Travel Curious

For independent travelers who want to dig deeper

Black Dragon Pictographs, Petroglyph Canyon & Spirit Arch

Three different sites in one, see the controversial Black Dragon rock art, and you can hike in two adjacent canyons to see hidden arches in one and more petroglyphs in the other

Viewing the Black Dragon Canyon Pictographs with binoculars from the roadway
I like this area because there are three different attractions all in the same place. The controversial Black Dragon rock art you can drive right to with a 4×4 or it’s a short hike from the 2-wheel drive parking area.
Afterward, you can hike into two adjacent canyons Petroglyph Canyon and Double Arch Canyon to see Spirit Arch, a hidden arch in one, and some more rock art in the other. 
  • There is a viewpoint 4 miles further up I-70 to the west called Black Dragon Canyon View Point, this is a pull-off with a scenic view and is not related to the Black Dragon Pictographs
  • Binoculars to see the artwork better
Getting there
  • You can only reach the turn-off when heading westbound on I-70. There is no exit, only a dirt road ( 38.925321, -110.416943 ), at about mile marker 147, (approximately 13 miles west of Green River). 
The pull off on I-70 to get to the Black Dragon Canyon Pictographs
  • Keep an eye out for the dirt road, it comes up fast as you come over the hill. Exit the highway onto the dirt road and drive up to the gate. Open and drive through and close it.
Open and close the gate behind you if it is closed
  • From the gate, the road goes for about 500 feet, then make a hard left going through the wash and you will be on South Hatt Ranch Bypass
  • Continue for 0.6 miles and you will come to a spur road on your left at ( 38.931904, -110.418766 ) the parking area for Petroglyph Canyon and Spirit Arch is 1000 feet down this spur road at ( 38.931888, -110.422878 ).
  • Continue further down South Hatt Ranch Bypass for 0.4 miles and you will come to the wash from Black Dragon Canyon at ( 38.936940, -110.418405 ).
  • You can find a place to park here or if you have a 4×4 you can travel up the wash 0.6 miles to park right in front of the Black Dragon Canyon Pictographs at ( 38.942762, -110.424718 ).
Petroglyph Canyon and Spirit Arch ( 38.931888, -110.422878 )
Black Dragon Canyon Pictograph at the wash at ( 38.936940, -110.418405 ) or at the rock art itself at ( 38.942762, -110.424718 )
Black Dragon Canyon Pictographs Map
The Calendar
The Calendar is to your far right at close to ground level. A lot of this artwork has chalk outlines around it from the 1920s which was a common practice then. The multiple rows of marks are notations that lead researchers to believe this is a solar calendar, possibly connected to the summer solstice. The black dragon artwork gets all the attention, but I think this large panel is quite interesting, binoculars make studying the many different individual pieces a lot easier.

Calendar in Black Dragon

Close up of the Pictographs

Black Dragon Canyon Pictographs


Black Dragon Canyon Pictographs
The Black Dragon, from which the canyon takes its name has had a controversial history for a long time. In 1928 it was discovered by an amateur rock hound. The controversy would begin decades later, in the 1940s John Simonson’s chalk outlined what he considered to be the edges of the artwork (chalking is a big no-no today and illegal, but was a common practice back then to help people see pictographs better).
Nearby artwork on the walls near the black dragon
The outline he chose created an image that resembled a winged creature, a dragon which resonated with the people of that time. A geologist added to the controversy when he started a theory that it resembled a flying dinosaur called a pterosaur, whose fossils have been found in the area, it didn’t stop anybody from using logic since at that time it wasn’t that well known that humans and dinosaurs never shared the same time period.
Modern researchers have disagreed with all of these interpretations. Those experts on Barrier Canyon style recognize the dragon is actually made up of five figures including human-like and a bighorn sheep as well as a horned snake, each of which is very common in this time period’s artwork.
Dog Pictographs
The five separate figures have been verified through a couple of means, one of which is a digital imaging tool called Dstretch, which reveals pigments faded so much we can’t see them with the human eye. The second was x-ray fluorescence, measuring the red pigment’s iron content to see exactly where the Indians applied pigment on the rock face. 

The Black Dragon Canyon Pictographs


The chalked Black Dragon

Petroglyph Canyon and Double Arch Canyon / Spirit Arch
Petroglyph Canyon has two small rock art panels, the first is very faded and the second is more vivid by small. In the adjacent Double Arch Canyon, there are some arches up high to see.
From the trailhead follow the trail for 1/2 mile as it drops down to the bottom of the wash to a Y that goes to Double Arch Canyon to the right or Petroglyph Canyon to the left. Both canyons are dead ends so they are both out and back to the Y. Heading into Double Arch Canyon keep looking up and to your left high up in the back of the canyon, the arch is at ( 38.929444, -110.434167 ) as you get further in you can easily see it and as you get closer you will notice there are actually multiple arches just below it. Once done, head back to the Y and head toward Petroglyph Canyon. Once you enter the canyon, both panels are on the right-hand wall of the canyon, the faded panel is the first at ( 38.927476, -110.432973 ) and then the small better panel is just after. The trail goes into the dead-end of the canyon and loops back, there’s nothing up there to see.

Spirit Arch trail head sign

Spirit Arch path with sun setting

The entrance to Double Arch Canyon

The view into the entrance to Double Arch Canyon

The arch


Faded panelFaded panel – it looks like someone tried to chisel out this panel at one time to steal it


The 2nd panel
2nd panel

Explore Nearby...


Rochester Rock Art Panel

A short hike leads to a boulder on an overlook with hundreds of petroglyphs chipped into the desert varnish from the Fremont Culture dating back to at least 1300 AD

Horseshoe Canyon – Hike

Once known as barrier canyon, it contains rock art that gave name to the barrier canyon style of artwork, contained in four galleries including the Great Ghost.

Goblin Valley State Park Utah

Goblin Valley State Park

The park contains thousands of mushroom-shaped (goblins). You can walk amongst the hoo-doos, there are hiking trails and a cave on the back side of the valley called the Goblin’s Lair

Scenic Drives...

Nine Mile Canyon Utah

Nine Mile Canyon – Scenic Drive

A forty-mile long canyon drive with the highest concentration of rock art in the world, with an estimated 10,000 individual artworks from Archaic, Fremont, and Ute Indians

Buckhorn Wash Green River Utah

Buckhorn Wash

Rock art on 100 foot panels. See pictographs painted by the Barrier Canyon culture 2000 years ago and petroglyphs pecked into the rock by Fremont Indians 1000 years ago.

Wedge Overlook

Called “Utah’s Little Grand Canyon”. There are multiple overlooks 1000 feet above the San Rafael River and canyons below you, each one gives you a different vista.

Everything Else...

Crystal Geyser Green River Utah

Crystal Geyser

Crystal Geyser is a CO2 geyser created accidentally in 1935 by an oil drilling rig.

Temple Mountain Pictograph

Significant because it contains some of the largest prehistoric painted figures in Utah. The largest image in its current condition is about 6 feet tall.

Lone Warrior Panel Green River Utah

Lone Warrior panel

The Lone Warrior is the main feature, but there are some petroglyphs, some signatures with dates and some sharpening grooves carved into the base of the cliff to see also.

Head of Sinbad / Locomotive Point

On the south side of a locomotive-shaped rock formation, are amazing Barrier Canyon Style pictographs so pristine they look like they were painted yesterday

Dutchman Arch

Visit a small but picturesque arch you can walk inside of or climb right on top of

Swasey Cabin Green River Utah

Swasey Cabin

Visit Joseph Swasey’s 1921 cabin. The Swasey brothers, Joe, Sid, Rod, and Charley were some of the earliest pioneers of the San Rafael Swell and many local landmarks bear their names.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Buy Framed Prints

Images on this website are available as framed prints to support running the website
Browse Prints For Sale


Featured Posts