasant hike. This hike actually defined the word 'solo' for me. For the whole of the 9 long miles I didn't see another human being. It was just me and the canyon. The whisper of the wind, music of the water, singing birds, the sound of my own footsteps and smell of the wet mud were my companions. It was like reconnecting with the Earth!

Zion Subway seen from inside out

Zion Subway is stunningly beautiful gorge which looks like subway tunnel. The canyon is created by the Left Fork of North Creek. There are two routes to explore this area. Bottom-up is a 9-miles long strenuous hike which begins and ends at Left Fork trailhead on the Kolob Terrace road. It requires extensive route finding experience, walking in the river, bush whacking, and some boulder hopping.  Top-down route is 9.5-miles long and requires rappelling and extensive route finding experience, wet suite and rappelling equipment. Top-down route is the best way to explore and enjoy every part of this canyon. Bottom-up route ends at Keyhole falls and it is difficult to scramble up to the second level. I was doing it solo and so I chose the bottom-up route. As I have heard the second level is the best! One has to get a permit from Zion-NPS authorities to hike in this day-use-only area. Due to the popularity of the canyon park authorities have created an online lottery system.

Waterfalls along the trail
I started early in the morning, to avoid crowds, rain and flash floods. At the trailhead I saw a group of 6-7 hikers, I was happy and asked them if I could join. They were taking the top-down route and were there just for the shuttle to arrive. They wished me luck and cautioned to be alert for flash floods.

My journey started on a short flat trail followed by a steep descent  into a deep canyon. I was clearly worried how will I climb it up on the way back! Once I was at the narrow canyon floor I wondered where is the trail? The trail is not maintained at all, in fact there is no trail. One has to wade through the river. I made a mental note about the cliff I had to climb back to the parking. Though there is a small sign, it is very easy to miss it and walk further into nowhere! I went on and on hopping on the wet rocks. I was in surprise ... where are the other hikers! I could hear only the sweeping wind and the flowing water. Once a while a lizard would make a sudden noise.

Waterfalls along the trail
My walk would never end I thought. Rock hopping which felt easy in the beginning was not very funny anymore. Bush whacking left few scratches on my skin. My bag was a bit heavy because I had carried some extra food, water, a sweater, raincoat, flashlight, some medicine. That was a precaution just in case, to survive flash floods! I climbed up a huge boulder for a break and waited for other hikers, if any ... nope ... no one yet ...

I continued ... I was getting more and more isolated from the rest of the world I felt. It wasn't scary to be all alone in the canyon. After walking for a long time the landscape was turning more and more red in color, and that was the indication I was nearing my fascinating destination! On the way the waterfalls were interesting. I took few pictures and moved ahead. Yes, I walked for few more minutes and I opened my eyes and mouth wide open. I was awestruck by the gorgeous canyon right in front of me! I was so eager to explore and I had my first fall! The rocks here are so slippery one has to be very careful not to get injured.

Potholes on the way to Keyhole Falls
I slowly walked inside ... more and more surprises were waiting for me. The potholes, and the thin water flowing over the rock bed, small waterfalls created over the cracks, the play of light and shadow and the mysterious canyon itself was something out of the world. My interest was to reach the Keyhole Falls for which I had to cross a pothole which was quite deep.

Well, I tied my backpack to my head and jumped into it. I felt the very silky smooth sand below my feet. It was a very pleasant feeling for my feet after hopping on the rocks for 4.5-miles :) I climbed back up on the other side of the hole after slipping twice. Then the whole canyon floor is covered with that silky sand wet with thin layer of cool flowing water. It was like some therapy to the tired feet. The canyon snakes a bit here before the falls.

Zion Subway Hike Keyhole waterfalls
Keyhole Falls
There it was ... the Keyhole Falls! Sneaky behind the huge rocks. The thin flow of water with soothing sound. I wondered why is it called Keyhole after all! I took few pictures and then thought of checking what is behind the waterfalls. I went in ... it was nice feeling to stand under the waterfalls. Since there was no one else I stood there for long time until I started feeling cold. 

Behind the waterfalls was a dark chamber, one could easily hide and go unnoticed! And looking out from there ... the passage out is the Keyhole! Don't you see that in the picture? I spent a lot of time moving around the canyon. I took pictures of whatever I saw. After having a long lunch I looked back once at the magnificent art of nature and left. Now, I had to rush back. The sky was turning dark with clouds. I had to be worried about the flash floods. My feet were soaked wet and hurting. I walked as fast as possible, now I had to look for the sign out of the canyon. Climbing up was hard, very hard. I almost scrambled up with hands and feet because I was tired, I didn't have enough strength. I was relieved when I reached the parking. Walking in the river had soaked my feet and the skin had become so very soft that it was peeling off. Getting rid of the shoes was such great feeling.

I drove towards Hurricane, UT. Zion NP was the last destination in this road-trip. Next morning, I reached Las Vegas in time for the flight back to San Jose, CA. For the whole of the next week I kept re-relaying my experiences ... it was amazingly wonderfully beautiful journey which I will remember for my lifetime! 

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Related articles-
Point Reyes National Seashore, California
Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Oregon
Denali National Park, Alaska
National Chambal Sanctuary, India
National Parks of USA.

This post is linked to Our World Tuesday.

If you want pictures please ask me :)
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Scrapbook- A Travel Blog by Kusum Sanu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

48 comments:

  1. Gorgeous! Looks like a painting. Excellent post.

    www.rajniranjandas.blogspot.in.

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  2. A place with different view...

    nice info and photos

    thanks kusum

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    1. Thanks Krishna, glad you liked the post!

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  3. What a delight to travel to such a place, Kusum:)

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    1. Yes, it was a special place for me indeed!

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  4. what an amazing experience. the views are definitely worth all the effort. hats off to you and your determination. i cannot do anything solo if it killed me. i'm not equipped to be all alone on a hike like that.

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    1. Thanks May, I wanted to see the place and so I went on ... later the experience was something special!

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  5. Fantastic shots. I'd love to visit there some time.

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  6. I love your captures for the day, Kusum! You had quite a trip!! It's one of my favorite parks although I haven't been there recently! Thanks for the memories!!

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    1. Thank you Sylvia! Yes, it was a great experience! Glad my post brought back all the special memories!

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  7. Great shots!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

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  8. What a brave solo hike. You must have felt so elated when you completed your walk. Great photos.

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    1. Thank you Mary! Yes, it was very special experience!

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  9. great adventure and absolutely beautiful.

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  10. Interesting post and I just love the first picture! Great shot!

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  11. Those falls are amazing - what lovely shots!

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  12. This looks like an awesome place to hike! Gorgeous waterfalls. I loved your photos.

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    1. Yes! It is a great place to hike Eileen!

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  13. Wonderful looking place - I think I've seen some other pictures from these region - another place added to the list!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. Yep, very wonderful place! A must visit if you like hiking.

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  14. Exorbitant beautiful! post written very well with lot of information. Nice post.

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  15. Amazing shots! What a wonderful place.

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  16. What a beautiful place and your stunning photos certainly do it justice. I enjoyed reading about your adventure.

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    1. Thank you Liz. Glad you enjoyed my post :)

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  17. Oh my goodness I WANT to do this... one day I am so going to go on a road trip like this in the USA. Just amazing, thank you so much for sharing

    Mollyxxx

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  18. You are really brave to have done the whole hike by yourself. Somehow I never have a zeal for travel alone. It somehow isn't fun if friends aren't around. You had an amazing trip and got some fantastic pictures.

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    1. Not sure if I am brave but, I had a very strong urge to see that world of wonder by my own eyes! Thanks for your nice comment :)

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  19. What a great post, love your photos and detailed story! This is on my list to visit but I have also heard how hard the hike is.... I'm hoping one day to make it. Nature is amazing!

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    1. Thanks! Only thing is there is no trail. The terrain is flat after descending into the canyon. You should be able to make it!

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  20. What a wonderful experience! Anything worthwhile usually is associated with some pain and hardship and this was no exception. For me, the best thing would have been being alone to experience this wonder and be at one with the earth.

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    1. Yes Arija, It is the best thing to be in tough with the Mother Earth!

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  21. Oh what a beautiful place. Terrific shots!

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  22. Kusum..I would buy a book with all your adventures... No trail...jumping in the water.. wow .. You really are a modern explorer and adventurer....Michelle

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    1. Thank you Michelle for your kind words! I would love to be an explorer and adventurer!

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