South Fork Indian Canyon is an incredible pictograph panel that stretches across an enormous alcove. The rock art involves a variety of different colors and imagery, with the majority of drawings being human figurines. Many of the figures wear headdresses and earrings, often an indication of royalty. Families are carefully drawn with a man and woman side by side standing above a child. Most of the people are colored white, with a few a darker red or yellow. The expansive, elaborate mural offers a unique glimpse of our ancestor’s way of life and the importance of relationships.
The route to South Fork is messy and requires a 4wd high clearance vehicle. It follows Hancock Road and veers off to the left down a sandy road. Vehicles will make their way down through deep sand, passing a towering sand dune on the right before following straight ahead toward a sign marked South Fork. Another marker shortly after signals a left hand turn. The road narrows and twists before coming to a halt at a small circular parking area. A sign reading “Indian Canyon Petroglyphs” marks the start of the trail.
The trail gradually descends into Indian Canyon. It drops down through some rocks and follows a series of switchbacks. A short chain link fence to the left provides an extra layer of protection between hikers and the vast canyon. The trail loops around the other side of the fence, following a narrow pathway before delivering hikers at the alcove which holds the incredible rock art.
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A small chain link fence stands farthest away from the mural with a small opening that provides access to a short wooden boardwalk. In front of the boardwalk, a series of wooden posts connected by twine form a polite reminder to keep your distance. Unfortunately the pictographs have fallen victim to some vandalism. Luckily the artwork itself is so well preserved that it can easily be seen from a few feet away on the boardwalk. Viewers can easily become lost in the fantastic display.
The trail is about 1.5 miles roundtrip, but with 1700 feet elevation gain be prepared to do some climbing on the way back up the canyon. Allow about an hour for the entire hike. The path can get icy and snowy in the wintertime and extremely hot in the summer. Fall and spring are the most ideal times for the trail. As always, dress accordingly and pack plenty of water. The short distance may create the illusion of an easy hike but it is certainly not without its challenges. The incredibly diverse pictograph display is the most magnificent reward hikers could ask for after a short steep stroll.
Written by: Lauren Kehoe