Here at Bass Pro Shops we are always interested on where people are going on their next trip or adventure. Sharing you outdoor experience and finding out where you just came back from makes our job worth wild. I myself love to get out, see new places and find amazing ones to return to. Isn’t that what makes it worth wild to outdoors man. Recently I took a trip to the Saint George Utah area to visit some family and check out Zion National Park. I had previously seen beautiful pictures of the Red Rock Mountains and the amazing Narrows Hike. So I began to do research and figure out the best way to plan for my trip. As I looked at the Zion National Park websites and stories from people who had been there I came across a picture of the Subway Hike. It looked amazing but sounded intense!! I said to myself “I gotta do this!” Although I looked into planning my trip for a few weeks Zion is so popular that for many of the backcountry hikes you must get reservations months in advance. There is a 3 day lottery that is available and which I put in for. It costs $5.00, but it’s a lottery (which I ended up not getting).
Then I called the park and asked what happens if people don’t show up is there any way to get that spot the day of. They said yes and to show up early. I drove up to St George on a Saturday with my family. St George is about 1.5 hours past Vegas from our store here in Rancho Cucamonga. I stopped at the park station to get permits, they opened at 7am. So on Sunday I got geared up and drove to Zion at 4am. It only took 40 minutes to get to the park, but I wanted to see the sunset on the canyon. That’s not something I get to enjoy every day. I was there so early that I couldn’t pay the $20 park fee for entering. I drove 12 miles up then turned right on highway 89 through the Mount Carmel Tunnels. These are some of the longest sandstone tunnels that you can drive through in the US. At the end of the first long tunnel is a spot to turn out. Right there is the start of a trailhead. I hiked into the dark with my spotlight and up this short .5 mile trailhead. After crossing a bridge and going beneath the rock formations I reached the open view of the giant Zion National park. This put me directly above the Red Rock Canyon. At 6:15am the most spectacular sunset accrued upon the red mountains and breathtaking canyon. I then drove to the ranger station with the intent to get a permit just in case someone failed to show up for their hike. I figured if it worked out I would do my desired subway hike and if not I would do the popular narrow hike which was open to anyone. Forntauntly there were 2 spots open for the Subway hike, one was mine. Now, there is two ways to do the subway hike either from the bottom up (9 mile hike) or from the top down (9.5 mile hike). The top down hike sounded more exciting but would need to have repelling gear & coordinate a shuttle to ending point. Since I was going solo the bottom up was the one I was going for. After my sunset (1 mile) I did have blisters occur on the backs of my heels so I switch back to my older hikers that have better ankle support. I also applied mole skin and 2 pairs of socks, to help protect the blisters.
I drove to the subway hike that was about 25 miles from the ranger station. This was on a road that left outside the town of Virgin and went in and out of Zion Park and private property for 40 miles and dead ends at Kolob Reserve. On a side note, I fished Kolob Reserve on another day with my daughter and the trout fishing was excellent. It was 9:15am when I made it to the hike starting point. I always get super excited when I do a hike or trip for the first time. Although I have seen pictures online before of this location there is something different when you embark into the unknown and a magnificent new outdoor location. I tighten the laces on my hiking boots, got my hydration pack adjusted and began the adventure. The beginning 1 mile is a solid dirt path before getting to an 800 ft. descent that zigzags to the canyon floor. Be careful, not a fun place to slip and roll down. Once you reach the bottom the path it comes and goes as you navigate 4 miles up the stream over boulders and through the stream. As I walked through and along the creek I noticed many holes of clear water filled with 6- 12 inch Cutthroat Trout. I would have brought a pack pole if I knew fishing was allowed. The possibilities of seeing a rattlesnake was very high but I didn’t come across any. I did run across a King Snake and variety of lizards running around. There were Western Fence Lizards, Long Tail Lizard, Alligator Lizards, Skinks and a neat looking Long Tail Lizard with rainbow colors.
As I progressed along, the red canyon wall became more and more narrow. It was still midmorning, but the sun was beating down on me with temperatures above 90 degrees. I fortunately brought hydration pack, extra bottles of water, Gatorade and a PBJ sandwich that was made by my 6 year old daughter. On top of the heat I had a sinus infection. It made it hard to walk, drink from hydration pack and breath at the same time. I was going to do this no matter what. Being surrounded by the beauty of the canyon drove my focus away from the heat of the sun. The hike started to take shape of a subway, but the river was like red rock steps into another world. The entire hike up I didn’t come across any hikers until about the 4 mile point. I hiked past them and at the end of the hike was an even more spectacular view than had been captured in any photography I had seen. You could truly see how exquisite the formations were and why it was called the Subway Hike. All though I was at the most famous part of the hike, I still wanted to see what was around the corner. I climbed up a 15 foot tree that had fallen against the rock wall and felt the adrenaline pumping through my blood stream. This was not only unsafe, but a very dangerous decision. I then began to scale a rock face. It looked as if, it would only be another 10 feet and then I could get back to solid footing. As I started to climb I realized how this decision was not my best. If I got hurt up there, it would be quite some time before someone would find me. Plus this is only day 2 of my vacation and it would ruin my other 6 days not only for me, but for my daughter.
I got down off the rock ledge and found a spot to sit. I let my heart rate slow down and looked over the amazing subway pools. This was the perfect place to eat the delicious peanut butter and jelly that my little girl had made me. I took some pictures and felt so accomplished. I was thankful that I made the right call and didn’t get hurt. I held my PBJ up high yelled “WOO”! I heard the echo and took another bite. As I walked out it was about 1pm and it felt like peak temperatures for the day. I came across a young 12 year old boy and his family. He asked me how much further and I told him “about a mile, the canyon is starting to look really epic at this point.” His sister asked if there was a place to fill up there water at the end. I said “no why are you guys low?” The Dad said that there was a miss communication with his wife on how much water to bring. He had been drinking out of the stream so that the family could use the water supply. I stated “o no, Daddy’s going to get sick” Anytime you drink from water not coming directly out of the mountain you risk getting sick from bacteria. Like really sick, some people even die. So I gave them one of my extra water bottles that I later regretted because I wanted to poor it on my boots before getting back in the car. I walked for another 40 minutes and came across a young couple wearing swimsuits like they were heading to a waterpark. They asked me how much further to the end. I looked at them and stated “about a mile, the canyon is starting to look really cool now.” I hiked for several more miles and the heat was beating down on me. It is important not to dwell on negativity of extreme heat or fatigue when hiking as that will just make it worse. I kept my mind occupied on other things like thoughts of women, family, work and life. Also I thought of my drink in the cooler surrounded by ice, waiting for me.
How I could really use a cold drink at this point. I even came up with a little jingle during the hike and before I knew it I was close to the end. I pushed myself up the steep climb and then up the zigzag trail and finally made it to my vehicle. I was proud of my amazing hike and new experience and glad that I finished safely.
Here are some of the things that I am glad I brought:
- Merrel Moab Mid, Gortex hiking shoes
- BPS Trekking pole ( walking stick) - XTR hydration pack
- Life straw ( didn’t use but was ready in case I ran out of water)
- Mole skin ( saved feet from blisters)
- Extra pair of socks - Headlamp
- First aid kit
- Shorts for hiking
- Sunscreen, sunglasses & hat
- Artic Cooler ( neck tie that keeps cold)
- 12 oz. bud light Utah has a high amount of injuries due to heat exhaustion and hikers not being prepared.
Dangers to be prepared for:
-Rattlesnakes (I didn’t see any but they could be) the trekking pole can help to get them to rattle and give you warning.
- Mountain lions ( very unlikely to ever see one) Never let children run ahead as they are attracted to running, solo hiking is not encouraged, if a mountain lion approaches make a lot of noise, wave arms, throw rocks and if the attack fight back !!
- Weather warning extreme heat, flash flood warnings and cold waters in the winter. PLAN APPROIPRITLY. - Filter and disinfect water. Do not risk getting giardia and drink from stream or river. Other neat things to check out in Zion National Park.
- The Narrows hike down/up ( as far as you’d like 2 miles to neat part)
- The Narrows hike up/down 16 miles and shuttle is needed
- Angels Landing ( long drop offs have to hold onto chain part way)
- Kayenta Trail ( overlooks emerald pools) I definitely recommend for visit to Zion National Park. Get outside and explore with the family. Let me know how it goes.
Until the next adventure I’ll see you upstairs at Bass Pro Shops.