Fremont Petroglyphs

Round Trip Distance: 0.4 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 5362 - 5394 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 30 mins.
Trailhead: Petroglyphs
Fee: $7 individual, $15/vehicle
Attractions: Fremont style petroglyphs

The Fremont Petroglyphs are located in Capitol Reef National Park along Highway 24 between the Visitor Center and the Hickman Bridge trailhead. The petroglyphs are excellent examples of Fremont style rock art that are easy to access next to a paved road. The Fremont people inhabited the area between 600 AD and 1300 AD. The Fremont were distinctively different culturally from the ancestral Puebloans, a.k.a Anasazi, who inhabited areas further to the south during the same period.

A sturdy boardwalk makes the trail wheelchair accessible and helps to discourage visitors from climbing up to the petroglyphs and damaging them. It is apparent that a few large chunks of rock have fallen from the cliffs in places taking some of the rock art with them. It almost seems to place an urgency on planning a visit.

There are a couple of free viewing scopes at the main panel of petroglyphs. The petroglyphs are far enough away that a good zoom or telephoto lens is helpful for taking pictures.

The trapezoidal shapes of anthropomorphic figures makes Fremont style petroglyphs easy to identify. While no definitive interpretations of the rock art are known if the figures do represent something similar to the modern day Kachina then they are in fact religious in nature. The figures could be thought of as representations of the invisible spirits, or entities, that aid people in the rigors of everyday life.

The boardwalk shaded by cottonwood trees is a pleasant stroll.

Some petroglyphs are easy to identify like the bear, dog and bighorn sheep in this photograph.

Most of the figures at the east end of the boardwalk are so faded that they are barely discernible. At one time it was a common practice to outline the figures with chalk before taking photographs. This was even done by archaeologists and university students who where making a study of the rock art. While the practice was decidedly damaging to the rock art and was discontinued the old chalk photos are still some of the best ways to study a site. Trying to outline them on the computer is always an alternative but its not quite the same.

The petroglyphs are a little icing on the cake for a visit to Capitol Reef National Park. Visitors come expecting to enjoy the natural beauty of the geology and upon arrival find there is much more to the place with rock art at several locations, the remains of an early Mormon community with some buildings still intact and well preserved, a fine campground and hiking trails that lead into the heart of the park with its arches, natural bridges and other features to explore. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.