Dinosaur National Monument covers a vast wilderness in two states and oddly enough, the world famous dinosaur fossil beds are only a small portion of what there is to discover in this big park. There are some seriously long Jeep trails in the Colorado back country and the many hiking trails in the northern Utah wilderness areas are equally as lengthy. Plenty of outdoor adventures await to be discovered in the back country and there are several native heritage sites to experience as well. Where the rivers flow is where the people go and this saying definitely holds true through the ages. Both the Green River and Yampa River have served as human pathways through this rugged mountainous wilderness since prehistoric times, so there is a world of native heritage to discover in this park as well.
There are two well known ancient petroglyph areas located near the Dinosaur Quarry over by Jensen, Utah and both are relatively easy to get to. The roadside petroglyphs are the easiest to access and this ancient rock art area was mentioned in a previous article. Going further east on the road that parallels Cub Creek is where a second petroglyph panel can be found, which is much larger. The Cub Creek Petroglyphs are located near Josie's Cabin and the starting point for the Blue Mountain back country Jeep trail, so there is plenty more to do in this neck of the woods after reading the ancient newspaper rock!
The road is paved most of the way to the Cub Creek Petroglyphs and the maintained dirt road section is smooth, so just about any kind of vehicle can make it to this spot. The parking area is in a lush green creek bed valley that is hemmed in by foothills and towering red rock bluffs, which is where the rock art panels are to be found. The roadside parking area is adequate and where the trail goes uphill, the vehicle will never be out of sight.
Upon exiting the vehicle, the first petroglyphs will immediately come into view way uphill on the solid red rock wall of the towering bluff. These petroglyphs are difficult to miss, because they truly are some of the biggest rock art carvings in the entire west and they are equally as famous. Several big lizard shapes are the first to be seen and this is where the foot trail goes, so it is easy to reckon which way to go. The hiking trail is short and it zig-zags uphill to the face of the bare red rock bluff, which is a few hundred feet above the valley floor. The ascent is gradual and there is a staircase section, so this little trek is fairly easy going, but because of the high elevation the uphill climb may leave some visitors slightly winded. Upon arrival at the giant lizard petroglyphs, the trail then goes either direction along the bluff face, where many more ancient rock art carvings can be viewed.
The world famous giant lizard rock art is the main attraction, yet the ones depicted are not exactly pictures of Tyrannosaurus Rex, which may be a disappointment to some. The lizard rock art represents the same small chameleon type lizards that still inhabit this region in modern times. Many more interesting ancient rock art examples can be viewed on this long panel, which include a flute playing kokapelli, resource terrain maps, tribal klan symbols and astronomical events. The footing on the narrow path along the rock wall face can be a bit dicey, so care must be taken to avoid sliding downhill. Care must also be exerted when viewing the ancient newspaper rock, because these ancient carvings are for the eyes only and by law they cannot be touched.
Because of the theme of this National Monument, thoughts of dinosaurs lurking in the hills may likely occur while viewing the big reptilian petroglyphs, which certainly can lead to some interesting commentary while there. The ancient Fremont Culture carved their masterful rock art throughout this region of Utah and more examples can be found as far away as Canyonlands and Capitol Reef. There are more examples of similar rock art to be discovered along the Yampa River on the Colorado side too, so a lengthy tour of the ancient Fremont Culture works of art can actually be planned, which is something that few others think of doing. The Cub Creek Petroglyphs are guaranteed to provide intriguing memories to ponder over for a lifetime, so be sure to log this Dinosaur destination on the books when doing the grand tour!
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