Fossil Creek Petroglyphs

Round Trip Distance: 2.3 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 3185 - 3307 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 1 hr. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Fossil Falls
Fee: none
Attractions: petroglyphs, rock shelter

The Fossil Creek Petroglyphs are located in Inyo County California along US-395 in the canyon just below Fossil Falls in the Fossil Falls Campgrounds Recreation Site. A few petroglyphs and the Stahl Rock Shelter make up what can be found in the Fossil Creek area.

At one time a person could drive all the way down to Fossil Creek but at present there is a locked gate with a 'Private Road' sign. For that reason we took an overland route around the west side of the canyon by beginning just behind the restroom at the Fossil Falls trailhead. In doing so we completely avoided hiking on the private road.

There isn't a designated trail, or even a good social trail, to follow so a person is left to work out their own route. The general direction is obvious enough.

Eventually you should reach a branch of the private road that leads in the direction of the Stahl Rock Shelter and the main wash.

The rock shelter is a deep cave in a basalt outcrop that sits above a side wash that passes between the private road and another old 4wd road. The roof of the cave is heavily blackened with the soot of many fires.

In one area there are short rubble walls of stacked rocks. Whether this is the remains of a habitation site or some type of corral we couldn't tell. We did find an almost complete obsidian arrowhead nearby which we of course left where it was found.

A large, flat, mostly west facing wall that is also nearby has a handful of very faint images.

The rest of the petroglyphs are along the west side of the canyon as you head back toward Fossil Falls. Note that the right side of the wash and canyon are posted private property. With our binoculars we didn't notice anything to see on that side of the wash to even tempt someone to trespass but out of respect for the landowner pay attention to where you are hiking.

Searching around the edges of the side coves leading into the wash will reveal several small panels of mostly faded images. These bighorn images are a few that are more noticeable from a distance.

The best panel is on a surface that is near the main wash but faces in the other direction so it isn't visible from the wash itself. It is still pretty easy to find.

The various lines and shapes bring a map to mind but we can't say.

There were a few other faint panels that we didn't mention but that are easy enough to find. Other petroglyphs that we missed might also be in the area. We did much of our looking with binoculars and could have missed some of the fainter images. Fossil Creek isn't difficult to get to but the whole idea of the road being closed to the public makes you feel like you are trespassing even when you confine your hiking to the public land. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.