If you intend hiking or camping trip in Utah, you have to make Zion National Park one of your stops. But one of the things that fascinate you most about the Southwest is the traces of indigenous people from days gone by. So, you would like to know: are there petroglyphs in Zion National Park?
There are petroglyphs in and around Zion National Park. The location of many sites is a secret closely guarded by park rangers; however, they will disclose the location of some of these sites. Be respectful and do not touch or otherwise interfere with rock art.
- Location: Zion National Park; 1 Zion Park Blvd.; State Route 9; Springdale, UT 84767
- Entrance Fee: 7-day weekly pass $20 per person / $35 per private vehicle; annual pass $70, senior annual pass $20, military annual pass free; veterans and Gold Star families free access. Anyone 15 or under enters free year-round.
- Getting There: Fly into McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. From Las Vegas, drive north on I-15, take exit 16 and stay right on SR9 East to Zion National Park. From Salt Lake City, go south on 1-15, take exit 27 and stay left on SR-17 South for 26 miles. Stay left on SR-9 East to Zion National Park.
- How Long To Stay: 5-7 days to see the main attractions.
- Best Time Of Year: April and November, particularly November. Cooler temperatures and thinner crowds make for a better experience.
Who Made The Petroglyphs In And Near Zion National Park?
Several sites have petroglyphs in and near Zion National Park; however, these sites are mostly not advertised to prevent vandalism, and some are essentially off-limits.
Humans have lived in the Zion Canyon area for around 7000 years, beginning with the Archaic people. Other past inhabitants of the area include Basketmaker, Fremont, Anasazi (Ancestral Puebloan), and Southern Paiute cultures.
Several of these groups have contributed to the petroglyphs in Zion National Park and its surrounds. As dating methods for rock art improve, archeologists gain greater clarity on when the petroglyphs were made, enabling them to link the petroglyphs with the people who made them.
Most of the rock art in Zion is petroglyphs, figures made by pecking or scratching into the rock’s surface. There are also a few pictographs, which are figures painted with natural pigments.
The figures include anthropomorphs (human-like figures), zoomorphs (animal-like figures), bighorn sheep, snakes, concentric circles, and spirals.
South Gate Petroglyphs In Zion National Park
You will find these easily-accessible petroglyphs across the highway from the South Campground. Look for a flat boulder some fifty to one hundred yards east of the south entrance. This boulder is also known as Sacrifice Rock. There is no trailhead or parking area, but a trail leads from the road to the boulder and the associated NPS kiosk.
The South Gate petroglyphs date from the Archaic Period between 2500 and 7000 years ago. The panel has about a dozen genuine petroglyphs, of which a zoomorph and a spiral with 3 1/2 turns are the most prominent.
Unfortunately, easy access to the site has led to vandalism with names, dates, derogatory terms, and fake petroglyphs. However, National Park Service officials have done their best to restore the original appearance of the rock.
Some speculate that this rock is an ancient summer solstice marker, spiral petroglyphs often associated with solar calendar sites. On June 21st, a jagged rock casts a shadow from above, resembling a coyote’s open jaws onto the boulder. As the sun rises, the shadow “swallows” the spiral petroglyph.
Deertrap Petroglyphs In Zion National Park
A little-known site, the Deertrap panel, can be accessed by hiking for around one hour over a mile of unmarked slickrock. The panel has many faded petroglyphs, mostly anthropomorphs and zoomorphs.
As the hike is exposed, avoid hiking in the heat of the day. Please ask a ranger at the Zion Visitor Center for more information about the location.
Petroglyph Canyon In Zion National Park
Petroglyph Canyon is also known as the “Secret Petroglyphs” of Zion, and rangers jealously guard the location of this relatively unspoiled site. However, they will tell you if you ask.
We can tell you that the round trip is 0.6 miles, and it is an easy hike. It is easy to access, just off the highway but is not signposted.
Petroglyph Canyon contains two panels of petroglyphs created around 1000 years ago, most likely by the Anasazi or Southern Paiute. The two panels together include over 150 figures, although many are faded, and you will struggle to make them out.
The North Panel has at least 76 figures. See if you can spot the small red triangle that is the site’s only pictograph (painted figure). The panel contains numerous images of the flute-playing fertility god and trickster figure, Kokopelli.
The next thing you will encounter is a series of wide grooves at around knee height along the length of a rock shelf. The grooves were created by people sharpening tools.
Some 200 feet from the North Panel, you will find the South Panel on the same cliff face. It has at least 77 figures, including an abundance of bighorn sheep.
The site is “roped” off with a wooden fence to prevent people from approaching too closely. Please respect the barrier.
Parowan Gap Canyon Petroglyphs North Of Zion National Park
Although it is not in Zion National Park itself, we highly recommend you visit Parowan Gap Canyon while you are in the area. The site has fantastic geometric designs, anthropomorphs, bighorn sheep, and bear claws.
From Parowan, head west on 400 North for 10.5 miles. If coming from Cedar City, take 1-15 Exit 62 and follow the signs to U-130. Head north along U-130 for 13.7 miles and turn right near mile marker 19. Drive another 2.5 miles.
Mineral Gulch Petroglyphs East Of Zion National Park
Another site just outside Zion National Park; you will find Parunuweap Canyon on the east edge of the park. This scenic canyon has flowing water, two waterfalls, and two natural arches. You will find the petroglyphs in Mineral Gulch, near the confluence with Parunuweap Canyon.
Correct Etiquette When Viewing Petroglyphs
Please look after rock art. Do not touch the rock art, as the rock surface is fragile, and the oils in your hands cause deterioration. These sites can never be replaced once damaged.
If you have children with you, please keep an eye on them and stop them from touching the figures. Teach them the history of these sites and the importance of looking after them.
Do not trace or rub the figures, as this damages them, and do not put water on them to make them more visible. Any form of contact with the petroglyphs will damage them.
Do not light any fires, as the smoke and charcoal can cause deterioration of the petroglyphs.
By all means, take pictures or sketch the petroglyphs.
Federal law imposes stiff penalties for the deliberate destruction of rock art. If you see any suspicious activity, report it to a ranger or call the Archeological Resources Protection Act hotline at 1-800-227-7286.
There are some beautiful and fascinating petroglyphs in and around Zion National Park, especially at Petroglyph Canyon. However, to learn the location of these sites, we ask that you speak to the rangers first.
These sites are fragile, and we urge you to act respectfully when viewing the petroglyphs. Please do not touch or deface them in any way. Enjoy the fascinating rock art and leave it in the best condition for future generations!