Canyoneering Pine Creek – Zion National Park

Canyoneering Pine Creek – Zion National Park

Heading To Pine Creek

The day after we ran The Subway, we dropped into Pine Creek, another iconic Zion National Park canyon.

We finished The Subway after the Visitor Center was closed, so we had to wait until the next morning to grab our Pine Creek permit. That was fine by us. We did not mind sleeping in a little to recover from the previous 10-mile day.

At 9 am, we parked our car at the entry point for Pine Creek, snagging the last open parking space. (Sweet!) But the next step was putting on our still damp wetsuits in the nippy morning air. (Not sweet. At all.)

The Fun Begins

Shivering slightly, we began the short downhill scramble to the first rappel.

Walking to the first rappel.

Pine Creek is a beautiful canyon with lots of narrow, high walls and pools of water. No other groups were in front or behind us, so we took plenty of time to admire the canyon.

About to get wet.

The 3rd rappel is called The Cathedral, and it’s one of the most beautiful rappels I have ever done. No pictures I captured on my GoPro do it justice. You can’t quite see what lies below the start of the rappel. Once you are safely hooked into the anchor and begin the descent, you’re quickly surrounded by soaring multi-colored walls. The small shafts of light from above bounce around as you rappel into a pool of water. It’s very dark and very cold, but the visuals are worth it.

GoPro footage does not do the cathedral ceiling justice. Its really amazing to see in person.
Working our way though the canyon.
Ms. Fool rappeling on the second to last rappel.

We decided to finish the canyon on an alternate (read non-standard) rappel. We dropped past more towering canyon walls into another pool.

The beta recommended a down climb to finish the canyon, but after judging the drop, we set up a cairn anchor instead.

The alternate rappel that drops you inside a large open area.

Once safely out of the canyon, we cleaned up in one of the large pools before entering the long boulder field that separated us from the road back to our car.

A Tricky Trek

The hike is very tricky: no real trails, lots of guessing, and seemingly endless scrambling up, down, and around boulders. There’s plenty of potential for a twisted ankle.

When you’re physically and mentally exhausted, it’s best to take it slow, which we definitely did. We stopped beside a picturesque pool of water for a much-needed leisurely lunch break.

Hiking out as the sun starts to set.

The Most Irritating Part Of The Day

You end at one of the many overlooks along the side of the main road, well below where you started. Walking back to your car isn’t practical. So I made myself as presentable as I could, and hitched a ride back to our car with some friendly sightseers.

Pine Creek beta estimates canyoneers will spend 2-6 hours navigating the canyon. We spent a little over 7 hours, including the time it took to exit.

Check out the video of our trip though Pine Creek – Zion National Park

Final Thoughts

Pine Creek should be on any canyoneer’s bucket list. It is a beautiful canyon well worth seeing. Plan on spending some extra time admiring it as you work your way through.

**Disclaimer: Canyoneering comes with serious risks and should only be done if you have proper training or an experienced leader. The information above is not to be used to attempt the canyon and is purposely vague. For proper guidance, check with your local canyoneering experts.
Canyoneering The Subway (Russell Gulch) – Zion National Park

Canyoneering The Subway (Russell Gulch) – Zion National Park

A Long Weekend In Zion

Ms. Fool and I decided to take a long weekend to run some classic Zion National Park canyons. First up was The Subway via Russell Gulch. We packed up all of our gear, picked up a friend at LAX, then headed north, arriving in Zion at around 1 pm.  After retrieving our canyoneering permits from the wilderness permit desk, we decided to make the most of the daylight by hiking Angels Landing.

Angels Landing is an iconic Zion hike. With a trail roughly 2.4 miles long, the peak rises 1,488 feet above the valley floor and tops out at an altitude of 5,790 feet.

In the cool weather, we made quick progress on the switchbacks to the top. Both Ms. Fool and I gave completed the hike, but our friend had not. So while she accompanied him along the remaining ridgeline,  I dozed at a lookout point.

Finishing up the switchback section of Angels Landing.
View from the top of Angels Landing of Zion National Park below.

Entering The Subway

If you’ve looked up pictures of Zion, you’ve probably seen pictures of The Subway. The canyon looks remarkably like a subway tunnel. It’s so popular that it requires an advance lottery to see it during peak tourist season. While the lower portion can be done as a rappel-free day hike, it’s much more fun and scenic to descend from the top. It’s also more exhausting: the canyon is rated 3B III (3B IV with the Russell Gulch approach) and takes 5-12 hours to complete the 9.5 mile trek.

We woke up at 5:30 am and left our little hotel room in the town Hurricane, stopping for some coffee along the way. Our reserved shuttle picked us up and dropped us at the start of the hike. By 7:45, we were on the move.

Unloading the car to catch the shuttle for our drop-off point to run The Subway.
The sun took its time rising as we hiked.

The hike in was not too bad – mostly flat or downhill. We watched the sun chase away the shadows.

With three 100-foot rappels, the Russell Gulch approach is nice way to enter the canyon – especially since all the rappels in The Subway are less than 30 feet. We changed into wetsuits at the first 100 foot rappel, expecting to land in water at the bottom. However, once down, I was able to lock off and swing to the side, completely avoiding the water. I was pleased with myself. In long canyons, it’s nice to stay warm and dry for as long as possible.

Expecting to end up in the water, we changed into our wetsuits.

But by the time we reached the third 100-foot rappel, we were wishing we had gone in the water. We were so hot, sweat was dripping out our wetsuits sleeves, and our socks and shoes were sweat-soaked.

The last rappel in Russell Gulch.

We took a short breather just before reaching the official start of The Subway.

Reaching The Tunnel

We hiked and swam for several hours, enjoying the cool fall weather and foliage.

Hiking though some steep wall sections of the canyon.
Swimming though the fallen leaves was extra fun.

After around 5 hours, we finally reached the section The Subway is known for. We took a snack and photo break while we drank in the view. Little did we know what lay ahead.

The fallen log. We’re getting close.
Really pretty view upstream.
The Subway! The iconic section did not disappoint.
Enjoying a quick rest and snack before moving on.

The Struggle Was Real

The exit hike proved to be brutal. Slippy water and stones mixed with sandy dry areas and uneven terrain and heavy wet backpacks made it slow going. By the time we reached the exit climb, a zigzag of switchbacks filled with loose rocks, we were exhausted. It was at that point we regretted hiking Angels Landing the day before.

Almost finished ascending the final leg of the hike out.

Bats flew overhead as we finally made it to the car at 7:15 pm, 11 hours and 30 min after we started.

Check out our video for The Subway (Russell Gulch) – Zion National Park

Final Thoughts

It was awesome to do such an iconic canyon, but I don’t think I ever need to do it again. I really prefer longer rappels and less hiking.

**Disclaimer: Canyoneering comes with serious risks and should only be done if you have proper training or an experienced leader. The information above is not to be used to attempt the canyon and is purposely vague. For proper guidance, check with your local canyoneering experts.