Hidden Valley Petroglyphs I

Round Trip Distance: 5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 4546 - 5270 feet
Cellphone: 2-5 bars
Time: 3 hrs. 45 mins.
Trailhead: Hidden Valley
Fee: none
Attractions: petroglyphs

Located in the Hidden Valley and Moab Rim area of the Behind the Rocks Wilderness Study Area in Moab, Utah are two extensive collections of petroglyphs that are on the cliffs of adjacent canyons. Panel after panel of petroglyphs stretch along the first cliff for almost a full half mile before the cliff itself finally comes to an end. Due to the large number of petroglyphs involved we have separated them into two posts in order to provide a more complete description.

To get to the trailhead drive 2-3 miles south of Moab on Highway 191 and turn right on Angel Rock Road. Drive toward the mountain and turn right again on Rimrock Road to the trailhead. Alternatively you can enter 'Hidden Valley Trail Head' into your driving app and pick the one in Moab, Utah on Rim Rock Drive for turn-by-turn directions.

From the parking area the trail climbs steeply for the first 0.65 miles, gaining a little over 550 feet of elevation, before leveling off as it reaches Hidden Valley. It is a pleasant hike through Hidden Valley where there is a short hill near the 1.5 mile point. Just past the 2 mile point the trail makes a short climb, gaining another 32 feet of elevation, to a small pass. At the top of the pass the route to the petroglyphs branches off sharply on the right where it climbs a little more to get up to the start of the petroglyphs that begin at the point of the cliff that in this photo is marked by the downward pointing blue arrow. The petroglyphs stretch all along the base of the cliffs beginning at that point.

Before you get all the way up to the point of the cliff where the long row of petroglyphs begins there are a few others that are marked by the red circle that are worth a short side trip of a few hundred feet to check out. If you click on this photo to see its larger version you should be able to pick out a small deer or elk thats antlers are represented by the long lines and geometric figures that stretch out above its head. The lines probably represent a map, possibly to a hunting ground, if taken in context.

After reaching the point of the cliff marked by the blue arrow you will immediately begin seeing petroglyphs. Some of them are pretty faded but most are very easy to discern. A good number of the petroglyphs represent animals like this crane that is seen here clasping a fish in its bill.

This panel with its wavy line that leads to a geometric image that might represent 3 fins of rock extending out from a cliff seems to denote a travel or route as it has 2 sandal tracks above the line. Below the geometric image is one of a human like figure inside of a circle from which a line extends downward.

Bear paws, like these that seem to represent those of a grizzly bear, are also common among the various images. The bear paws appear to date to the same time as the broad bodied basketmaker style anthropomorphic (human like) figure above and to the left.

This is another very interesting set of images where you have a large figure holding a shield that has another basketmaker style image in its center. The shield is superimposed over the body of the figure that is holding it with the body behind the shield being shown by finely pecked dots giving the image an x-ray effect.

This image is interesting because it appears to be showing a member of the 'Loon Clan' fighting with a member of what we are calling the 'Snake Clan'. We refer to them as duck heads and snake heads because that is descriptive of their appearance. The more intriguing aspect is that the same duck head type of human like figures can also be found in the Cedar Point area west of Bluff, Utah indicating some of the range of their travels.

Here is another interesting basketmaker style figure with a ray like headdress.

Here we have 20 duck heads dancing. Just past the dancing duck heads there is a spot above the trail where rocks have been stacked to create a level bench. It's hard to tell exactly what the purpose of the bench was. It is a nice place from which to look out over the valley but there are no obvious signs of fire rings, tool making or grinding surfaces so it doesn't appear to have been built for a workplace or dwelling.

This panel with its line of 14 bighorns has an image that at first glance brings a menorah to mind. There is also an older set of a dozen ascending bighorns all in a line nearby.

Another 'Respect your heritage' plaque marks the end of the petroglyphs along this section of cliff. There are more that are really worth checking out on around the corner that are up on a bench on the north side of the canyon. There are also two hard to get to ruins that look like defensive structures on top of the ridge above the second set of petroglyphs. We are posting those petroglyphs as Hidden Valley Petroglyphs II since this post has already become longer than usual.

We could have added another handful of images that would have been great finds by themselves. Some of them are in the slideshow at the end of this post but we had to even cut a lot of images from that to make it shorter. There is an image that might represent the legendary spider woman as well as a few other basketmaker style anthropomorphs, one of which is wearing a necklace, and a few more interesting geometric images that are worth watching for in the slideshow. It seems that the further you hike down the ridge the better the images become. Many people turn around before seeing them when there is really no reason to do so. At the end of the ridge you can hike a hundred yards or so over to rejoin the Hidden Valley trail to get back to the trailhead or you can extend the adventure by another half mile and pick up what we refer to as Hidden Valley Petroglyphs II. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.