Rainbow Canyon to Petroglyph Cave in Cedar City is a beautiful, quiet hike that often gets overlooked. The trail is around 1.4 miles round trip and can be completed in about an hour. Sun exposure is at its peak; the only shade is beneath the boulder with the petroglyphs. The path is rated moderate and can get hot. Plenty of water and sunscreen in addition to starting the hike in the morning will make for a much more comfortable trek.
The trailhead is marked and easy to spot, but a number of different ATV paths winding across the canyon can make the trail difficult to follow. The path to Petroglyph Cave follows a wash and veers off to the right before coming to the end of the large mountain on your left. This places hikers at the base of a rock wall. If you miss the main trail, the other trails will lead to a road you can take back around the mountain and to the base of the rock wall.
From the bottom of the rock wall there are easy to spot trails leading up toward the rock art. It is a relatively simple climb to a small rock cave. After scrambling through the cave, exit the other side and turn to look above the doorway you just came through. The petroglyphs are etched on a rock above the cave entrance/exit.
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Small symbols are carved in rows across the off white rock. Yellow patches are scattered across the stone. The petroglyphs are neatly etched into four long lines. Some symbols include circles with crosses inside, human stick figures, wavy lines, X’s, a horse head, and what looks like a viking head. The style, layout, and imagery in the rock art is so unique.
The perch from the top of the rock gives hikers a wide view of the surrounding mountains. After enjoying the scenery and deciphering as many glyphs as possible, the trail continues back down the rocks. It is easy to see the direction of the trailhead from the cave. Those looking for a longer hike can wander up and down the other sandy hills. Dogs are allowed, just watch out for ATVS and mountain bikers.
Rock art in Cedar City is always different, offering unparalleled imagery that is truly one of a kind. To help preserve these ancient treasures, as always please do not touch or draw on any of the glyphs. We are lucky to be surrounded by some of the most artistic pieces of history out there.
Written by: Lauren Kehoe