By Michael Lanza

Deep in the backcountry of Utah’s Zion National Park, my friend David Gordon and I scrambled carefully down a very steep and loose gully eroding from a sandstone cliff. At its bottom, we started walking a shaded, cool corridor between vertical canyon walls perhaps a hundred feet apart and a few hundred feet tall. At times, we clambered over boulders the size of cars and trucks. We waded or swam pools of frigid creek water in our dry suits. Mostly, we craned our necks in awe, exploring one of the most beautiful and coveted slot canyons in Zion.

We were making a one-day descent, from top to bottom, of The Subway in Zion, an all-day affair that requires a few short rappels and brief swims through water that’s always cold in a canyon where the air is always cool. The top-to-bottom hike is so popular that the park has instituted a quota system and issues permits through a lottery (up to three months in advance of your desired date), or a last-minute drawing for available permits seven to two days in advance. In the first week of November, seeing a gorgeous forecast for southern Utah, I snagged a couple of last-minute permits for the Subway, and David and I enjoyed one of the most spectacular one-day adventures in the National Park System.

I’ll write about that hike in a story I’ll post later this year at this blog. Meanwhile, see another photo from The Subway in my story “10 Favorite Photos From 2014 Adventures,” and a menu of all of my stories about Zion National Park. And click here for a menu of all of my stories about hiking at The Big Outside.

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