Ancient Petroglyphs in California and Nevada

Petroglyphs, or ancient drawings, can be found throughout the United States. My brothers and I saw petroglyphs in California and Nevada while visiting both state and national parks. In this post, we'll share where we located 4000-year-old petroglyphs.

Valley of Fire State Park

Located just 1-hour outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, the Valley of Fire State Park amazed us when we saw beehive rocks, Aztec red rocks, layered sandstone, and not to mention historic writings and drawings. The 1935 park spans 40,000 acres and is considered the largest and oldest park in Nevada.

Unfortunately, we don't know what these drawings meant, but it reflected the thoughts of those during this period of time 4,000 years ago, according to the sign pictured below.

Sign Transcribed:

Petroglyphs: What Do They Mean?

These petroglyphs have existed for over 4,000 years. Ancient drawings are a reflection of the past and the lifestyles of Native American cultures. Although we don't know the exact meaning of these images, this art reflects the thoughts of these people.

In order to protect these cultural treasures, we ask that you do not walk on, touch or deface the rock. Help us protect our petroglyphs for others to enjoy for generations to come.
Report vandalism!”
Sadly, we saw people leaving behind their names carved on the ancient petroglyphs. Please do not do this!

See if you can spot these drawings: foot, cross, spirals, horned animals, and ladders. 

See if you can spot the following: Trees, horned animals, feet, circles, and bodies.

Know Before You Go:
  • To enter the park, it costs $10 for Nevada residents and $15 for out-of-state vehicles.
    The park is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
    Check out the visitor center to learn about the geology, ecology, and history of the park.
    If you like camping, there are two campgrounds with a combined 72 units complete with shaded picnic tables, grills, water, and restrooms.
    RV camping is available with power and water hookups.
    If you're hiking on the trails, make sure to bring plenty of water. Make sure to check the
     official website for any trail closures.

Watch my recap video of the Valley of Fire petroglyphs:

Joshua Tree National Park 

On the Barker Dam Trail at Joshua Tree National Park, you can find colorful petroglyphs. Over the years, the petroglyphs were defaced and vandalized. Surprisingly, they were painted over by a Disney film crew and it was said that they added some new art, adding modern colors for the 1961 movie, "Chico, the Misunderstood Coyote."

Sign Transcribed:

Mysteries of the Desert

"Native Americans, migrating through here in their continuous search for food and water, left behind evidence of their activities. Petroglyphs have been found carved into canyon walls and boulders, generally near food or water sites. Pictographs, painted in red, black, and white are found on ceilings and walls of rock shelters. Mortars and grinding slicks, where seeds were crushed or ground, are also found among the rocks.

Nearby, you will see petroglyphs which have been traced over with paint. This type of vandalism prevents others from seeing the petroglyphs in their original form. Please help us by reporting any vandalism you observe."

The Barker Dam Trail was fun and easy. The best time to visit the Barker Dam Trail is during the cooler months, as summer temperatures can be scorching. The trail is relatively easy, but the terrain can be rocky, so sturdy shoes are a must. Don't forget to bring plenty of water, as staying hydrated in the desert is crucial.

The Barker Dam Trail is a perfect introduction to Joshua Tree National Park. One of the cool things to see on the trail, aside from petroglyphs, are the actual jumbo rocks, Joshua Trees in various sizes, and the dam, which once contained water. It was dry and overgrown with plants when we visited.

Know Before You Go:
  • If you're interested in hiking to the petroglyphs, keep in mind it's too hot to do this in the summer. Opt for fall and winter months. 
  • The Barker Dam trail is fairly easy and it's important to bring water. You're in the desert, afterall.

There are more petroglyphs located around southern California parks, including:

Have you seen any petroglyphs? Let me know in the comments. 

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Trip Resources

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