Canyoneering Route Description

Russell Gulch - 3B III or IV (depending on exit route)
Zion National Park, Utah.

Quick Facts

09-11-11, 4 people, 1 Day (Travel time in route 5 hours) - exiting up standard Subway approach Pictures Icon
12-25-12, 5 people, 1 Day (Travel time in route 11.5 hours) - exiting down the Subway route Pictures Icon 

Down Russell Gulch then back "UP" the standard Subway Approach
Time Required
- 4-6 hours
Distance - 6.4 miles Total, 1.0 miles Technical
Rappels - 3 Rappels, Longest Rappel 90 feet.
Elevation Range - 6970 - 5590 Feet
Shuttle Required -No Vehicle - Passenger Permit Required - Yes

Down Russell Gulch then Continue down the Subway Route
Time Required
- 7 to 9 hours
Distance - 7.7 miles Total, 2.3 miles Technical
Rappels - 7 Rappels, Longest Rappel 90 feet.
Elevation Range - 6970 - 4670 Feet
Shuttle Required -Yes 7.6 Miles Vehicle - Passenger Permit Required - Yes

Gear Used for Canyon

Rappelling and anchor gear, Ropes and or pull cords for rappels up to 90 feet and 40 feet of 1 inch webbing for sling placement.  When the canyon is full of water you will have a few spots where you will need to wade through waist deep water.  If you expect water in the canyon wet suit pants would be a nice addition for comfort, especially in cooler months.

General Comments

Russell Gulch offers a great scenic alternate entry to The Subway or makes for a fun scenic short day out by returning back up the approach route.  Adding Russell Gulch as an alternate start to The Subway comes with the price of hauling a little extra rope through the Subway since the longest rap is about 90 feet which is much longer than anything in The Subway.

Driving Directions

To get to the Trailhead

From the South Gate of Zion National Park, drive about 14 miles west on highway 9 to the turn off for Kolob Reservoir (Kolob Reservoir Road).  Drive about 15.6 miles to the Wildcat Canyon trailhead.  Park your car and start your route.

To leave the Exit Vehicle / Escape Pod

If traveling back “up” the standard Subway Approach there is no need to leave an exit vehicle.  You will return to the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead.

If continuing “down” the Subway route you will exit at the Left Fork of North Creek trailhead.  From the South Gate of Zion National Park, drive about 14 miles west on highway 9 to the turn off for Kolob Reservoir (Kolob Reservoir Road).  Drive about 8.2 miles to the Left Fork of North Creek trailhead.  Park the exit vehicle here then continue up to the Wildcat Canyon trailhead to begin the route.  Leave a vehicle here as the escape pod.

Maps

GPS coordinate information listed at the bottom.  For information about waypoint naming and map symbols, refer to the Glossary page.

Map Link Icon
Click the links for maps of the route.
Map entire route.
Map of approach.
Map of the Russell Gulch and Das Boot technical sections.
Map of the Subway.

Details

The Approach:
From the Wildcat Canyon trailhead (tWildCatCyn) follow the trail about 1 mile to the Northgate peaks trail junction (you will pass the Hop Valley connector trail junction shortly before the Northgate junction).  Turn right (south) at the junction (jNorthGatePks) and follow the Northgate Peaks trail.  

400 or 500 feet after turning onto the Northgate Peaks trail will be a signed junction for the Subway route (jSubwayRte).  Turn left (southeast) and follow the trail leading to a wide open slope of white slick rock.

Continue southeast at an angle down the slick rock slope.  There should be a few cairns along the way to mark the route.  About 0.2 miles from the Subway junction on a bearing of 142 degrees is a trail that starts east through the trees (wSubWayRP-01a).  Do not drop into the forest here.  The park service wants foot traffic to continue south along the slick rock to reduce impact on the forest.

Continue following the slick rock ledge system just above the forested area for about 450 feet to where the ledge system begins to end and slant steeply (wSubWayRP-01b).  When you are nearing the end of the slick rock ledge system look for a use trail down in the sandy vegetated area below.  Drop down to the use trail and follow it east a short distance before it turns and continues south.

From here follow the trail through alternating sections of trail and slick rock.  Route points wSubWayRP-02 through wSubWayRP-05 are points where the trail starts back up after a slick rock section.  The trail here generally follows a southeast direction as it winds through the landscape.  There are multiple use trails cut into this area so you may find a slightly different route upon subsequent visits.

About 1 mile from the Subway junction the trails and cairns should lead you to a long steep drop (wSubWayRP-06) to the shelf below.

After dropping down to the shelf below, continue southeast about 600 feet to where the trail crosses a large wash (yRussellGlchTp).  The wash is Russell Gulch.

The Canyoneering / Technical Section:
Leave the trail and start south down the large wash.  A few feet from the trail is the first of a few pour offs.  By pass the pour offs by route finding your way along the RDC (west) side of the canyon.  As you find your way around the first of these pour offs follow a gentle slope back down to the canyon floor about 275 feet from the trail.

After by passing the first pour offs RDC, start up onto the LDC (east) side to bypass a few more pools dropping back down to the canyon floor about 200 feet farther down canyon (wRussellRP-01).

Once in the wash continue south down Russell Gulch and enjoy the scenery.  If the canyon is full you may need to walk in shin deep water in a few places but most if not all water should be avoidable.

Rap 1 (dRussell-R1) is about 0.45 miles down canyon after leaving the trail, is anchored from 2 bolted hangers RDC at foot level and drops about 70 feet a vertical wall that has a hanging pothole on a shelf half way down.  At the bottom of rap 1 is a pool that will be about waist deep if the canyon is full.

Continue down canyon avoiding any pools and dropping over on short down climb of about 5 feet along the way.  The deepest water will be about waist deep and would likely be avoidable if it is present.

Rap 2 (dRussell-R2) is about 0.4 miles down canyon of rap 1, is anchored from two bolted hangers LDC about head high and drops about 90 feet down a vertical wall to a pool that will be about waist deep if full.  Rap 2 is the longest rap on the route and drops into a very scenic corridor.

About 600 feet down canyon is another drop in the canyon.  The first part of the drop is about 20 feet that can be bypassed LDC down a series of small ledges or an optional 20 foot rappel can be set up from a ponderosa tree RDC to drop down to the top of rap 3. 

 Rap 3 (dRussell-R3) is about 600 feet down canyon of rap 2.  Rap 3 anchored from two bolted hangers RDC and drops about 65 feet mostly free hanging to a pool about waist deep if the canyon is full.

About 350 feet down canyon of rap 3 is another drop of about 70 feet down to a pool.  The pool at the bottom of the drop is the pool that you come to when dropping down to the canyon floor using the standard Subway approach (sRuslGlchGroto).  This drop does not need to be rappelled.  Instead climb up and over the RDC side and scramble down to the canyon floor then a walk of about 300 feet to the top of the Subway route (bottom of the Das Boot route) in the Left Fork of North Creek.

The Exit:
From the junction of Russell Gulch and the Left Fork of North Creek (ySubWayTp), the exit route has one of 2 options.

The first option is to continue down the Subway Route and exit at the Left Fork of North Creek trailhead.  For the down Subway option, look at the route description for The Subway route.  Use the beta there to guide you down The Subway then up to the exit vehicle at the Left Fork of North Creek trailhead.

The second option is to exit "up" the standard Subway approach and go back to the Wildcat Canyon trailhead.  For a description of the route "UP" the standard Subway approach, keep reading.

To exit "up" the standard Subway approach, start going up (north) Russell Gulch.  About 250 feet up canyon will be a large grotto area with a pool at the bottom of it (sRuslGlchGroto).  To the right of the pool is a steep climb up out of Russell Gulch.  Part way up, the climb out will turn right (east) and continue to the top out.  Along the way is lots of loose dirt and rock with a couple scrambles mixed in.  

Once at the top of the climb out (wSubWayRP-10), look for a trail heading north.  Follow the trail about 0.3 miles to where it crosses a patch of slick rock (wSubWayRP-9) and continues north on the other side of the slick rock.  About 600 feet later the trail will cross another patch of slick rock (wSubWayRP-8) and will be heading slightly east of north.  Another 400 feet or so and the trail crosses a wash (wSubWayRP-07).  After crossing the wash you will soon have a good view of Sea Gull Slope from the bottom.  Climb to the top of Sea Gull Slope then retrace your route back to Wildcat Canyon trail head. 

There are a few use trails that all go basically the same place.  Follow the trail mostly northwest about 1.3 miles back to the junction where the Subway route leaves the Northgate Peaks trail.  From there follow the Northgate Peaks trail, then the Wildcat Canyon trail back to the trailhead.

GPS Waypoint Information

GPX Files Available for DOWNLOAD.
Downloadable GPX files for many of the canyons listed here are now available at the BG-Gear Store.  In addition to the waypoints, the GPX files also offer routes and tracks for the canyon.  Over time more GPX files will be added.

If you want to avoid manually adding waypoints into your GPS or mapping software, want the additional routes and tracks or simply want to support the efforts put into BluuGnome, head over to the BG-Gear Store and grab the files that interest you.

Elevations are approximate.  Waypoints with no elevation data will display NaN in place of the elevation.

For information about my waypoint naming convention and map symbols, refer to the Glossary page.

Notes for GPS information:
BEFORE
entering coordinates from this website, please ensure your system (GPS or mapping software) is set to the same datum used here.  Waypoint coordinates are listed with WGS84 datum and in Lat/Lon hddd.ddddd° format.  Entering coordinate information with inconsistent datum's can result in the waypoints being off by hundreds of feet.  It is important to keep this in mind when entering waypoints from any source.

Russell Gulch 1 - Drive past the Subway Exit then to the Trailhead
  1. extKolobRes          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.20374   W -113.18604        Elev: NaN Feet
    Turn off for Kolob Reservior Raod.
  2. tLftFrkNrthCk          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.28480   W -113.09576        Elev: 5,070 Feet
    Trailhead for the Left Fork of North Creek trail.
  3. tWildCatCyn          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.33985   W -113.07587        Elev: 6,970 Feet
    Wild Cat Canyon Trailhead.
Russell Gulch 2 - Approach
  1. tWildCatCyn          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.33985   W -113.07587        Elev: 6,970 Feet
    Wild Cat Canyon Trailhead.
  2. jHopVlyCnct          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.33957   W -113.06195        Elev: 6,915 Feet
    Junction for the Hop Valley Connector Trail.
  3. jNorthGatePks          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.34009   W -113.05970        Elev: 6,930 Feet
    Junction to the Northgate Peaks trail.
  4. jSubwayRte          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.33913   W -113.05943        Elev: NaN Feet
    Junction to "The Subway" route from the Northgate Peaks trail.
  5. wSubWayRP-01a          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.33649   W -113.05685        Elev: 6,790 Feet
    A route drops into the forest here, DO NOT follow it. Continue south along the slick rock for about 450 feet before dropping off the slick rock. Old route was to leave sandstone here and start into the forest. Do not drop into the forest here. Continue south along the slick rock. The park service wants foot traffic to stay up on the slick rock here and bypass the section of forest to minimize impact on the forest.
  6. wSubWayRP-01b          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.33504   W -113.05621        Elev: 6,796 Feet
    As the slick roack ledge system starts to taper off and become steep here, veer left (east) and drop down to the sandy vegetated area below and follow a use trail.
  7. wSubWayRP-02          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.33512   W -113.05422        Elev: NaN Feet
    Trail starts after flat sandstone area.
  8. wSubWayRP-03          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.33434   W -113.05278        Elev: NaN Feet
    Trail starts after flat sandstone area.
  9. wSubWayRP-04          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.33377   W -113.05103        Elev: NaN Feet
    Trail starts after flat sandstone area.
  10. wSubWayRP-05          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.33195   W -113.04766        Elev: NaN Feet
    Trail starts after flat sandstone area.
  11. wSubWayRP-06          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.33138   W -113.04640        Elev: 6,210 Feet
    Long steep drop to the shelf below.
  12. yRussellGlchTp          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.32987   W -113.04490        Elev: 6,025 Feet
    Trail crosses a wash. Continue across wash not into the wash. Top entry for Russel Gulch
Russell Gulch 3 - The Canyon,
  1. yRussellGlchTp          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.32987   W -113.04490        Elev: 6,025 Feet
    Trail crosses a wash. Continue across wash not into the wash. Top entry for Russel Gulch
  2. wRussellRP-01          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.32861   W -113.04547        Elev: NaN Feet
    Down on the canyon floor after bypassing some pour offs RDC then bypassing a few pools LDC.
  3. dRussell-R1          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.32486   W -113.04438        Elev: 5,900 Feet
    Rap 1 - Russell Gulch. Anchored RDC from two bolted hangers at foot level and drops about 70 feet down a vertical wall that has a hanging pothole shlef about half way down.
  4. dRussell-R2          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.32076   W -113.04233        Elev: 5,735 Feet
    Rap 2 - Russell Gulch. Anchored from 2 bolted hangers LDC about head high and drops about 90 feet down a vertical wall into a scenic corridor.
  5. dRussell-R3          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.31945   W -113.04131        Elev: 5,680 Feet
    Rap 3 - Russell Gulch. 20 foot drop at the top bypassable LDC. Anchored from two bolted hangers and drops about 65 feet mostly ffree hanging to a waist deep pool.
  6. sRuslGlchGroto          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.31857   W -113.04073        Elev: NaN Feet
    A pool at the bottom of a grotto in Russell Gulch just before reaching the Left Fork of North Creek.
  7. ySubWayTp          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.31765   W -113.04064        Elev: 5,590 Feet
    Top of The Subway canyoneering route.
Russell Gulch 4 - Exit back up Subway Approach
  1. ySubWayTp          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.31765   W -113.04064        Elev: 5,590 Feet
    Top of The Subway canyoneering route.
  2. wSubWayRP-10          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.31824   W -113.04004        Elev: 5,710 Feet
    Top of a chute that leads down into Russell Gulch.
  3. wSubWayRP-09          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.32193   W -113.04000        Elev: 5,803 Feet
    Trail starts after flat sandstone area.
  4. wSubWayRP-08          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.32317   W -113.04069        Elev: NaN Feet
    Trail starts after flat sandstone area.
  5. wSubWayRP-07          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.32403   W -113.04104        Elev: NaN Feet
    Trail crosses a wash here.
  6. sSeagullSlopBt          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.32470   W -113.04157        Elev: 5,890 Feet
    Bottom of Seagull Slope.
  7. sSeagullSlopTp          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.32727   W -113.04327        Elev: 6,115 Feet
    Top of Seagull Slope. This slope looks like currents in the ocean and you feel like a seagull flying over that ocean when walking down it.
  8. yRussellGlchTp          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.32987   W -113.04490        Elev: 6,025 Feet
    Trail crosses a wash. Continue across wash not into the wash. Top entry for Russel Gulch
  9. wSubWayRP-06          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.33138   W -113.04640        Elev: 6,210 Feet
    Long steep drop to the shelf below.
  10. wSubWayRP-05          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.33195   W -113.04766        Elev: NaN Feet
    Trail starts after flat sandstone area.
  11. wSubWayRP-04          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.33377   W -113.05103        Elev: NaN Feet
    Trail starts after flat sandstone area.
  12. wSubWayRP-03          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.33434   W -113.05278        Elev: NaN Feet
    Trail starts after flat sandstone area.
  13. wSubWayRP-02          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.33512   W -113.05422        Elev: NaN Feet
    Trail starts after flat sandstone area.
  14. wSubWayRP-01b          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.33504   W -113.05621        Elev: 6,796 Feet
    As the slick roack ledge system starts to taper off and become steep here, veer left (east) and drop down to the sandy vegetated area below and follow a use trail.
  15. wSubWayRP-01a          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.33649   W -113.05685        Elev: 6,790 Feet
    A route drops into the forest here, DO NOT follow it. Continue south along the slick rock for about 450 feet before dropping off the slick rock. Old route was to leave sandstone here and start into the forest. Do not drop into the forest here. Continue south along the slick rock. The park service wants foot traffic to stay up on the slick rock here and bypass the section of forest to minimize impact on the forest.
  16. jSubwayRte          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.33913   W -113.05943        Elev: NaN Feet
    Junction to "The Subway" route from the Northgate Peaks trail.
  17. jNorthGatePks          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.34009   W -113.05970        Elev: 6,930 Feet
    Junction to the Northgate Peaks trail.
  18. jHopVlyCnct          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.33957   W -113.06195        Elev: 6,915 Feet
    Junction for the Hop Valley Connector Trail.
  19. tWildCatCyn          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.33985   W -113.07587        Elev: 6,970 Feet
    Wild Cat Canyon Trailhead.
Russell Gulch 5 - Subway technical section
  1. ySubWayTp          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.31765   W -113.04064        Elev: 5,590 Feet
    Top of The Subway canyoneering route.
  2. dSubWayR1          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.31690   W -113.04209        Elev: NaN Feet
    Rap 1 for "The Subway" Route. Drops 12 feet and is anchored RDC from a choke stone.
  3. dSubWayR2          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.31240   W -113.04785        Elev: NaN Feet
    Rap 2 for "The Subway" Route. Drops 6 feet and is anchored RDC from a glue in anchor just over head high.
  4. dSubWayR3          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.31156   W -113.05137        Elev: NaN Feet
    Rap 3 for "The Subway" Route. Drops 10 feet and is anchored RDC from a glue in anchor about head high. Two natural arches one at top and one at the bottom.
  5. dSubWayR4          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.30951   W -113.05178        Elev: NaN Feet
    Rap 4 for "The Subway" Route. Drops 25 feet down a sloped wall. Anchored LDC from 2 bolt and hangers. Note that in 2013 the logs at the top of the waterfall to cross to get to the top of rap 4 have washed out. A new set of bolts have been installed on the RDC side of the canyon in a pothole like feature near the top of the waterfall. To get to the new anchors you stay on the RDC side and do not need to cross the water course.
  6. sTheSubwayBt          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.31012   W -113.05264        Elev: NaN Feet
    Bottom of "The Subway" scenic section.
  7. ySubWayBt          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.30937   W -113.05442        Elev: 5,280 Feet
    Bottom exit of "The Subway" canyon route.
Russell Gulch 6 - Subway exit
  1. ySubWayBt          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.30937   W -113.05442        Elev: 5,280 Feet
    Bottom exit of "The Subway" canyon route.
  2. sDinosaurTrks          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.29957   W -113.06992        Elev: NaN Feet
    Dinosaur Tracks in a large rock RDC. Pretty deep ones with good clarity.
  3. jFootTrlSgn01          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.28924   W -113.08490        Elev: NaN Feet
    Foot trail sign by the creek showing the way to the junction for the Left Fork North Creek trailhead.
  4. jLftFrkNrthCk          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.28891   W -113.08558        Elev: 4,670 Feet
    Junction where Left Fork North Creek trail drops into the wash.
  5. tLftFrkNrthCk          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.28480   W -113.09576        Elev: 5,070 Feet
    Trailhead for the Left Fork of North Creek trail.