Documenting this hike was a challenge that I enjoyed. I had to go out three different times before I finally found what I was looking for on this hike. The first trip took me (I would later find out) right past one of the slot canyons with some of the most significant petroglyphs. The second trip I found one of the petroglyph sites and stopped my search just short of finding the other three. The third trip I slipped my little baby girl in her sling and went out determined to find all of the petroglyphs and make a trail worth following! At last I conquered, and I’m proud to present my report.
Ever since I was a kid I have had a sense of awe when I’ve seen petroglyphs, or any historical site for that matter. I feel like I’m stepping into the past and witnessing the result of someone’s great efforts to create something that was meant to last for later generations. I think part of the reason it has been so hard to find a documented hike that takes you to these sites is because of the fear that people will disrespect and deface these precious artifacts. I trust you more than they do. Respect these sites. They are beautiful and sacred, and should be preserved for your children and grandchildren to see!
On to the trip…you can approach the “loop” one of two ways. If you follow the route I have listed here then you will follow the trail down the fence line and cross over the fence (non-barbed wire running north and south) from private to public land. You can easily step through the fence at the point where the trail meets the fence. From here you can almost just find any way down into the wash, but if you look closely you will see a faint trial that will take you down. At this point you are right between what I call the “Small Slot Canyon” and “Newspaper Rock”. If you go to the left – down the wash – and then up to your right over the slick rock you will come to the Small Slot Canyon site. As you carefully climb down into the canyon look to your left. There are a bunch of petroglyphs on the rock right there. If you are brave, and a little crazy, you can continue down into the slot from there. For the more trepidatious, go up to the right and around the trees and there is a little hidden path down into the slot that will lead you to an excellent find!
From this point you need to climb out of the slot and instead of going back to the wash, continue to your left over the slick rock. As you come up over the rise you will see a trail in front of you that leads across the was to Newspaper Rock. This is a great monument to record keeping! The Anasazi Indians wanted their story to be told and, although not always easy to find, this one is right out in the open.
Continue north from Newspaper Rock. Less than a tenth of a mile north you will see a concrete dam in the wash. You will also see the park boundary fence. Before coming to the dam head west (left) along the fence line. Follow the fence line about a quarter mile. You will be very close to some houses in one of The Ledges neighborhoods. At this point you should see a rock ahead of you that slants down to the south. This is Sinking Ship Rock. On the north face there are a whole slew of petroglyphs just waiting to be admired.
Now its time to loop back to the last site before heading back to the truck. At this point you will join up with the Gila (hee-la) Trail. Head south and follow the cairns and sign posts until you see the hoodoo formations up above and in front of you. They stand almost as sentries guarding the natural gate you are passing through. As you move into the wash in front of you the trail forks. The right continues as the Gila Trail, but the left is more of a direct route to the last petroglyph site. Follow it up the canyon and up to the right, through the tree-rock tunnel and you will pop out right at the entrance to the slot canyon with some of the most delectable rock art so far! As you head in you won’t see any petroglyphs right away, but continue on and climb through the tree whose trunk snakes between the walls and you will find what you are looking for.
You have now found them all (at least that I know about)! If you find some more, let me know about them! You still have one more great site to see though, so continue up the slick rock until you are back on the dirt and moving toward the black plateau in front of you. Now, turn around and look back…what a view! You can’t buy that view or the experience you just had with all the money in the world. Consider yourself lucky. I know I do, every time I head outside and have a chance to spend time in the amazing creations that surround me! Now continue up the hill and you will see the boundary fence again. Cross over and you can make your way back to your vehicle.
Until next time…Remember, your next adventure is just out your door!