Painted Rock Petroglyph Site

Round Trip Distance: 0.3 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 555 - 563 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 45 mins.
Trailhead: Painted Rock
Fee: $2/vehicle
Attractions: petroglyphs

The Painted Rock Petroglyph Site is located about 17 miles west and 11.5 miles north of Gila (hee-luh) Bend, Arizona. The site, which is managed by the BLM, has many hundreds of petroglyphs that have been attributed to the Western Archaic Style, 7500 B.C. to about A.D. 1, and the Gila Style of the Hohokam people, 300 BC to AD 1450. To better accommodate visitors the site also includes a large shaded ramada picnic area, vaulted toilets and a campground.

From Gila Bend head west on Interstate 8 for 17 miles and take Exit 102. The exit is signed for the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site. Continue north, northwest on the paved Painted Rock Road for 11.5 miles to the petroglyph site and campground.

The $2/vehicle per day fee can be paid at the self service kiosk by cash or check only. Exact change is required.

Numerous signs, some of which are bilingual, can be found that provide a wealth of information about the indigenous people that inhabited the area and the many travelers and expeditions that came later in historical times. Be sure to read the interpretations, or meanings, that are given for some of the various petroglyphs so you will notice them on the boulders as you walk around the trail. 

The accessible trail is a wide hard packed path with an occasional bench for rest and reflection.

While there are a few petroglyphs on the north side of the small hill of basalt boulders most of them are concentrated in the southeast area.

In that area the surface of most every rock was made use of for the messages they had to share.

There is some graffiti but nothing that appeared to be recent. The date on this boulder is in the 1800's. If all visitors respect the perimeter that is in place they won't get close enough to any rocks to leave any graffiti. Unfortunately, anyone that has a mind to leave their own marks probably doesn't care about any of the other rules. Remember that even the oil from your hands will damage the petroglyphs by eating away the dark varnish and dissolving the rock itself.

Interpretations for several of the images on these boulders can be found on one of the kiosks. They include snakes, lizard, turtle, scorpion and sun. There is also an image in the bottom center of the boulder in the middle of the photo that looks a little in shape like the Chevrolet emblem with crossbars in the middle. We've seen that same image elsewhere and while the exact location doesn't come to mind it definitely wasn't in this area.

The images extend all the way up to the top of the hill where the concentration of images is every bit as dense. It is hard to obtain an optimum viewing angle to mitigate the glare of the sun. A cloudy sky or different time of the day might prove better.

We used a Canon 200mm to 400 mm lens with an effective zoom of 640 mm to take the photos of these boulders that were all the way on top of the hill. While there is always a little blurring at that zoom level it did well enough to discern the images.

We stopped at the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site enroute from Tucson to Phoenix. Even though it seemed like we were going to reach California any minute as we drove west on Interstate 8 due to the quick route from Gila Bend to Phoenix we ended up not going that far astray. The site proved to be well worth the extra time and distance that was involved. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.