The summer of 2019 I spent 2 months tent camping across 9000 miles in the USA with my three kids and it was absolutely stunning – honestly the trip of a lifetime! It’s what inspired me to write this article sharing with you where to find petroglyphs and rock art in the USA.
I soaked up every second of our hard earned trip that summer. We explored caves, volcanoes, waterfalls, Alcatraz, the Grand Canyon, Route 66, dug for trilobites, ran on the salt flats, and yes, saw lots of petroglyphs!
My favorite petroglyphs that I’ve seen up close was in Moab, Utah – there are TONS to be discovered there! And not just some seen from a distance. Some close enough to reach out to! (although please don’t touch or damage the rock carvings!)
Below are some examples of petroglyphs and rock art as well as a few places you can see them in the United States.
Petroglyphs and Rock Art in Moab, Utah:
One of the places I wanted to visit during our stay in Moab, Utah was Newspaper Rock State Historic Site. (roughly an hour from Moab) It’s certainly an incredible discovery of preservation from the past, however it’s a long drive out there and you really need to have binoculars to get a good view of it as the rock is a far distance from where you can reach.
There are many “Newspaper Rock” type rock art locations around the country! So make sure you’re researching the right location!
If you want to see an incredible amount of petroglyphs AND a breathtaking view drive along Kane Creek Blvd. in Moab, Utah. It winds along next to the Colorado River (but don’t take your eyes off the road!)….absolutely stunning. Keep an eye on the rock walls next to the road for petroglyphs! Definitely pull over in Moonflower Canyon to see more up close rock art!
Kane Creek Blvd. and Moonflower Canyon are worth the drive from a short distance and a MUST SEE detour if you’re in the area visiting Arches National Park. In fact there are so many petroglyphs as you drive that you can’t stop at some as you’ll be in the middle of the road. The best thing to do would be to park at Moonflower Canyon and walk down.
How old are the petroglyphs in Moab?
The petroglyphs in Moab are between 1500 and 4000 years old.
What are the oldest petroglyphs in the United States?
Rock art near Reno, Nevada are approximately 10,000 years old.
Another place I recommend if you’re in Moab is the Cave Spring Trail in Arches National Park. Even on a hot day you can find a lot of shade on this trail. When we visited Arches National Park it was 112* outside (PHEW!) but we still made the trail with my 4 year old in tow!
The trail is easy for all ages (but not handicap accessible due to the sandy paths) and leads to a cowboy camp and caves with prehistoric pictographs.
Where to Find Petroglyphs and Rock Art in the USA:
Pictograph State Park – Billings, Montana
Pictograph State Park is a small-ish state park (23 acres) with a short loop trail passing by Pictograph, Middle and Ghost caves. Discovered in 1936, the trails are short but quite steep so make sure to wear good sturdy walking shoes! About 30,000 artifacts have been recovered and the there are over 100 pictographs about 2000 years old featured. (although many are difficult to detect to weather) Binoculars are helpful.
Petroglyph National Monument – New Mexico
Petroglyph National Monument is one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America. The symbols here were carved by Native Americans and Spanish settlers a short 400-700 years ago. Dogs ARE allowed (on leash) here and you can see petroglyphs from Boca Negra, Rinconada and Piedras Marcadas Canyons. No bikes allowed.
Jeffers Petroglyphs – Comfrey, Minnesota
Jeffers Petroglyphs features about 5000 rock carvings made by Native Americans 7000 years old. The trails are lined with rare plants and offer daily guided tours. As with any rock art, look closely as humidity, lighting and temperature can affect the ability to view the rock carvings.
Roche-a-Cri State Park – Friendship, Wisconsin
Roche-a-Cri State Park was established in 1948 to protect a 300 foot high rock outcropping featuring Native American petroglyphs AND pictographs. “Roche-A-Cri” means “screaming rock” in French. You can also camp, fish and hike nearby. At the top of the stairway near the rock art is a breath-taking panoramic view of the prairie. Pets are welcome.
El Morro National Monument – New Mexico
El Morro National Monument is a must-visit location, even if you only have an hour! There are three different trails: Inscription, Headland, and Atsinna. From petroglyphs to ancestral Puebloan ruins, any of these trails offer stunning views.
Dighton Rock State Park – Berkley, Massachussetts
Dighton Rock State Park is located in a small museum building which can be difficult to find open so I recommend calling. The rock itself has been moved from its original location. It measures 11 feet long, 5 feet high and 9.5 feet wide. There is still much to be studied about this rock full of carvings. The surrounding park is a lovely spot for a picnic.
Sanilac Petroglyphs Historic State Park – Cass City, Michigan
Sanilac Petroglyphs Historic State Park contains the largest collection of Native American petroglyphs in Michigan and features a one mile self-guided walking trail through forests and the remains of a 19th-century logging camp. The sandstone rock has about 100 petroglyphs on it and are about 400-1400 years old. Stone tools and pottery have also been found in the park. Pets are welcome outside only.
Puako Petroglyphs – Holoholokai Beach Park, Hawaii
Puako Petroglyphs has an enoromous amount of petroglyphs in the area. Around 1200 in the public section and a total of over 3000 designs in the preserve. The Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs are found inside the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the Waikoloa Petroglyph field is nearby. These are just north of the two resort hotels at Mauna Lani Resort, Holoholokai Beach.
Olympic National Park (Ozette Beach)- Washington
The petroglyphs at Ozette Beach in Olympic National Park come with stunning scenery. Perhaps some of the best in the United States. Here you can find the Wedding Rocks petroglyphs. You can find about 40 scenes including orcas. Most of the carvings are about 300-500 years old. The entire trail is roughly 9 miles long with Wedding Rocks being the mid-way point.
Tutuveni – Tuba City, Arizona
The Tutuveni petroglyph site is host to more than 5000 Hopi symbols. They date from 1200 to as early as the 1950’s spreading over 150 boulders (although most of them are on eight boulders).
Valley of Fire State Park – Overton, Nevada
Valley of Fire State Park is a stunning MUST SEE location. The best place to see petroglyphs in Valley of Fire State Park is on the .75 mile Petroglyph Canyon Trail. Atlatl Rock is another great viewing area. Some of these petroglyphs measure over 3000 years old! Please stay on the trails here and do your part to preserve the area.
Nine Mile Canyon – Utah
Nine Mile Canyon petroglyphs are a short daytrip from Salt Lake City and is another phenomenal Utah MUST explore area. It has tens of thousands of petroglyphs and pictographs. The canyon itself is 75 miles long and contains over 60 rock art sites! I definitely recommend setting aside a day for exploring but make sure you’ve got plenty of gas in your car and water to drink!
Petroglyph Beach State Historic Park -Wrangell, Alaska
Petroglyph Beach State Historic Park is easily accesible via boardwalk overlooking the beach. The lovely thing here is that there are replicas of multiple rock art designs available for visitors to make rubbings on. Search for more than 40 petroglyphs here.
Millstone Bluff Archaeological Area – Shawnee Forest, Illiniois
Millstone Bluff Archaeological Area interprets an ancient Indian village site on top of the bluff on the 3/4 mile trail. At the top of the trail go straight to see the petroglyphs etched into the rock almost 500 years ago!
Judaculla Rock – Cullowhee, North Carolina
Judaculla Rock features one large boulder (48 feet wide!) with mysterious carvings, probably Cherokee. There’s not much else to see so this is a great quick-stop on your road trip!
Track Rock Gap – Georgia
Track Rock Gap, created by Creek and Cherokee people more than 1000 years ago, are petroglyphs carved into soapstone boulder much like the Judaculla Rock. There are over 100 carvings and is the only petroglyph site on public land in Georgia.
Sprayberry Rock – Georgia
Sprayberry Rock is a unique petroglyph for its location – displayed at a Wells Fargo Bank in Marrietta, Georgia.
Reef Bay Trail – U.S. Virgin Islands
The St. John petroglyphs on the Reef Bay Trail are located in the Virgin Islands National Park made by Taino Indians as early as 500 AD. Nearby you can also explore the ruins of a sugar factory.
Washington State Park – Missouri
You can find two petroglyph sites at Washington State Park. They can be easily accessed by a short trail with interpretive signs nearby. This area has ties to the Cahokia Mounds in Illinois.
Courthouse Wash – Moab, Utah
As mentioned the Courthouse Wash is just one of many petroglyphs that can be found in and near the Moab, Utah area. This specific panel is found within Arches National Park and has an informative interpretive panel there. The colors are absolutely astounding here!
As you can see there are quite a few places spanning the entire United States to see rock art in person! This is by no means an exhaustive list! There are many places in the USA not listed here to view petroglyphs and pictographs. Remember, a petroglyph is carved into stone and a pictograph is painted onto stone.
If you have any specific locations that you have loved visiting pre-historic rock art please leave a comment below for others to learn about!
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