April 21, 2011
Ray O'Neil, 435-772-7823
David Eaker, 435-772-7811
The upper portion of the Left Fork of North Creek (The Subway) route is currently closed until further notice due to a public safety stand down. This route is commonly referred as the 'top down' route that begins from the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead and enters the Left Fork (The Subway) through the lower section of Russell Gulch. The popular canyoneering route will be reopened when park rangers have evaluated the cause of recent incidents involving overdue hikers in the canyon and determine what additional information can be passed on to park visitors to increase their safety and awareness. Trips upstream from the Left Fork Trailhead along the Kolob Terrace Road are unaffected by the closure.
Over the last four days, nine groups have received wilderness permits to hike The Subway route from the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead through the Left Fork of North Creek. Only two of the groups completed the one day trip before dark. Due to high, cold water from recent snowmelt, four groups were unable to bypass an obstacle known as Keyhole Falls without assistance. Two of those groups spent at least one unintended overnight in the backcountry.
The route has been closed while the National Park Service evaluates information provided to park visitors. During spring snowmelt, conditions change daily if not hourly in the park's narrow canyons. It is very important that park visitors understand that their safety is their responsibility. If conditions are more challenging than expected, hikers must be prepared to re-evaluate their planned trip.
The Subway is a narrow canyon in the Kolob Terrace section of the park. It is a strenuous 9 ½ mile hike requiring extensive route finding and technical rope skills. It also requires swimming through several pools of cold, debris-filled water. Permits are required for hiking most canyons in Zion National Park, including The Subway. All people canyoneering in the park should talk to qualified park staff before their hike.
Canyoneering requires the proper equipment, advanced planning, technical skills and good judgment. At least one member of each party should be experienced in canyoneering and the use of any required technical equipment. Hikers should also be aware of weather conditions and the possibility of flash floods. By entering into a narrow canyon, visitors take safety as their own responsibility.
For more information on The Subway or canyoneering in Zion, contact the park at 435-772-3256 or visit the park website at www.nps.gov/zion.