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Inspired by our trip to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks.

The Trips That Inspired Us...

Zion & Bryce Canyon National Parks

There's an unspoken rule that you don't share the location of petroglyphs, certainly not on the internet and probably not with strangers and tourists. The rock art is too fragile to risk tourists touching the paint or, worse, adding their own graffiti to the walls. But after gently broaching the topic of ancient rock art a few times to our guide during a morning canyoneering outing, he must have deemed us harmless. After dropping us off at our car and packing up his carabiners and ropes, he said: "You know, if you wanted to see some petroglyphs, I know a great spot."  

The directions were sparse; go through a cattle guard and walk towards a particular rock feature. Head north from there. Dodge the cacti and turn right at an old tree. This isn't the way I typically hike, with a route marking the way and a definitive starting and ending point planned days in advance. But these somewhat nebulous instructions ended up forcing me to pay greater attention to the landscape and everything surrounding me. Was that tree old enough to be "old"? Was that rock feature prominent enough to be the one that would lead us to the cave?

Eventually, after puzzling over the directions and backtracking more than a few times, we found the barbed wire fence and the old gate that marked the entrance to a red rock overhang where, with a bit of searching, we found walls of petroglyphs, not to mention gorgeous views back towards Zion National Park. Some of the petroglyphs looked like they were painted just yesterday, while others were so faded that the angle of the sun could make them jump out or disappear in turn.

While the famous trails through Zion and Bryce National Parks were stunning in their own right and led to plenty of jaw-dropping photo-ops, I keep coming back to the hours we spent stepping around scrubby desert bushes to find a secluded cave with forgotten petroglyphs. And, even now, while the rest of New England begins planning tropical vacations in midwinter, when the cold weather starts wearing on me, I now dream instead of leaving the snowshoes at home and embarking on long, sun-soaked desert hikes, surrounded by wildflowers and cacti, searching for petroglyphs with just directions from a stranger as my map. 



Zion National Park:

  • Canyoneering with Zion Rock & Mountain Guides

  • Skip overdone Angel's Landing and take the quieter trail - with similar views - to Scout's Lookout and beyond

  • Grab a tasty prickly pear margarita at the Bit & Spur in Springdale, UT, right outside the park

  • Do some research ahead of time on where to spot ancient petroglyphs. Consider buying a guidebook or asking a ranger for the best spots.

Bryce Canyon National Park:

  • Hike the Fairyland Loop for miles upon miles of hoodoos. Start early, as always, to beat the crowds.

  • Take some time to drive the whole park road and bring a picnic lunch with you from Springdale. There isn't much near the park.

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