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Photographing the Subway

I had been planning to shoot the Subway for a couple of year’s right after I saw the first magical images taken by an intrepid photographer. I knew from all accounts that it would be a difficult hike, most Zion Park ratings labelled it strenuous and anywhere from 9 to 10 miles. I talked two of my buddies into spending a week in Zion and we were all jacked to do the Subway.

I won’t go into the details of the hike as there are many articles available online that elaborate on it but I will give you what I consider some valuable takeaways that may come in handy should you decide to make the trip.

Suffice to say it is a long and tiring hike and you should be in pretty good physical shape before attempting it. From the parking area you have a .5 mile easy walk through the juniper and Pinon forest and then begins about a 450 foot 'very' steep decent before arriving at the creek floor. From then on it is a matter of negotiating your way up stream, going over boulders, around boulders, walking through the stream and around the stream onward and upward. Fun, but it will drain your energy step by step as there are really no unimpeded walking areas of any length to speak of; just a slow and methodical climb.

Here are some things I consider a must if you decide to go:

You will need to get a permit (check online or in person at the visitor center in Zion) for this hike as they limit the number of people hiking each day. This was the bottom up hike; the top down hike requires some canyoneering skills and equipment.

Water boots of some kind are a must. You can rent 5-10 style water boots and rubber booties at the local stores in Springdale.

A pant dry suit or wet suit is also a must for a fall trek, the water temp gets down to around 45F or lower.

Trekking poles are invaluable! Don’t just get the sticks, you can rent trekking poles as well, and they allow you to maintain 4 point contact with the earth and rocks as you plod along.

Water, I brought five 20 ounce bottles and it was just enough, six would have been perfect. We stashed some of our water at the bottom of the 450’ decline and at the halfway point.

Bring food and energy bars, you’ll need it.

Take a camera body and one lens, the widest you have, that is really all you need as you will be in close quarters in the Subway itself and the cascade falls really work well with wide angle. I brought a 10-20mm lens.

GPS is very nice to have as you can tag where you stash your water and most importantly tag the trail back up the 450’ ascent. You do not want to miss the trail or you’ll spend needed energy (which is already in short supply) and time trying to find it.

Bring a headlight just in case you start back late and are hiking in the dark.

Keep your backpack as light as possible – you'll thank yourself afterwards but do bring your best tripod as long exposures are in order.

Our total time from parking lot to parking lot was 11 hours and 10.3 miles.

I swore after the hike was over that I would never do that again but two weeks later I’m thinking of the shots I missed or could have composed better and maybe just maybe a return trip is in order.

Image data: f/16, 30sec, ISO 200

Doug Solis

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