Courthouse Panel

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 1.2 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 3936 - 4086 feet
Cellphone: 4-5 bars
Time: 1 hr.
Trailhead: Lower Courthouse Wash
Fee: none
Attractions: petroglyphs, pictographs




The Courthouse Panel is a rock art site located just inside of Arches National Park on the outskirts of Moab, Utah. The site has several large panels of Barrier Canyon style pictographs (rock paintings) as well as numerous petroglyphs dating from the Archaic period all the way to the historical Ute period. While the Courthouse Panel is located within the boundaries of Arches National Park visitors don't pass through the parks entrance station where fees are collected. Other than that the same rules and regulations that govern all of the parks visitors are still enforced.


The trailhead is along the Moab Canyon bike trail off of Highway 191 just after crossing the Colorado River as you drive north out of Moab. This trailhead is well before the parks main entrance.


From the parking area follow the bike path back toward town. Stay on the path until you have crossed the bridge over Courthouse Wash.


After crossing the bridge look for the obvious trail that leads into the wash.


The trail makes a split near one of the parks boundary signs. Take the right fork and follow the trail that is marked for the Courthouse Panel. The other branch of the trail travels all the way up Courthouse Wash where it meets the main road in Arches National Park near Courthouse Tower. The one-way distance for that hike is 5 miles.


From the fork the trail leads up to the cliff above the highway. The trail has a lot of loose rocks and a little bit of minor scrambling is required to get close to the images.


The pictographs have faded a great deal over the hundreds of years that they have been here. They receive a good bathe of direct sunlight everyday combined with whatever else mother nature has to throw at them.


Close examination reveals some of the intricate details that Barrier Canyon style pictographs are known for.


The Courthouse Wash panels were vandalized in 1980. The results had a devastating effect on the fragile figures. The current fine for vandalism or excavating at any archaeological site is $250,000 and 5 years in jail. Everyone can help to protect these sites by reporting any suspicious activity. Visitors should avoid touching the images which transfers oils from your skin. Some of the images in this picture were outlined with chalk to make them stand out in a photo. That is also illegal. A much better job can be done by outlining pictures on a computer where you can zoom in on them.


The rock surfaces below the pictograph panels contain a good assortment of petroglyphs. Some of these images predate the Barrier Canyon pictographs.


Here is one petroglyph that is probably of Ute origin as it shows a rider upon a horse and horses weren't introduced until the Spanish arrived from Europe. It isn't uncommon to find petroglyphs and pictographs spanning thousands of years at a single location.


For those that are unable to scramble all the way up to the panels to get a closer look a pair of binoculars and a good zoom lens will be very helpful. The Parks Service would probably rather have visitors admire the rock art from the location of the kiosk below them but they haven't posted a sign yet closing off the area beyond that point. Most of the petroglyphs aren't visible until you get all the way up to the face of the cliff. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.