Nampaweap Petroglyph

Nampaweap Petroglyph Trail is located in the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument. Petroglyphs are images carved into rock. Nampaweap means “foot canyon” in Paiute. The petroglyphs are estimated to be between 10,000 and 1,500 years old. This canyon is thought to have been an important route from the Grand Canyon to the abundant resources of Mt. Trumbull’s ponderosa pines. The area is one of the largest galleries of petroglyphs on the Arizona strip.

Nampaweap Trail is accessible with a four wheel drive vehicle via rough, unimproved roads. The trail is about 1.5 miles round trip with very little elevation gain. The relatively easy path makes it possible for hikers to take their time and look carefully at the imagery scribed into the dark basalt rock. Thousands of carvings decorate the lava rock.

The area has been dubbed “Billy Goat Canyon” by local hikers. While the corridor is home to a variety of different images, goats are seen frequently. Other images include concentric circles, snakes, human figures, hands, feet, and geometric designs. The ancient Paiutes used these images to document events, histories, family stories, and dreams. Petroglyphs were carved in “power” areas with important plants, rocks, or water. This corridor’s power was serving as the gateway in and out of the canyon to the vital pine tree forest.

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While we don’t know exactly what the imagery means, we can put some pieces together and make inferences. Many of the human figures are a part of birthing or fertility scenes. Shamanic figures scattered around the rocks indicate a sacred place.

Today hikers are able to get close to the rock art without any fences or glass in between. The artwork has managed to escape graffiti over many years. To keep it this way, please do not climb on or draw on the petroglyphs. The images are fragile and must be treated with the same respect their creators gave. Sticking to the trail allows for excellent visibility of the images. It also keeps hikers away from the rattlesnakes known to frequent the rocks.

Nampaweap Petroglyph Trail is a unique, remote area where hikers receive a truly unique experience. The collision of the desert canyons and thick pine forest creates a breathtaking backdrop for ancient imagery. Hikers could spend hours photographing and deciphering the detailed story. Nampaweap Petroglyphs are some of the most well-preserved, untouched carvings on the Arizona Strip. The area is well worth the drive.

Written by: Lauren Kehoe

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