Guest Post by Piece of Wanderland
Zion is very unique compared to other National Parks in America. The combination of walking through flowing water and gazing upon colorful rock structures provides an experience like no other. Three days not enough time to spend at Zion, but if that is all you have, then this is what I would recommend doing.
Entrance Fee for 7 days: $30 per Vehicle. More prices here
NOTE: DO NOT throw away your receipt! You need it to re-enter the park.
What To Bring
Here is a list of important items to bring that you initially might not think to bring to Zion. Since some of the park’s hikes are in the water, make sure you are prepared for those situations.
- Two Pairs of Shoes
- Your regular hiking/tennis shoes
- Water shoes or old tennis shoes with a lot of traction
- Extra Socks
- Swim Suit – If you don’t get wet while hiking, you’re going to want to cool off in the river afterwards.
- Hat/Sunglasses – The sun is blazing.
- Waterproof Phone/Camera Case/Zip Lock Bags/Disposable Waterproof Camera
- Hiking Stick – If you have one. They are inexpensive to rent.
Where to Camp
Watchman’s Campground (Reservation): $20 per tent site; $30 per RV site
South Campground (First Come, First Serve): $20 per individual campsite; $50 per group campsite; No RV hookups
DAY 1: Hike The Subway Trail or Angel’s Landing
If you had to choose between The Subway Trail or Angels Landing, you should pick The Subway Trail. Angel’s Landing is a well worth it hike with 360 degree breathtaking views of the canyons, but The Subway Trail is a unique, gorgeous oasis that is exclusive to only a select few people a day. Enter the lottery for The Subway Trail and if you don’t make it, then shoot for the heavens with Angel’s Landing.
The Subway Trail
The very first day you get there, you should try to hike The Subway Trail. It is recommended that you apply for the lottery a couple days before you want to go on the hike. You will have to pay a non-refundable fee of $5, but you can apply your whole group. If you “win”, then your group will have pay $15 for the permit. For more information on how to obtain a permit click here.
If you didn’t apply for the lottery in advance, don’t worry! You should check with the visitor’s center to see if there are any empty spots left that day. We got there midday Thursday and were going to apply for the hike on Saturday. However, we were told that not many people applied for the lottery that day and we got a spot immediately.
Duration: 8 miles round trip; 6-8 hours
What to Bring: Subway Trail Permit (Important!), at least 3 Liters of water per person, snacks and lunch, hats/sunglasses, swimsuit (optional), water shoes or other shoes, waterproof camera or plastic bag (optional), hiking stick (optional), a detailed guide/description of the subway trail
TIP: A guidebook or description of the trail is essential to have as there is no real path and it can be confusing to navigate. If you don’t want to purchase one, then check out Joe’s description of the trail online here.
Where to Start: There are two ways to hike the Subway, but the easiest way is from the bottom up, starting at the Left Fork Trailhead. It is in another area of the park, about a 40 minute drive from South Campground. Get directions here.
Other routes through the Subway can require some repelling, swimming, and climbing over more obstacles, but provide some rewarding scenery. For more information on other routes, click here.
We started hiking down from Left Fork Trailhead a little past 12:00pm. This is the latest time you could start this hike as we barely made it back before sunset. I would recommend starting early in the day to ensure time to enjoy the nature. Pack a good lunch and lots of snacks as there are plenty of oasis spots with mini waterfalls and rocks to relax on. Although, this hike is relatively cooler than Angels Landing, do not under estimate the amount of water you will need. BRING LOTS OF WATER. Seriously. If is wasn’t for this man with a water pump/filter tool, we would have died out there.
Once you get down to the river bank, the trail is pretty much non-existent. You have to make your way through areas that look the most clear.
TIP: Make sure to take a photo or mark the area where you descended from the canyon and reach the river. It can be easy to miss your exit on the way back.
We ended up zig zagging through the creek until we got to the first red falls. Now, there are TWO red falls so do not get confused when you pass the first one and are not at the subway yet. After you pass the second red falls, you will see the opening to the subway.
DAY 2: Hike through the Narrows
Duration: 8 Miles roundtrip; 6-7 hours
Difficulty: Moderate – Strenuous 6 minutes
What to Bring: at least 2 Liters of water per person, snacks and lunch, jacket (depending on season), swimsuit, water shoes or an old pair of tennis/hiking shoes, waterproof camera or plastic bag, hiking stick (optional), trail map (Click for free trail map)
TIP: Some stores might try to upsell you on renting equipment (water socks, water shoes, walking sticks etc.), but most of the time you won’t really need it. This guy convinced me that if I needed anything, it was water socks to avoid soggy feet. However, I ended up never using them and my feet were wet, but they were perfectly fine.
The Narrows is the most popular hike in Zion. Most people start the hike from the Temple of Sinawava and hike up stream, but you can also hike from the top down if you are looking for something more adventurous. The hike is done almost all in the water of the Virgin River through canyons that get more narrow the further you go.
TIP: Go as early as possible. The shuttle wait lines get longer throughout the day and there ends up people more people on the trails.
The hike starts with the lovely, paved Riverwalk trail for 1 mile until you hit the river bank. There, people put on their water shoes and put their phones in zip lock bags. It is recommended you have a walking stick since it is hard to see how rocky or deep the water is below. You can rent one for about $7, but I decided not to rent one and I only fell once!
In the beginning, there are various little islands along the river bank to stop and have a snack, but the further you go, the less you see of these. Water is usually calf or knee deep, but there are some areas that get to nipple deep. It is hard to tell how deep it is since the water is so murky, but trust me. You. Will. Get. Wet.
Even though the total hiking time is about 7 hours round trip, this time could vary as you can turn back at any point. Take a look at the trail map to see how far you want to go. Wall Street is famous for being the most narrow sections of the river so I would recommend making it at least to the start of Wall Street. It takes about 2-2.5 hours to get there.
Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to go to wall street. It started raining an hour and a half into our hike and we had to turn back due to flash flood warnings. Luckily there was no flash flood, but we found out they closed the trail once we got back to land.
TIP: Make sure to check the probability of a flash flood before you hike that day. You can check online here or at the Visitor’s Center. Study the warning signs and know what to do if you encounter flash flood warnings.
Overall, the hike is not one to miss. The experience you have at the narrows is like no other. Being at the bottom of the canyon, you can really see the history in all the layers of the rocks that surround you.