South Fork Indian Canyon and Hidden Lake

Kanab, UT

South Fork Indian Canyon, located just a few miles northwest of Kanab, contains an alcove along a steep cliff with a nice display of pictographs painted between 452 AD and 62 BC.  The trip to the alcove involves a drive through some deep sand and a short hike down a steep cliff.  To get there we headed north on US-89 for 7.2 miles.  Just past mile marker 71 we turned west on Hancock Road.  After 5.9 miles on the paved Hancock Road we turned left (south) on the dirt road 50.  It is not really a dirt road as much as a sand road.  A four  wheel drive vehicle is required as the sand is very deep in spots.

The road runs right along the boundary for Coral Pink  Sand Dunes State Park, passing a sandy, steep path leading into the park.

After 3.4 miles on the narrow, sandy path the road ended in a small parking area at the trailhead.

Sue and Dave (Beluga’s Excellent Adventure) drove to the trailhead during a recent visit.  But they decided to skip the hike to the pictographs when they saw the sign indicating that there was a 1700 foot elevation change.

Oops, turns out someone added an extra zero when they made the sign, and the elevation change is only 170 feet!

Canyon view near the trailhead

The hike to the pictographs is less than a mile (one way) but there are a couple of steep sections.  A flyer we picked up at the visitor center said the difficulty level was easy.  We would rate it more moderate due to that steepness.

Making our way along the base of a high stone wall, we soon came to a large alcove containing the pictographs.

Heading back up the trail along the high stone wall

The steepest part of the trail

On our way back to Kanab we took a little side trip to visit Hidden Lake (called Underground Lake on Google maps).  To get to the lake we turned on to Angel Canyon Road.  This is a loop road that begins and ends on the east side of US-89 and runs through the Best Friends Animal Society,  which is the largest facility of its kind in the US.   About half way around the loop there is a turn onto a side road heading east.  This narrow dirt road soon crosses a cool, narrow channel of Kanab Creek before winding another .8 of a mile (stay to the left at the Y) ending at the lake.

Kanab Creek

Hidden Lake is really just a small pond of water inside a rock alcove.  But it is a cool spot for a quick visit.

Hidden Lake

Driving back out, just a short distance from the lake, we spotted an alcove above us.  A narrow side road seemed to lead up to it so we drove up to check it out.  It appeared to be a storage area for early inhabitants of the area.

Someone at the visitor center later told us they believe the inhabitants built round storage containers (cisterns) and filled them with a variety of things including grain and even dead bodies at times.

Several round cisterns are bordered by slanted flat rocks

Along the east side of US-89 between the two junctions with the loop of Angel’s Canyon Road you can see a few large openings in the rocks.

These openings are part of what are called the Sand Caves.  Just a bit before mile marker 70 there is a small area on the west side of the highway where we parked.  After crossing the highway going east we found a path leading to the steep wall of slickrock.  It is a bit of a climb to get up, but after a short distance there is a path along the ridge leading to the caves.

These sand caves were man made when they began mining for the sand in the area.  The mining process was short lived, leaving theses cool caves for us to explore.

The end of the caves

Three adventures within a few miles of Kanab!  And the coolest place to visit is in the same area.  We plan to go there tomorrow so stay tuned!

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23 Responses to South Fork Indian Canyon and Hidden Lake

  1. Sue says:

    Don’t you just hate typos!!!! 1700 feet indeed. Doesn’t anyone proof read anymore?
    Dave says you shouldn’t have told us that it was written wrong, people would have been so impressed that you hiked down 1700 feet in just 3/4 of a mile – and then back up! At any rate, I wouldn’t have enjoyed any part of that hike so I’m glad you showed me what I missed. The road in was enough excitement for me!

    • placestheygo says:

      I am surprised that no one whited out the extra zero. Then I started thinking that maybe they left the typo to keep the visitors down. I wonder how many turn away when they read the elevation down (as written) and the steepness. And, yes, the road was an adventure in itself!

  2. Laurel says:

    I remember Sue and Dave writing about that typo for the Indian Canyon Pictograph Hike, LOL. That must turn a lot of people away! I would not be wanting to do 1700 ft of elevation gain in 1.5 miles.
    Looks like another fun day of exploring. You guys are back in your element. The Sand Caves are beautiful!

    • placestheygo says:

      Actually, Laurel, if you believed the sign, the drop would be 1700 ft in 3/4 of a mile. I can’t imagine doing something like that. Yes, it was a great day and I am in heaven back on the road for awhile.

  3. Jeff Pierce says:

    Great well defined pictographs!, in much better condition than those we’ve seen. I’d like to see those, but like Sue not at 1700′ in less than a mile. The sand caves are pretty interesting, it must have been noticeably cooler inside.

    • placestheygo says:

      Jeff, the petroglyphs were actually only 170′ down. The sign was a typo. I am sure the Sand Caves would be cooler on a hot day. We had a cooler day with a little wind which blew the sand right through the place so we didn’t notice any temperature change.

  4. That photo of Pam climbing the steepest part of the trail would definitely make me rate that trail more than “easy!”

  5. Jim and Barb says:

    When I read the words “Hidden Lake” in your title, I immediately thought….fishing! Imagine my disappointment! Fishing or not, looks like a pretty cool place to see.

  6. Nancy says:

    Someone needs to fix that sign!

    Those caves are fabulous and I bet cool from the sun. But the icing on the cake are the Pictographs! Glad to see they are still doing well.

    Happy Exploring!

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Nancy! I wonder if they don’t leave the sign as is to cut down on the visitors. I am sure many drive back and then change their minds when they read the description on the sign.

  7. GAy says:

    The pictographs are so clear. I love the “hair” on several of the figures! The pictures of the man-made caves are quite pretty and interesting too. But my favorite are the the remains of the cisterns…way cool!

    • placestheygo says:

      The Native American ruins are my favorite part of exploring the Cedar Mesa area so I was pleased to see a little ruin here. This is the only one I can find in the area other than some petroglyph sites.

  8. I was just reading an article this morning about how officials in Iceland are struggling to keep tourists away from a particular canyon that Justin Bieber used to film a music video. The tourists have been wrecking the place in the name of instagram photos and officials can’t keep them out. Maybe if they hired the guy who wrote this sign to create an information board at the entrance, they’d solve the problem. 😃

  9. Oops! yet another spot we could not do, but thanks to you we can see and hike with you from our chairs.
    Those caves look cool!
    I wonder if someone even notified the office of the typo!

    • placestheygo says:

      Yes, it is another hike where a Jeep is needed and not just high clearance. It is amazing how much deep sand there is here. You can do the caves, though, because you park right on 89!

  10. Jodee Gravel says:

    Maybe not 1700 feet, but those steep spots look pretty tough! But such a beautiful place. Love that hidden cave!!

    • placestheygo says:

      The brochure is a little misleading when it says the hike is easy. Usually the visitor brochure ratings are for anyone who is stopping in the area. Most non-hikers would find this trail difficult with the ledges and steepness.

  11. What an interesting hike! Great pics.

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