The Clam Shell is a little treasure among the locals of Fredonia, Arizona. To reach the area, vehicles turn off Highway 89 A onto Cowboy Drive right by the weigh station. Then follow a dirt road adjacent to the Utah/Arizona border. The road continues for about three miles, passing by a series of picnic areas on the left. At the third picnic table there is a small dirt parking area. After parking vehicles here, look to the north to see the Clam Shell.
While not much of a strenuous hike, the Clam Shell is a unique area to explore. It is a brief climb to reach the large clam shaped rock protruding from the hill. The hillside is covered in a variety of different sized loose rocks. There is no defined trail but there are several spots where one can make the climb. Wear sturdy shoes and take careful steps to maintain footing.
The Clam Shell consists of two large oval shaped boulders, one sticking straight out and one sticking slightly up, making a 45-degree angle. The rocks are adorned with ancient petroglyphs carved deep into the sandstone. Hikers can walk across the lower rock and get a closer look at the rock art, being careful not to step on the imagery.
The most prominent image on the rock is the spiral. Spirals or concentric circles are a popular piece of ancient art thought to symbolize life. A large sun is located at the edge of the rock, similar to the swirls but triple the size surrounded with lines for rays. Other images include a snake, a variety of stick figures, and a foot with six toes. Please be respectful and do not touch the petroglyphs; we all play a part in preserving history for years to come.
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On the ceiling of the alcove are painted pictographs and black soot marks from ancient fires. The pictographs are a bit faded and harder to see than the petroglyphs. Individuals can crawl through the gap between the rocks for a shaded perch. The alcove would have been an ideal hideout for the ancient Anazasi people. A unique shape provides shelter from the sun and the elements, while the altitude allows for wide views of the distant desert.
Stunning views of the vast open valley stretch from the Clam Shell. The beauty of the Fredonia landscape is often underrated. There is an additional level above the Clam Shell for an even better view. More petroglyphs can be found here, including another boulder covered in spirals and a lone figure with an elaborate headdress.
The Clam Shell is a fun stop easily accessible by any vehicle and any hiker. It is the perfect spot to explore and uncover rock art or take a seat and watch the sunset. Don’t forget to snag some photos of the Arizona strip. Places like these remind us we don’t have to go far to get away.
Written by: Lauren Kehoe