Explore the West's ancestral past. Visit the sacred lands of the Navajo. Travel with respect.
Countless generations of Native Americans have called the landscapes of Utah home, from the hunter-gatherers of the prehistoric era and the Ancestral Pueblos who built cliff dwellings in the Bears Ears and Shash Jaa areas, to the five distinct American Indian cultures who live here today. This five-day itinerary will paint a vibrant picture of Utah’s heritage as you visit dwelling sites, petroglyphs, and other places steeped in Native American culture and history.
Start things off with a visit to the Natural History Museum of Utah then give yourself a couple of days to tour Nine Mile Canyon and the backcountry roads of the San Rafael Swell to see some of the state's finest rock art sites. First-time visitors might start the trip in Arches National Park, where just off the trail to Delicate Arch lie ancient Ute petroglyphs. (But plan with care: The park gets busy and patience is a must. Check traffic in advance and know that weekends will be especially busy.) Head south toward the Indian Creek Corridor Scenic Byway unit of Bears Ears for a stop at Newspaper Rock, where you’ll find hundreds of petroglyphs etched into the cliffside and dating as far back as 2,000 years.
Around Blanding and Bluff, you can visit Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum to explore an ancient Pueblo village, as well as Hovenweep National Monument and its castle-like remnants of a massive ancient village. Then marvel at the 100-yard panel of petroglyphs at Sand Island. With high-clearance, a map, preparation and respect, nearby River House and Comb Ridge offer a closer look at this land's indigenous history.
Take a Jeep tour of Monument Valley with a Navajo guide who will teach you about Navajo culture, storytelling, and this breathtaking landscape they call home. Get a closer look by walking the Wildcat Trail that loops around West Mitten Butte. If you've seen even a few Hollywood Westerns, chances are, this place will seem familiar.
On your final day, explore the rugged Cedar Mesa area where you’re bound to discover with humility and care the ancient cliff dwellings along S.R. 95 and countless relics scattered throughout the canyons. Or visit the largest known Fremont Indian village and its artifacts, petroglyphs and pictographs as well as the impressive range of animals depicted in the petroglyphs of Capitol Reef National Park.