How Long Does It Take To Do The Subway Hike In Zion National Park?

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Out of all the hiking trails and sightseeing opportunities, Zion National Park offers, perhaps none is more famous than the iconic wonder known as The Subway. This is one of the most mesmerizing hiking trails in Utah and has lured hikers from all over the United States and other parts of the world. A common question for those who haven’t trekked the trail before is, “How long does it take to do The Subway hike?”

The Subway hike in Zion National Park can be done in two ways. The easier option is The Subway from the Bottom-Up, which is a 9-mile hike that takes roughly 5-9 hours. The more strenuous and technical hike is The Subway from the Top-Down, a roughly 9.5-mile trek that takes 6-10 hours to complete.

For outdoor enthusiasts and avid hikers, an opportunity to hike The Subway in Zion National Park is an epic opportunity that you don’t want to pass by. The Subway hike is well known for being a strenuous hike, making efficient planning essential. Discover how long it takes to hike both variations of The Subway hike and what you will need to prepare for the trek.

How Long Does It Take To Complete The Subway Hike?

Zion National Park is considered by many to be one of the best National Parks in The United States. It is well known for its fascinating and awe-inspiring sandstone formations; however, Zion National Park is undoubtedly one of the most diverse National Parks to visit. From fascinating sandstone formations to lush greenery, waterfalls, and snowcapped mountains, Zion National Park indeed has it all!

 Spanning an area of nearly 147,000-acres, Zion National Park is teeming with opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts and hikers. Indeed, seemingly endless miles of trails offering unique hiking and sightseeing opportunities are available to those up for an adventure. One of the memorable hikes in Zion National Park is The Subway hike.

Aside from the many incredible sightseeing opportunities along this hike, none is more mesmerizing than the climax of the trek, which is where hikers get to navigate through the tubular rock formations known as The Subway. The beautiful lighting, emerald pools, and rock formations are a sight that needs to be seen to be believed.

We have to mention from the outset that The Subway hike is both strenuous and moderately technical. The Subway hike is by no means “a walk in the park” and should not be treated lightly. There are two ways to complete The Subway hike: from the Bottom-up and the Top-down. Let’s explore each trail option and discover how long it takes to complete The Subway hike.

The Subway Bottom-Up

Although the Bottom-up variation of The Subway hike is known to be the easier option to get to the famous rock formations, it is by no means an easy trek. Indeed, although it could be considered “easier,” the hike to The Subway from the Bottom-up is undoubtedly challenging and requires a relatively high amount of stamina.

The Subway Bottom-up trail begins several hundred feet above the popular Left Fork trail. The beginning of this route starts along a relatively flat, paved path and eventually leads to cliffs that overlook the Left Fork. From this point, a fairly steep 400-foot descent filled with sand and loose rock will be the first notable obstacle of the hike.

Then, hikers will trek roughly two miles up the canyon. Here you will be navigating large boulders, and at times you will be hiking through the stream. After a few miles, the trail starts looking lusher, and many obstructions will pass away. When this begins happening, the path will soon enough make a sharp right, finally leading you to The Subway.

After enjoying the mesmerizing rock formations, golden light, and emerald pools, the lower Subway is your turn-around point, and now it is time for the great trek back. The Subway Bottom-up hike should take anywhere between five and nine hours to complete, depending on your average pace and how long you spend soaking up the gorgeous views.

The Subway Top-Down

The Subway from the Top-down hike is undoubtedly the more strenuous variation of The Subway hike but is also the most rewarding. This route is arguably the most popular of the two and could be considered the “classic” Subway hike.

The trek begins at the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead, and for the first few miles, the trek is relatively easy and less strenuous. During this section, the path interchanges between a few trails, including the route to Lava Point and the Northgate Peaks Trail. After a few miles, you will finally see the signpost that signals the start of The Subway hike, and this is where the fun begins.

Hikers will begin descending the relatively steep slick rock formations known as Russel Gulch. This section requires hikers to pay very close attention to the route on the map as it can be relatively easy to veer off-course. Once hikers reach the cliff above Left Fork, there is a magnificent view of the downcanyon.

Once you’ve reached the bottom, you will finish the Russel Gulch section and commence the Left Fork Slot. This is where things start becoming more technical. After a short while of hiking, you will reach a large boulder field. This section of the hike requires rappelling down boulders, more hiking, followed by an unavoidable swim through two emerald pools.

More swimming is then required through a relatively narrow section known as the Bowling Ball Corridor. As you trek further down the canyon, you will eventually reach the beautiful Keyhole Falls. Once here, a relatively easy rappel is required to get into the part you have been working so hard for – The Subway.

As you navigate through The Subway and soak in the seemingly other-worldly views, your final technical section will be a rappel down into the pools of the lower Subway section. From here, the lower Left Fork hike commences, leading you to your exit.

All in all, the Top-down Subway hike can take anywhere between six to ten hours, depending on your pace of navigating through the technical obstacles and how long you spend resting and soaking in the magnificent views.

Preparing For The Subway Hike In Zion National Park

As a final thought, preparation for The Subway hike is vital. Regardless of which route you take, a permit will be required from the Zion National Park to embark on this famous hike. Hiking poles are highly recommended, along with waterproof hiking boots and a lot of sunscreen.

For the Top-down trail, you will need more technical hiking equipment like ropes and harnesses for rappelling.


All in all, The Subway hike is a bucket-list-worthy adventure for everyone with a passion for outdoor exploration. Although highly challenging and time-consuming, the reward of this famous hike is unlike any other! If you have what it takes, do not pass by the opportunity to hike The Subway in Zion National Park!