West Gallery

Round Trip Distance: 2.8 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 5087 - 5206 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 3 hrs.
Trailhead: John's Canyon Road MM 16.7
Fee: none
Attractions: numerous petroglyphs

The West Gallery is an area of scattered petroglyphs that are located along the John's Canyon Road near Mexican Hat, Utah. This site probably has as many images as the more popular site that is closer to John's Canyon Spring known as The Gallery but it has nothing to compare with the likes of the Hunt Panel. That aside it does have a couple of unique panels that are well worth seeing.

To get there drive east from Mexican Hat for 4 miles, or west from Bluff for 21 miles, on UT-163 and turn north on UT-261. Follow UT-261 for just under 1 mile and turn west at the sign for Goosenecks State Park. The John's Canyon Road splits off on the right at the 3 mile marker.

After turning off onto the John's Canyon Road continue for 14.6 miles to where it crosses the wash at John's Canyon Spring. (For turn-by-turn directions up to that point you can enter John's Canyon Spring into your driving app.) The road comes to a fork once it comes up out of the wash. The Gallery is straight ahead on the right fork but take the left fork to get to the West Gallery.

From the fork continue to the 16.7 mile point where there is a place to park on the right just before the road makes a short decent. A gap in the cliff (red arrow) is a good landmark if it happens that your mileage is off. The red circle is a short side trail that leads to some petroglyphs that you won't want to miss. We parked at this point and began hiking but those that drove to this point could drive even further if needed.

The side trail is less than one hundred feet long and leads to 3 boulders with a few petroglyphs.
Each boulder only has a few images and the nicest are probably on the third boulder.

After leaving the first petroglyphs the road dips around the head of a canyon that runs down to the San Juan River and then climbs gently back up onto the bench and comes to the cluster of boulders in the above photo. This is where the main cluster begins.

Searching around all the boulders can be productive but pay special attention to any social trails. This is one of the first boulders that will be noticeable.

Here the sitting figure probably represents the Katsina Paiyatemu, the Patron of Music and Flowers. Notice the lack of a backpack that makes the traditional flute player Kokopelli look like a hunchback. You might also notice the katsina feather on its head from which there is also a zigzag line that connects to the tail of the bighorn which has it's mouth open. Although there seems to be a deeper meaning in the images it kinda gives the idea of Paiyatemu playing music through the bighorn.

Not sure if these are two ears of corn, one facing up and one down, or something else.


There is a large panel that can only be seen if you are standing on the boulder in front of the rain symbol. Much of the patina is dissolving away making it difficult to easily make out the images. The panel is angled in such a way that the person creating the images would probably have been leaning against the rock and placing their hands all over its surface. It raises the question of whether a panel like this was doomed from the start by the oily residue that would have been transferred to its surface when the images were originally created.

Bear paws maybe representing the Bear Clan.

A single large atlatl.

We outlined this photo on the computer to make the images stand out. Here the approaching figures appear to have backpacks. On the right is an atlatl with lines extending like rays with one contacting the head of the person facing the approaching figures. A line continues from that figure to the one in the front of the line as though the power that it is receiving is being conveyed to the line of images. We were wondering if this has any reference to the Cult of the Gods of War. There is a very faint figure standing to the lower right of the atlatl that appears to be holding a ring that encircles the shaft perhaps empowering the shaft to empower the others.

Coyote Clan.

We're skipping a lot of images to get to the last panel for this post that is on a large boulder very near the road at the point where the road travels down a short switchback to a lower bench before traveling around another bend at the head of a side canyon that runs down to the San Juan River. Most of the images are similar to those found up to this point with bear paws, coyote prints, hands, katsinas and a slight variation of lobed circles. In the lower right corner of this photo you can see a chunk of the boulder that has broken away that has a few more images.

There are a lot more petroglyphs than those shown here but these were either the best ones found or ones that we thought had an intriguing aspect to them. Of course, there could be many more petroglyphs that we missed. A person can spend a lot of time climbing around amongst the boulders looking for images. Much of what is there are almost faded beyond recognition and barely noticeable but even some of those images are interesting. If you would like to see them for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.