Tuesday, November 04, 2008

"The Subway" in Zion National Park

Yesterday I photographed the famous "Subway" slot canyon in Zion National Park (scroll down to see photos). Let me describe the hike for you. [please note that I am out of shape and carry far too much camera gear with me]

You start the hike by going down an extremely steep trail (the surface is loose rock) which basically plunges into a canyon. Apparently at least one person has strayed from the trail and fallen to their death. Once you get to the bottom, you have to walk a few miles up a river. Sometimes there is a small trail, sometimes you walk in the water, sometimes you are clambering over boulders. Then you reach a slippery cascading waterfalls (which you climb up) and shortly thereafter you arrive at the star attraction - a small slot canyon called the Subway. The rocks around the Subway are slicker than a wet ice rink. The more expensive the camera gear you have, the more slippery the rocks are.

I spent hours in the Subway, much of that time standing in cold, ankle deep water. The light kept improving later in the day and I had a hard time dragging myself away, but alas I needed to make the long hike out before it got too dark. Interestingly, somehow the trail had become longer and more rugged throughout the day. I ended up trekked out with another photographer who must have been an Olympic hiker.

By the time I got back to the spot where you climb up to the top of the canyon, I was already physically wasted. Going back up that canyon trail can only be described as sadistic punishment. I could manage maybe 50-100m up at a time before having to stop, pant like I had just run a marathon and spend a few moments wishing that I was dead. Alas, words cannot describe the sheer pleasure I felt upon reaching the parking lot at the top.

All in all, hiking to the Subway was a fun adventure and I'm happy with the photographic results. Having said this, I am enjoying a very lazy day today sitting drinking coffee in the town of Springdale at the Pioneer Lodge Cafe (great spot!).

Photo 1: EOS 1Ds mIII; 17-40mm lens (at 17mm); Singh-Ray LB Colorcombo polarizer
Exposure: ISO 200; 13s @ f/22; mirror lock-up & cable release

Photo 2: EOS 1Ds mIII; 17-40mm lens (at 17mm); Singh-Ray LB Colorcombo polarizer Exposure: ISO 200; 13s @ f/22; mirror lock-up & cable release

Photo 3: EOS 1Ds mIII; 17-40mm lens (at 17mm); Singh-Ray LB Colorcombo polarizer Exposure: ISO 200; 13s @ f/22; mirror lock-up & cable release
Yes, I placed the leaf there!


  1. Looks like the hike was worth the effort Ethan. Your road trip seems to be going pretty sweet so far. I'm lovin' that you are posting more often now, too.

  2. Anonymous7:29 PM

    Great work!
    Your pictures and notes are inspirational.

  3. Anonymous8:39 PM

    did you plant that maple leaf?! Excellent shots in a really difficult location....from what you say. You're a trooper Eth.

  4. Anonymous9:30 PM

    Ethan, your pictures are incredible - they are so perfect they look painted. I won't be surprised when you become a famous photographer.

    I wish I was on the trip with you - the scenery and even the treacherous trip to the Subway seem heavenly compared to sitting in an office all day trying to close deals, work on budgets and slogging through the daily drudgery.

    I'm so proud of you.

  5. Anonymous9:13 AM

    Very few people render me speechless, Ethan - WOW!

    I'm leaving for work now...and much like your friend Tonya I will be daydreaming of hiking and shooting...sigh

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  7. Anonymous10:47 AM

    Fantastic pics, Boss Man. I'm travelling vicariously through you until I take off again in a few weeks.

  8. Anonymous9:10 PM

    It was great to spend some time shooting with you in the Subway - that is a magical place and you captured it. Found your site by way of Singh-Ray! Best of luck in your travels.
    Russ Bishop (the Olympic hiker :)

  9. Great photos. I didn't have time to make it to the Subway, I hear the hike is worse than the Wave, so I better train before attempting to do it .... did you have a dry bag for your gear?

  10. Thanks for the kind words all!

    Srcohiba, I did not have a drybag for my gear - you really don't need one. You can pretty much do the entire hike and keep your feet dry, although it's quicker if you walk through the shallow river in a few sections versus clambering over the rocks.

    The wettest part is at the Subway itself, but it's shallow and there are dry rocks to stand on. There are also a few dry spots along the edge to stash your camera bag on while you shoot.

  11. I stumbled on your blog while looking for pics of the Subway. First, amazing pics. Second, I love your description of the hike! In a totally odd way, you've made me want to do it even more. lol. :)

  12. Thanks Heather! Definitely add a trip to the Subway to your must-do list!