11 Hikes to View Ancient Rock Art
Ancient rock art keeps us connected to the past. Rock art, such as petroglyphs and pictographs, are seen in areas where ancient people roamed. It is interesting to see these prehistoric paintings or etchings in such remote and desolate environments.
Experience a part of history by taking one of these 11 day hikes to view ancient rock art. These hiking trails either feature petroglyphs or pictographs. A petroglyph is an ancient or prehistoric rock etching, so the art was either carved or pecked into the rock. A pictograph is a painting on the rock.
Now, all of the rock art mentioned below is very old and can be fragile. If you do intend to visit one of these hikes, please approach the rock art with respect and view it at a reasonable distance. View more ways to Leave No Trace.
1. The Big Island, Hawaii
Hike Distance: 2.4 mi (3.9 km) round trip
There are a variety of places where you can view petroglyphs in Hawaii, including other islands than the Big Island. However, the Big Island does have a great amount of ancient rock art. One of the most popular hikes due to its abundance of petroglyphs is the Malama Petroglyph Trail. This is one of the largest preserved petroglyph fields in Hawaii. These petroglyphs were created in the lava rock centuries ago by native Hawaiians. To view even more petroglyphs, visit the Puako Petroglyph Archaeological District.
2. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California
Hike Distance: 1.8 mi (3 km) round trip
Over two thousand years ago, the Kumeyaay Indians lived in the Anza-Borrego Desert in California. These people drew pictographs on a large boulder seen from the Pictograph Trail in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Ancient rock art can be seen in a number of places in California, but the Pictograph Trail is sure to guarantee an easy hike with great views.
3. Phoenix, Arizona
Hike Distance (for Hieroglyphic Trail): 2.9 mi (4.7 km) round trip
Arizona is filled with ancient rock art. There are so many places and hiking trails to view the area’s history here. For those traveling to Arizona, Phoenix is a great city to fly into and explore around. For hikes around Phoenix that feature petroglyphs, check out the Mormon Trail, Holbert Trail, Hieroglyphic Trail, or even the Arizona State University’s Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve. Many of the petroglyphs in this area were said to have been created by the Hohokam, Patayan, and other Archaic peoples. The dates of the petroglyphs in the Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve are said to be from 500 to 7,000 years old.
4. Moab, Utah
Hike Distance: 4 mi (6.4 km) round trip
Prehistoric rock art is seen in numerous places in Utah, especially Moab. There are actually two national parks in the area of Moab, Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park. Both parks offer splendid views of Utah’s rugged terrain. However, to view petroglyphs, take a hike on the Hidden Valley Trail near Moab. There was a variety of indigenous people that lived and traveled through Utah. Paleo-Indians and Archaic peoples were nomads that moved through the area thousands of years ago. The Anasazi and Fremont tribes were centered around Moab. However, the latest natives to live in the area were the Ute Indians as early as the 1200’s. The rock art in Moab is hard to date but scientists believe that these etchings were created as early as 500 A.D.
5. Melba, Idaho
Hike Distance: 12.9 mi (20.7 km) round trip
Melba, Idaho is home to a variety of petroglyphs that were created by Paleo-Indians. The rock art here is estimated to be 100 to 10,000 years old. To view these impressive petroglyphs, visit Celebration Park, which is Idaho’s only archaeological park. View the Wees Bar petroglyphs on one of the most popular hikes in the area to view rock art, which is along the Snake River.
6. Pictograph Cave State Park, Montana
Hike Distance: 0.4 mi (4.8 km) round trip
View ancient cave paintings in Montana. The Pictograph Cave, located at Pictograph Cave State Park, has over 100 pictographs from prehistoric hunters that camped in the cave. They not only left behind these rock paintings but also various artifacts. The images vary in age from the most recent at 200 to 500 years old, while the oldest is over 2,000 years old.
7. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Hike Distance: 2.4 mi (3.9 km) round trip
Mesa Verde National Park is one of four national parks in Colorado. This gem features ancient rock art along its Petroglyph Point Trail. The people that created the rock art in Mesa Verde were most likely Ancient Puebloans and then the Hopi Indians during the 15th and 16th centuries.
8. Olympic National Park, Washington
Hike Distance: 9.4 mi (15 km) round trip
Visit Olympic National Park to check out ancient petroglyphs along a scenic coastline hike. The Ozette Triangle/Cape Alava Loop trail features petroglyphs made by the Makah tribe. This hike might be long but the terrain is quite easy with only 300 feet (91 m) of elevation gain.
9. Petroglyph National Monument, New Mexico
Hike Distance: 1-3 mi (1.6-4.8 km) round trip depending on trail
Petroglyph National Monument is the place to visit to view ancient rock art in New Mexico. The area does have several hiking trails, all featuring petroglyphs. The trails vary in difficulty from easy to moderate so there should be a hiking trail for any skill level. The petroglyphs created in this area where most likely done by Native Americans and Spanish settlers 400 to 700 years ago.
10. Grassi Lakes Trail, Canmore, Canada
Hike Distance: 1.4 mi (2.3 km) round trip
Outside of Canmore, Canada, you can take a short hike along the Grassi Lakes Trail to check out ancient artwork. These pictographs are said to be connected to the Hopi people. The Hopi’s rock art can also be seen in various areas around Alberta too.
11. Las Vegas, Nevada
Hike Distance: 0.3 miles (0.4 km) round trip
Now, the area of Las Vegas might not be known for great hiking and ancient history but just outside the city great adventures can be made. There are many places to view ancient rock art in the area that feature both pictographs and petroglyphs. The rock art in the area was most likely created by a variety of Native American tribes including the Paiute, Anasazi, Chemehuevi, and the Shoshone people. Some of the rock art is said to be older than 1,500 years old. Visit the Grapevine Canyon Petroglyph Area for an easy and short hike. However, check out this resource for the numerous Las Vegas rock art hikes to find one perfect for you.
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