Newspaper Rock, Indian Creek Corridor
Extra, extra, read all about it! The reviews are in: You can see all the news you can’t actually read at one of the West’s most famous rock art sites. Native American Indians have been engraving and drawing on Newspaper Rock in Utah for more than 2,000 years. Their markings in these ruins tell the stories, hunting patterns, crop cycles, and mythologies of their lives. But what exactly these Utah petroglyphs are communicating, we’ll never know for there is no actual translation available at this remarkable Utah attraction.
Newspaper Rock is located 15 miles west of U.S. 191 along the Indian Creek Corridor Scenic Byway (S.R. 211) in Bears Ears National Monument, now part of the 71,896-acre Indian Creek unit designated December 4, 2017 by U.S. President Donald Trump. The rock is called Tse' Hane in Navajo, or “rock that tells a story.” There are hundreds of Utah petroglyphs here that feature a mixture of forms, including pictures resembling humans, animals, tools, and more esoteric, abstract things. The 200-square-foot rock site is a part of the cliffs all along the upper end of Indian Creek Canyon.
Indian Creek Canyon is a popular Utah destination for rock climbers who flock to the Wingate sandstone for its pristine cracks, which are scaled with traditional climbing aids. However, the common nature lover will still get much out of the scenic drive; better still, the road leads to The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, which offers a number of great hiking trails ranging from family-friendly walks through historically significant places to overnight backpacking trips.
What Makes it Great
As one of the largest collections of petroglyphs in the country, Utah's Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument is like a living museum. However, thankfully, you don’t have to peer at the pristine rock art through glass at this site.
Peoples from the Fremont, Ute, and Anasazi Native American tribes etched their markings here. It’s surmised that the perennial natural spring attracted ancients to this distinct area. There are over 650 rock art designs and include animals, human figures, and various symbols, some thought to be religious in nature. These petroglyphs were produced by pecking through the black desert varnish found on the rock to the lighter rock beneath.
After enjoying the rock art, get back in the car and check out the rest of the 19-mile Indian Creek Scenic Byway. Driving westward, the sharp sandstone cliff walls are mesmerizing. Approximately 12 miles from the red rock canyon of Indian Creek, you’ll venture into the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.
What You’ll Remember
Standing at the base of the 200-square-foot rock and trying to decipher what the ancients were trying to communicate; craning your neck to count all of the artwork; sketching and replicating some of the petroglyphs in your own notepad; losing count when you try to see who can count the most antelope; driving the awe-inspiring byway and looking at all of the massive, perfectly-red Wingate sandstone cliffs.
GPS Coordinates, Parking and Regulations
There are no fees or permits required to visit Newspaper Rock or to drive the Indian Creek Scenic Byway through Indian Creek National Monument. There are fees to enter Canyonlands National Park. Just across the highway from the petroglyphs there is a picnic area and campground, which is free and is first-come, first-serve.
The area is open year-round, and the best times to visit are March through late-May and September through October. Feel free to bring your dog, but most places require furry friends to remain on-leash.
Ancient Cliff Dwellings
Between Natural Bridges National Monument and Blanding there are several popular cliff dwellings to visit in the Greater Cedar Mesa area, including the picturesque House on Fire.
Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum
See the largest collection of Ancestral Puebloan pottery and relics in southeastern Utah, including an excavated and restored kiva.
Canyonlands National Park
The currents of the Green and Colorado rivers molded Canyonlands into a rugged and beautiful place, with experiences ranging from the iconic Mesa Arch and White Rim Trial to remote backcountry.
Newspaper Rock 1: Jirka Matousek - CC - attriibution, Newspaper Rock. UT
Newspaper Rock 2: Mike Fisher - CC- attribution, Petroglyphs carved into a rock on the road to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park