McConkie Ranch Petroglyphs

Round Trip Distance: 1.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 6168 - 6322 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 1 hr. 45 mins.
Trailhead: McConkie Ranch
Fee: $5/vehicle donation
Attractions: petroglyphs

The McConkie Ranch Petroglyphs are located in Dry Fork Canyon near Vernal, Utah. The trail stretches for almost 3/4 of a mile along the cliffs above McConkie Ranch displaying numerous panels of rock art that include mostly petroglyphs and a few pictographs in what is called the Classic Vernal Style. The people represented by the images were apparently headhunters as depicted in several of the panels.

To get to the trailhead from the center of Vernal drive north on Highway 121 and turn left onto N500W Street. Drive for 3.5 miles and turn right onto 3500W at the Dry Fork Canyon sign. Continue for about 6.3 miles and turn right at the signs for the McConkie Ranch. The road is paved all the way to the ranch.

Before starting stop at the visitor shack to sign the log book and pay the requested donation. There is also pop and water available in a refrigerator for $1 each.

To begin follow the signs for the 'Main Trail' at the north end of the parking area.

The trail is primitive in nature as it starts out with some loose rocks and a short climb but it does get easier once it reaches the base of the cliffs.

Some of the first images are under an overhang high above the trail.

Next up is a panel with an image of a mountain lion. Off to the right is what looks like an owl, a cottontail rabbit and an image of a head that looks similar to something we've seen in New Mexico. There are numerous other images but much of this panel is very faded.

Once the trail is at the base of the cliffs it is a simple matter to follow it and keeping an eye out both high and low for petroglyphs.

Besides the Classic Vernal Style images that the area is most well known for there also appear to be a few that are much older as well as some that might be Ute in origin. This section of cliff had some purplish pictographs that are very faded along with some petroglyphs that look like someone may have chalked at one time.

One memorable image looks like a target that is also reminiscent of a solar calendar.

There's even an image of a guy in a fiery looking capsule for the alien hunters to speculate about.

At first glance this looked like a pair of 'happy feet' until we realized that the bust that is above it looks just like one of the severed heads in the Headhunter Panel. Since headhunters were usually also cannibals that preserved the head as a trophy and ate the rest or the person maybe that is why this one is missing its body.

Here is one large panel of a headhunter.

This is another panel that has some painted highlights to it that we outlined on the computer using similar colors. The fearsome warriors with big feet look like they are right out of Hopi lore. The guy in the middle looks like he was cast in the movie Predator.

One particular item of creepy fascination is a large boulder that it flat on top. Someone went to a great deal of trouble to smooth the sides of the boulder. We're not sure if those are blood stains on that nearby rock but the smoothed boulder looks eerily like an alter. Maybe one that the headhunters used for lopping off their trophies.

Be sure to persevere to the west end of the trail where some of the best images are found.

The trail comes to an end at the Twins Panel where you can retrace your steps back to the trailhead and probably notice a few images that you missed the first time by.

We took over a thousand photos while we were at the McConkie Ranch without the aid of a tripod and using a lens that didn't have any image stabilization built in. If we would have been better equipped we could have taken fewer pictures of a better quality but on this day we were geared up for taking trail pictures that are usually of landscapes. The McConkie Ranch Petroglyphs are well worth visiting more than once so maybe we can find our way back some other time. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.