Navigating through the Beauty of Zion’s Canyons
Autumn is prime time for adventuring in Zion National Park, the canyoneering capital of the world. There are fewer crowds, the sun is less intense, and if you’re lucky, the fall colors are beautiful yellows, oranges, and reds.
I had the pleasure of visiting Zion this fall season with several close friends. Our objective was to tackle some of Zion’s most beautiful technical canyons, including the popular “Subway” canyon from the “top down,” a full-day of canyoneering requiring rappelling, swimming, climbing, and extensive route finding.
I traveled to Utah with a full load of equipment and technical gear. I also brought my Garmin fēnix 3 for navigating through the challenging environments we would encounter in Zion’s many canyons and side canyons.
We pulled into Zion and visited the park station in hopes of getting one of the limited number of backcountry permits for the Subway. Luck was on our side: we scored permits for our entire group.
We set off to do the Subway from the “top down.” After several miles of approach hiking, we reached the canyon itself and carefully down-climbed into it and took our first steps on the canyon floor.
The first mile or two inside the canyon involved a combination of hiking and down climbing using hand lines. We eventually reached the first major obstacles, requiring rappelling and swimming in deep, murky water, in which we fully submerged with all of our gear.
After a series of rappels and several fully submerged swims, we were chilled to the bone. But we pressed forward, determined to get through the entirety of the Subway before the day’s end.
We finally reached the Subway’s main attraction, a unique section of the canyon where the walls round outward to create a tubular oval (giving the “Subway” its name) and where circular emerald pools of rushing water line the floor. It was mid-afternoon and the day’s remaining sunlight was shining inside the Subway and warming us up. It was an amazing moment in one of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders.
After fully admiring the beauty of the Subway, we eventually packed up and hiked out down canyon with big smiles on our faces, knowing that we had just experienced one of Earth’s most fascinating natural wonders. More importantly, we tackled the entirety of the technical canyon without any injuries or navigation problems. That night we slept soundly under a sky full of stars in the desert.
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