Coal Canyon Petroglyphs

Round Trip Distance: 1 mile
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 4558 - 4660 feet
Cellphone: 1- 4 bars
Time: 2 hrs.
Trailhead: Coal Canyon
Fee: none
Attractions: petroglyphs

The Coal Canyon Petroglyphs are located about 8 miles northeast of Green River, Utah. The site contains a large number of mostly Fremont style petroglyphs that are all clustered around a single large boulder that is within just a few feet of the trailhead. A short trail leads from there to 3 or 4 other boulders where there are a few more petroglyphs. The boulder at the turn around point has a fascinating petroglyph of a snake that appears to be swallowing people whole.

To get there take Interstate 70 exit 164 and before crossing the bridge over the Green River turn north onto the Hastings Road.

After 100 feet or so turn right onto the unmarked Coal Canyon Road.

The Coal Canyon Road travels through a farm with lots of large circular fields. There are a maze of farm roads branching off in many places that are marked with No Trespassing signs. Often the way that the signs are situated makes it extremely difficult to tell which road they are referring to. There are a couple of County Road signs like the one in this photo but there aren't enough of them to guarente easy route finding.

Route finding gets easier once you reach a green gate just past the 6 mile point. Just past the 7.5 mile point there is a turnoff that leads across the wash and up a small hill to a parking area near the main panels of petroglyphs. Under the dry conditions that we had on the day that we took the photos for this post most any 2wd highway vehicle would have been able to make it this far. A moderate amount of ground clearance is needed to get across the wash but if you park at this point you can hike less than a quarter mile to the first petroglyphs.

The main panels of petroglyphs are sandwiched between 2 large boulders. It is easy enough to walk between the boulders for a closer look but it ends up being too close for even a 17mm lens to fit a complete petroglyph within a single frame. If you do walk between the boulders take care not to brush up against the petroglyphs with your body or gear.

A better vantage point can be obtained by crawling up on the boulder opposite of the petroglyphs. Looking down at the images there are so many interesting details that it is hard to mention them all. The central figures are grouped beneath a rainbow. To their lower left is a very detailed image of what may be a thunderbird. Above that is a large bighorn that has 2 birds perched upon its back.

On the head of the large image to the right are what look like fine lines of hair that are standing straight up like a flattop haircut.

The left side of the boulder has a dark side and a light side with numerous very detailed images. Most of them look Fremont in style but a few appear to have a little Barrier Canyon style influence. Note what looks like a shaman in the middle of the light side that has his arms raised as though casting some great spell.

Petroglyphs can be found upon every suitable surface both high and low all around the main boulder. It is a little hard to pick out in this photo but there is a kokopelli flute player to the left that is approximately on the same horizontal axis as the upside down bighorn.

From the main panels an easy hike will get you over to several more boulders with petroglyphs that are well worth taking the time to see.

The first boulder with petroglyphs has what looks like part of a map on the lower right part of the boulder.. The chunk of rock that has broken off of the main panel has on it the rest of the map so obviously it broke off after the map was made.

If you persevere to the end of the faint trail after passing a couple of other boulders that have a few more petroglyphs you will come to this fascinating petroglyph of a snake that appears to be swallowing  people whole. Above the tip of its tail is a circle with a dot that might be a god symbol. The day that I posted this image on Facebook an Italian commented 'Relato de Creacion' which translates to 'Creation Story'. In this case the snake appears to be pulling the human figures into its mouth. If you look close you will even see thin lines reaching out of its mouth to the figures. I was able to find one Native American myth about a large snake or serpent-like creature that swallowed people whole and was responsible for many unexplained disappearances or deaths. (The hole beneath the boulder might also play a part in the imagery or story that is being portrayed here.)

We took several hundred photos that we didn't include in the slideshow to keep it from being too long. There is a lot going on at the Coal Canyon Petroglyph site. We did find at least one faded, yet distinguishable, pictograph of a Fremont style anthropomorphic figure. We also found a few more petroglyphs using a spotting scope as we drove a little further up Coal Canyon. There was a rainstorm approaching so we headed back toward Green River before it had a chance soak the road. We have had the Coal Canyon Petroglyphs on our todo list for more than a couple of years along with a couple of other sites that are near Green River that we hope to add soon as well. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.