Devil's Lane

Round Trip Distance: 10.4 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 5029 - 5305 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 8 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Elephant Hill
Fee: $30/vehicle
Attractions: pictographs, scenic route

Devil's Lane is in the Grabens area of the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park northwest of Monticello, Utah. Located within the very scenic canyon is a Barrier Canyon Style panel of pictographs with some strange larger than life images that peer out over the narrow valley from a cliff that is probably at least 100 feet above the canyon floor. Also to be found in the same area are a handful of other panels of rock art, some of which, might be in the Fremont style.

For turn-by-turn directions you can enter 'Elephant Hill trailhead' into your driving app or simply find your way to the Needles District's Visitor Center and then follow the directions to Elephant Hill. The trailhead can become very congested on weekends so get there early to avoid getting turned away until a parking spot is freed up. Once you have arrived and gotten everything ready for this long hike begin by following the Elephant Hill Road that leaves out of the west end of the trailhead. There are a limited number of permits available daily for those with high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicles and advanced off road driving skills that will save you the trouble of the long hike. The hiking option doesn't require a permit unless you are planning to reserve one of the backcountry campsites.

The Elephant Hill Road is easy to hike except for the spots with rough outcropping sandstone and loose rocks where footing can be precarious and the hiking tedious. The hike starts out climbing then drops into a valley that it has to climb out of to get over the hill to the next valley and so on.

Near the 3 mile point from the trailhead, and a little before Devil's Kitchen, there are a few dark colored stylized painted hands on the right side of the road about 20 feet away.

At the 3.3 mile point from the trailhead follow the road to the right toward Devil's Lane. There is a restroom a short distance to the left as well as a few camping spots that are available by reservation.

After another half mile, or at the 3.8 mile point from the trailhead, the road enters the long narrow graben of Devil's Lane. Except for one pictograph panel that is about 500 feet to the right, all of the other panels of pictographs are to the left. The road to the left is also the route to the Joint trail, the Cave of 200 Hands and Beef Basin.

This is a photo of the faint pictograph that is just off the right hand side of the road about 500 feet from the intersection. Even though it is faint it is easy enough to spot from the road where it is beneath a short overhang.

Hiking through the very scenic Devil's Lane is a real treat to the eyes. Off in the distance there are a group needles spires that draw your attention as you progress in their direction.

Seven tenths of a mile from the last intersection, or at the 4.5 mile point from the Elephant Hill trailhead, there is a large BCS panel high up above the road on the west side of the canyon. There is some red and orange paint that make it a little easier to spot from the road although very, very few people that drive through Devil's Lane know that it is there.

The darker carrot shaped figures are the easiest to spot but be sure to click on the photo and zoom in to see the others also.

At first the left side of the long panel looks unremarkable but a closer look reveals a pantheon of larger than life Barrier Canyon Style images. Some of the images are red and others are white like the famous 'Holy Ghost' pictograph in the Horseshoe Canyon Annex of Canyonlands. The big difference here is that these images have suffered from hundreds of years of direct, paint fading, sunlight.

 Close examination reveals that the bodies are covered with intricate patterns. When you zoom in on this one's head you can see that it resembles a deer. You can make out the eyes and the snout and the distinct brow.

As you continue along the Devil's Lane Road there is a side track where panels can be found all along the cliff for an hundred feet or so. There are panels of painted hands grouped together beneath various overhangs.

Toward the end of the pullout there is a Park Service sign that is in front of the best looking panel of hands. The images at the top of the panel where the sun doesn't reach show up much better than those on the lower half of the cliff.

While there are many stylized painted hands there are also a few of the sprayed paint negative handprints. And a couple of bare feet. If those feet are prints it is amusing to consider the different methods that could have been used to make them. There is a boulder there from which it wouldn't have required that much dexterity to make the prints.

About a half mile back in the direction of the trailhead there is a side canyon where there are some more pictographs. In the right fork of the side canyon look for a large mushroom topped boulder with shear white sides. The images are on the side of this boulder that faces away from the mouth of the canyon.

The theme here is a very interesting one. Notice that in front of each of the two four-legged zoomorphs that there is a little anthropomorphic image. The top zoomorph has its mouth open as though surprised at the hunter that is holding an atlatl. The zoomorph has no horns as though it is powerless in the face of the hunter. In the lower pair of images the zoomorph has horns and the man's weapon appears to be concealed. The circles of dots above the animals might represent a waterhole. A serpent is stretched out below the top animal perhaps to imply its pending death. The two pairs of images appear to form a storyline as shown by the wavy line connecting them. Put simply it might show that the hunter waited in hiding near the waterhole (circle of dots) and then snuck up on the animal (wavy line) surprising it and striking with success (snake).

On another part of the boulder there are some images that face downward like on a ceiling with other images on the vertical part of the rock below. Here you can notice that the paint of the images on the ceiling is comparatively fresh looking and much brighter. It gives an idea of how bright all the images on the boulder may have been when the paint was fresh. It makes you reflect back on all the panels of pictographs that you have seen and how dramatic in appearance they must have been at one time.

Tucked up in one corner are a couple of images with parachute looking headdresses that have some white paint as well as the red. Further up this same side canyon there should be a panel of 4 or 5 faces that we got turned around on and missed for which we will have to make another trip to Devil's Lane.

The Elephant Hill and Devil's Lane Roads are also open to mountain bikes for those with advanced mountain biking skills or those that don't mind hiking their bike over the obstacles. A permit isn't required for mountain bikes. All total this hike has about 1,040 feet of elevation gain which adds to the strain of its 10.4 mile round trip distance. There isn't much in the way of shade and there is absolutely no water except what you carry yourself. If you would like to see the scenic Devil's Lane and its remarkable panels of rock art for yourself all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.