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Vernal Utah is one of the best places to see ancient petroglyphs and pictographs in the Western United States. If you love history or art (or basically, discovering really cool things), you won’t want to miss these sites.
Best places to see petroglyphs and pictographs around Vernal.
There’s something truly inspiring about looking at a picture that was carved into a rock wall hundreds of years ago. Vernal is an excellent place to see rock art, because the sandstone landscape made it significantly easier for ancients to carve their records into the stone.
What is the difference between petroglyphs and pictographs
Petroglyphs are pictures that are carved into stone. These are usually more common because since they are actually etched into the rocks, they last longer. Pictographs are paintings on the rocks. Pictographs are usually only round in caves or under large overhangs where they would be protected from rain and wind.
McConkie Ranch Petroglyphs
The very best collection of petroglyphs near Vernal Utah is at McConkie Ranch. McConkie Ranch is northwest of Vernal in Dry Fork Canyon, about a 20 minute drive from town, and should absolutely not be missed. You might also hear these petroglyphs refered to as the Dry Fork Canyon Petroglyphs.
The McConkie Ranch is technically private property, though the owners have generously opened up the area for visitors to enjoy. The parking lot is easy to find since it’s completely surrounded by antlers. A small shack is there with a donation box, where you can place your $5 suggested donation inside (cash only). From there, the signs will take you up to the base of the cliffs where you will start seeing the rock art. At McConkie Ranch, you will find petroglyphs (carvings into rocks) for about a ½ mile stretch that goes from the parking lot and then off to the west. The trail is pretty good, though there are a few hills and rocky areas, as well as some sand that you’ll walk through. We did it with a big group of kids under 10 and none of them had any problem so I think that most people should not have a problem with this walk.
At the beginning of the hike, most of the petroglyphs were faint and hard to identify, but we were so excited about every single one. As our walk went on, we realized that things were just getting better and better. After hiking for about 25 minutes (we stopped to look at A LOT), we got to the very best section. It looks like this panel that the kids are pointing to. The petroglyphs were larger than life and so was our amazement at them!
Suggested time: 1-1.5 hours.
Don’t forget to take water, sunscreen and a hat. The petroglyph hike will be in direct sun almost any time you go, and can get really hot in the summer.
How to get to McConkie Ranch
To get to McConkie Ranch, head west out of Vernal on Highway 121. When you reach 3500 W, turn north and follow that road as it takes a slight left into Dry Fork Canyon. About a mile after you pass the Remember The Maine Park, you will see a sign for McConkie Ranch on the right.
McConkie Ranch Hours
The ranch is open from dawn until dusk, so please be mindful of those hours and remember that you are on private property.
What else to do around the McConkie Ranch Dry Fork Canyon Petroglyphs
If you are looking to turn a visit to McConkie Ranch into a full day of adventure, you can stay close and head farther up Dry Fork Canyon. There you can hike or mountain bike the Dry Fork Flume trail, or have a picnic at one of the many turnouts along that same path. If you drive a little bit farther, you’ll get a bit more history with a short hike to the settlement flume site as well.
Jones Hole Creek Petroglyphs
Jones Hole is one of our absolute favorite hiking trails near Vernal and it also happens to have several well preserved pictographs along the trail.
Most visitors get to the Jones Hole Trail from the Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery. From there, follow the trail south, alongside the creek, until you cross a bridge around mile 2. Just past that, there is a small trail on the right that will take you up towards the cliff where there are several pictograph panels over about a 0.2 mile stretch.
If you hike Jones Hole from the Green River (for those on a trip down the Gates of Lodore), this section is about .25 miles north of the canyon for the Ely Waterfall. You can get all the details you need about hiking Jones Hole here.
Tour of the Tilted Rocks Petroglyphs in Dinosaur National Monument
Cub Creek Road goes between the Dinosaur Quarry and Josie’s cabin at Dinosaur National Monument. The route is called the Tour of the Tilted Rocks and is a 10 mile self guided auto-tour (you can purchase guidebooks at the visitors center for a small fee).
Swelter Shelter Petroglyphs and Pictographs
These art designs are found just ½ mile east of the Quarry Visitor Center along Cub Creek Road. There is a parking area, and the panels of art are only about 200 feet from there.
Cub Creek Petroglyphs
These petroglyphs are found 9 miles from the Quarry Visitor Center along Cub Creek Road, almost all the way to Josie’s Cabin. There are two sets of petroglyphs here. The first can be found just 50 feet from the parking area, and the second is about ¼ mile past there (though the second stretch is hilly and more strenuous). This second site is especially unique since it features lizards, which are rarely seen in petroglyphs.
Keep going down the road to see Josie’s Cabin and while you’re there, take a beautiful hike up Hog and Box Canyons. More details on each of those hikes here.
Echo Pack Petroglyphs
Echo Park is located in a remote section of Dinosaur National Monument, but it has lots of petroglyphs near it, making it a great spot to visit if you’ve got extra time.
About ½ mile before you reach Echo Park, you’ll find the Pool Creek Petroglyphs. These petroglyphs are unique because they consist of a series of many small dots, instead of the more traditional petroglyph scenes.
Just above the Echo Park campground there is also a panel of petroglyphs.
If you’re accessing Echo Pack from the river, make sure to stop on the west side of Steamboat rock and hike up to the cliffs above (this is right before Echo Park, where you can refill your water). There you’ll find several petroglyph panels and scenes including lots of carvings of animals.
How to get to Echo Park
Echo Park is located about 38 miles from the Canyon Visitor Center. The first 25 miles of the road is paved and the last 13 miles is not and is often impassable when wet. Before heading to Echo Park, stop at the visitors center and check on road conditions.
Note: If you’re taking a day trip out to Echo Park or to other petroglyphs in Dinosaur National Monument, I’d highly recommend stopping at Country Grub Cafe in Naples. Their burgers are fantastic (especially the Aussie Burger), and their English Chips are some of the best that I’ve ever had. I’m convinced that every small town has one great local burger joint, and this is definitely the one not to miss in Vernal.
Want to learn about all of the best adventures in Vernal and Eastern Utah? We’ve written everything you need to know HERE.
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