Fossil Falls Petroglyphs

Round Trip Distance: 1 mile
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 3284 - 3297 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 45 mins.
Trailhead: Fossil Falls
Fee: none
Attractions: petroglyphs

The Fossil Falls Petroglyphs are located in Inyo County California along US-395 in the Fossil Falls Campgrounds Recreation Site. It is a short quarter mile hike to the normally dry Fossil Falls. Unbeknown to most visitors there is a boulder with a few petroglyphs another quarter mile east of the falls.

From Coso Junction head south on US-395 for 4.96 miles and turn left onto the Cinder Road. Follow the Cinder Road for just over 6 tenths of a mile and turn right onto the Fossil Falls Access Road. From there it is another 6 tenths of a mile to the Fossil Falls trailhead.

The trail begins near the information kiosk in the northeast corner of the parking area.

The trail is smooth and easy to follow for the most part but there are a few rocky outcrops that encourage sturdy footwear. The distance is short so most people will probably do fine no matter what they are wearing.

Near the falls there is a nice overlook where you can peer down into Lower Fossil Creek where there are 4 or 5 other petroglyph panels as well as Stahl's Rock Shelter. Note that the land on the left side of the canyon below is private property. Getting there requires hiking all the way around on the east side of the canyon.

To get to the Fossil Falls petroglyphs from the falls head up the wash from the falls. You can either follow the wash itself until you reach an old road or just to the left of the first lava outcrop in this photo you can find a trail to follow. The red arrow shows the general location of the petroglyphs.

The hiking is very easy even before reaching the old road and up to a point it is easy to find your way.

The crux of getting there is noticing a route that forks off sharply on the right just past the quarter mile point from the falls.

After taking the right fork the petroglyphs are just over 250 feet away.

The petroglyphs are on one of the smaller boulders of a cluster but they face the direction that the trail approaches them from and show up very well as you get closer.

We would normally take this image to be that of a large bird, like an owl, perched upon a branch, which would be the shorter line in the middle of the figure. The longer line near the head seems out of place though unless it is supposed to be a serpent or something with which to build a nest. (We have seen ground nesting birds flying with a snake in their clutch that was getting, we suppose, too close to their eggs and dropping it at a distance.) The head is solidly pecked making it whiter and suggesting a bald eagle in this case although a condor might do as well. There may be a faint shaman type figure on the left and a serpent on the lower right.

 The top of the panel has a hunting theme that consists of 5 or 6 bighorn sheep.

On another outcropping rock to the left are a couple of faint lines and a handful of dots.

At the time of this writing there were 11 first-come-first-served camping sites at the campground with a fee of $6/night. Fire rings, tables, restrooms and water are included. Some of the sites are suitable for medium-sized RVs. The scenery of the volcanic surroundings and the easy to get to petroglyphs make the site well worth visiting. It might be worthwhile to search further along the old road for more petroglyphs or shelters. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.