Snake in the Mouth

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 1 mile
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 4570 - 4730 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 1 hr.
Trailhead: Intestine Man
Fee: none
Attractions: Barrier Canyon style rock art




The Snake in the Mouth pictographs are located high up on a cliff across Seven Mile Canyon from the Intestine Man Site near Moab, Utah. The panel displays a number of interesting and unique Barrier Canyon style pictographs. There are a few more images that can be found on a nearby boulder. Getting up to the pictographs requires scrambling up several ledges as well as a bit of slickrock.


To get to the pullout along Highway 313 that serves as the trailhead drive north out of Moab on Highway 191 for about 9 miles and turn west towards Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands National Park. The pullout will be on the right hand (north) side of the highway after about 2.7 miles.


There are no trail markers here but if you carefully walk across the busy highway you should be able to spot the obvious trail that leads toward the wash and the point of a cliff.


As the trail reaches the cliff there is a walk around that will get you through the fence without messing with the gate. If you look up toward the cliff to the left of the fence you might be able to spot some petroglyphs. There are numerous panels all along the cliff for several hundred feet as it wraps into the south branch of Seven Mile Canyon that are worth checking out.


The Snake in the Mouth panel is on the other side of the main wash of the canyon. The quickest route is to follow the wash that you just hiked across as it heads east until you reach the main wash. Right before reaching the main wash the side wash is choked with tamarisks but it is easy enough to get around them.


A keen eye should be able to spot the pictographs from the main wash by scanning the shallow alcove above the bench that is near the upper area of the canyon wall. If you can't see them from the wash you should be able to pick them out as you work your way in that direction. Ideally you will be able to find the faint trail that goes in that direction and leads up the loose slope to the bench.


At the top of the loose dirt there is one final obstacle of slickrock to scramble up. We picked a route that angled up to the right that had a more gradual slope and enough hand, knee and foot holds for our meager skill level. Before you try this yourself and get into a pickle you might consider either viewing the panel from below with a pair of binoculars or telephoto lens or heading further down the canyon where there is a cairned route that takes a more round about way up the cliff. We had studied that route but thought the more direct approach looked like it required less effort and since it was slickrock it wouldn't be harming anything.


Once you get up to the base of the cliff it is a simple matter to hike along the bench to the pictographs.


There is a trail that leads right up to the pictographs but they are actually much easier to photograph from down below. The panel doesn't get much sunlight and that has probably helped the images to fade a lot less. Unfortunately water running down the cliff has washed away the images on the right.


A close look reveals the figure indeed does have a blue painted snake in its mouth as well as blue eyes which if you think about it is interesting in itself.


The Hopi Indians have a Snake Dance where they hold live rattlesnakes in their hands while they dance and they will even hold onto them with their mouth. If you look at the snake on the left you can see some blue paint up near the head that resembles a collar. Taken together the images convey the idea of the central figure holding the snake in his mouth by clasping it behind its head as in the Hopi Snake Dance. The purpose of the Hopi Snake Dance is to supplicate or pray for rain. Directly above the snake with the blue collar is what looks like a dark rain cloud. The feathery armed figure that it is holding up resembles one of the kachina costumes worn by the dancers.


Off to the left of the panel along the trail that leads up to it is a boulder that has some very faint images on it. We made a rough outline of a few of the images on our computer. If you catch the boulder in just the right light you can see even more images to the left of the ones that we outlined. Be careful not to touch the boulder or to sit on it. Even though you might not be able to see all of the images they are there.


It is possible to continue hiking along the bench toward the mouth of Seven Mile Canyon for another half mile or so past the Snake in the Mouth panel. Along the way you should be able to spot the cairned route that leads up to the bench.


Finding rock art in the south fork of Seven Mile Canyon is easy enough to do although some of it isn't all that easy to get to. There are some pictographs up high near the mouth of the next short canyon to the south that are harder to get to than Snake in the Mouth. They aren't nearly as interesting and probably aren't really worth climbing  all the way up to. You can find some of the other sites by checking out our post for the Seven Mile Canyon South Fork. As far as Snake in the Mouth goes if you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.