Snake Gulch is located in the Kaibab National Forest in Arizona. It's a wide, gently sloping canyon bottom that was once a major route for Indians who moved back and forth between the plateau above Kaibab Creek on the north rim of the Grand Canyon and the south rim's Havasu Canyon. Over the many centuries of their travels, the Indians have embellished the sandstone cliffs with a variety of striking polychrome pictographs. The time period represented here is from the Late Archaic through Basketmaker and Pueblo eras and includes Southern Paiute , who continue to live in the area.
Niki and I drove up from South Orange County in California to Kanab in under eight hours, and then rested up for an early start next morning. To see the best of the pictographs, the ones with yellow, white and black colors in addition to the common dark red, you need to hike down the canyon for about seven miles. So this is an all day affair. The hiking is easy, and the scenery is fantastic. You will see pictographs, and a few petroglyphs, after the first hour or so of hiking, so there is plenty to keep you occupied. Just wander west down the canyon and look for trails that lead to the panels on the north side of the canyon walls. You might want to take a camera with a zoom lens for those pictos that are up high. We did the trip in May; apparently in the summer it can get very hot down in the canyon.
Our trip started off under blue morning skies. Within a few minutes we saw an old stone cabin ruin off to the right. Our first find was an alcove to the right where the smoke blackened walls of the cliff had been decorated with some very old looking petroglyphs. Niki's digital camera stopped working and we grumbled our way along with only my 35mm point and shoot cheapie. The hike was like an Easter egg hunt. Our rewards were a variety of shapes and figures painted in one or several colors on the canyon walls. Those panels protected by overhangs or that were in shallow caves had the most vivid colors. I guess we were too focused to notice that the weather was beginning to look really ugly. The sky had turned a nasty purplish blue, the wind had picked up, and soon the flash of lightning and crack of thunder echoed in the canyon. We had come about five miles, but as the rain pelted down we knew that we could go no further. We took shelter under a rock overhang, admired the pictographs that were looking down on our plight, and had lunch. Our rain gear was safely in the car back at the trailhead. We had decided that the blue skies of the morning would last all day! At almost 6000' the temperature plummeted rapidly. We decided to put on our midweight tops and jackets, seal the camera in a zip lock, and hike the five miles back to the car. We knew that we would be warm if we pushed the pace, and we had dry clothes and a car heater waiting for us. This turned out to be a good plan. We actually had fun slogging along! Only the lightning caused us to take shelter every now and then.
The next morning we headed over to the Vermillion Cliffs and worked our way up the Paria Plateau to explore the West Bench Pueblo. The scenery was absolutely spectacular! At the pueblo site you can still see rock wall foundations. The ground is littered with a variety of pottery shards in different colorations and styles. A short hike takes you to an area of rock caves that show signs of ancient habitation. Once again, though, a clear, brilliant sky turned dark and brought thunderstorms and lightning to put an end to our explorations.
If you like rock art and hiking, then these are both great trips! As far as directions go, you're on your own. We found them, so can you. We don't mean to be flippant, but if we respect a site we show that respect by making it just a bit harder for the potential vandals to find. Hope you understand. Click on the link below to see the pics from our rain-shortened trips!