Casa Diablo Caves & Rock Art

Round Trip Distance: 2.2 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 4365 - 4434 feet
Cellphone: 3-5 bars
Time: 1 hr.
Trailhead: Casa Diablo
Fee: none
Attractions: caves, rock art

The Casa Diablo Cave & Rock Art site is located just outside of Bishop, California on the edge of the Volcanic Tableland. A flat, easy to follow, trail leads along a basalt ridge where it passes several shallow caves that show signs of former habitation. Reddish orange pictographs can be found painted upon the back wall of the second cave. Some short stub walls of a former rock shelter are visible higher up on the ridge. Just past the first cave is a large boulder that has maybe a dozen golf ball sized circular petroglyphs. At the far north end of the trail are several more boulders with images, one of which includes multiple circles with various patterns of lines.

To get there drive north out of Bishop on US-6 for about a mile and a half to the 5 Bridges Road. Follow the 5 Bridges Road for about 1.8 miles to where it merges onto the Jean Blanc Road. After about a half mile the Fish Slough Road will branch off on the right and the Chalk Bluff Road on the left and the Jean Blanc Road will continue straight as it now becomes the Casa Diablo Road. As you pass the kiosk for the Volcanic Tableland zero your odometer and measure another 0.8 miles to where a short road branches off on the right that leads to the unsigned Casa Diablo trailhead.

From the small parking area follow the well established trail the heads northwest toward basalt ridge.

The trail looks like a former access road that has since been reclaimed and had travel restricted to hiking, biking and horseback riding.

The first cave is easy to spot just off the left side of the trail. The only thing that we noticed about it was its soot blackened roof.

After leaving the cave look for the boulder in this photo a short distance away that has a number of small, golf ball sized, petroglyph circles.

The small circles are arranged around a crack in the boulder that probably was meant to have a related meaning.

The second cave is a little larger than the first and is also down near ground level. These caves probably have a foot or more of wind blown sand in them than they had back in the day.

The pictographs stretch all across the back wall of the cave. Unfortunately, someone in the past outlined them with white chalk erroneously thinking that that somehow made an improvement. We know of at least one case where the practice of chalking was done back in the 1960's, at another location, by a team of university archeologists. Chalking is now strictly prohibited as you can well imagine why. Nowadays the best method is to take a photo and manipulate it on your computer.

The darker image in the middle perhaps represents a mountain lion. Right above it is a long snake that gets pretty faded to the further it extends to the left. Above that is an interesting fan like array of lines like the sun makes in the sky at times.

Continuing down the trail toward its end there is a brown mylar marker reminding people to respect all archeological sites and leave them undisturbed.

The first noticeable petroglyph after seeing the sign is this crossed circle within a circle. There are other images on the same boulder, but most are pretty faded.

Walk around the boulders in the area until you find the panel that is commonly called the Diablo Circles panel. The panel doesn't face the trail, but it is pretty easy to find. For fun, see if you can pick out the two circles that have the same pattern.

We didn't notice this rock shelter, that is higher up near the top of the ridge, until on our way back to the trailhead. There was at least one other cave that was also higher up which might be worth a closer look for those that have the time to spare.

We marked on the map, and created a waypoint in the downloadable GPX file at the top of this post, for a single petroglyph circle that is on the south side of the road. It is easy enough to walk cross country to see it or a person could hike south along the ridge from a primitive campsite that is there next to the road. There are numerous primitive campsites in the area but that is one of them that will accommodate an RV. The Casa Diablo site requires more hiking than some of the others around Bishop but it is mostly flat and very easy going. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.