Pictographs and petroglyphs are some of the Southwest's hidden gems. Scattered around, you can find some of the most incredible rock art created by ancient peoples of this region.

The Hohokam people occupied Southern Arizona over a thousand years ago and left behind their artwork of chiseled and painted rock facades. This rock art is often found in open spaces at springs, hilltops, or areas with expansive views along ancient trails. On this tour, you get to walk along the ritually and spiritually significant spots for the ancient people while viewing some of their masterpieces.


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Hiking guide

Mitch Stevens

See the pictographs and petroglyphs with the help of a Southern Arizona hiking guide who will show you the hidden gems.


Southern Arizona Petroglyphs

Mitch Stevens

Get up close and personal to the petroglyphs of Southern Arizona.


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The ancient people of the Southwest created two categories of rock art — petroglyphs and pictographs. So, what’s the difference?

Petroglyphs are images created on rock surface layers by chiseling, pecking, and grinding the image to create a slightly indented design. Many of these designs include large mammals or birds. This type of rock art is more common because it lasts for millennia.

Pictographs use techniques where color is added to the rocks to create images, such as zigzag lines, circles, and dots. It’s less common to spot pictographs because exposed sunlight and other weather forces erase them from the rocks.

Having a guide who knows where the remaining pictographs are across the Southwest allows you to get close to art dating back several thousand years.

Duration

TBD

Group size

6 - 12

Itinerary

Hike through ancient sites of the Hohokam people who inhabited Southern Arizona over 1,000 years ago. During your hike, you’ll learn about how they were one of the longest-lasting civilizations in North America by examining remnants of their communities and cultures.

Encounter rock art sites across the Southwest region, guided by knowledgeable hikers and historians. This tour is ideal for small and large groups, including conferences, visitors, and small groups.

Choose one or all of these tours for your next pictograph and petroglyph hiking trip.


  • Tour One

    Petroglyphs and Pottery

  • Tour Two

    King Canyon Petroglyphs

  • Tour Three

    Signal Hill Petroglyph site and Cocoraque Butte

  • Tour Four

    North Rim


Moderate / Strenuous Hiking

Choose your own adventure! Pull together one or all of these hiking tours to see as many petroglyphs and pictographs as you can across the Southern Arizona landscape.

Get in touch with us to learn more about scheudles and pricing. You have nothing to lose! If the trip doesn’t exceed your expectations, we’ll offer you a full refund, so let’s get planning!


“On their wilderness outings, Southwest Discoveries is very inclusive. They have mastered the art of bringing people to areas that are both beautiful and difficult to access. They organize trips that range from day-hikes up to backpack trips for over a week. Their guides are kind, assertive, and work toward creating comradely and unity in the group which brings back hikers to successive trips. It also creates a community of citizens who work to protect our wild lands. I highly recommend Southwest Discoveries for any wilderness type of experience, from short day-hikes to backpacking trips.”

Russell LowesTucson, Arizona

Tour Option One: Petroglyphs and Pottery

On this half day tour, you will explore the Picture Rocks site created by the Hohokam people 700 to 1300 years ago. With hundreds of petroglyphs, this site showcases a variety of designs, depicting human and animal-like figures as well as spirals. During your hike, your guide will lead a discussion around the possible meanings of these images based on the Hohokam people's culture. For example, one of the spiral petroglyphs at the site interacts with the sunlight, and could be a possible indicator of its use as a calendar. You will also discover an amazing site of a large Hohokam village inhabited between 850 to 1300 years ago. The area was named Los Morteros because of the many bedrock mortars found at the site. The Hohokam used these features to grind seeds, corn as well as other crops. The location was also the scene of the famous 1775-1776 expedition of Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza. This is an historic 1,200-mile route traveled by Anza and his followers during the years 1775 to 1776 from Sonora Mexico to San Francisco. In addition, there are many pottery shards at the site, which you will have fun identifying the many shapes, colors, and varieties created by the Hohokam people.


Tour Option Two: King Canyon Petroglyphs

Enjoy an easy 1-mile hike to a fantastic set of petroglyphs at a rockface panel located within the west unit of Saguaro National Park, just outside of Tucson. Numerous petroglyphs left by the Hohokam and O'odham people can be found near dry waterfalls a short distance before the wash rejoins the King Canyon trail. After exploring this area, you will continue hiking on the King Canyon trail to the summit of Wasson Peak, the highest point in the Tucson Mountains. From the summit of this 4,699-foot peak, incredible views of Tucson, the Santa Catalina Mountains and other sky island mountain ranges will appear. The hike overall is moderately challenging and spectacular desert scenery abounds. It is especially beautiful in the spring when wildflowers are present. Many saguaro cactuses are present here and the interesting shapes and varieties will astound visitors.


Tour Option Three: Signal Hill Petroglyph site and Cocoraque Butte

Signal Hill petroglyph site is located at Saguaro National Park West. There are dozens of images viewable from a short trail and viewing area. The depictions at Signal Hill are quite varied, from geometric designs to people and animals, to abstract shapes. Although the meanings are unknown, their prominence on rocks atop a hill suggest that they were important signals to the ancient peoples. They were carved by the Hohokam approximately 800 years ago. After exploring the Signal Hill petroglyphs, you will be driven to Cocoraque Butte, a little-known archaeological site. The petroglyphs of the Cororaque Butte site in Ironwood Forest National Monument are fascinating. They have specific meanings that represent parts of a belief system. Archeologists established the presence of flowers and the related imagery, like the petroglyphs at nearby Sutherland Wash, which can be seen on another tour we offer. The rock art here resembles local flowers, abstract images that have been interpreted as flowers based on ethnographic information and images of colorful fauna such as birds and butterflies, as well as features such as rainbows and shiny rocks. These images are an astounding 1,200 – 1,500 years old.


Tour Option Four: Sutherland Wash Rock Art

The Sutherland Wash Rock Art District showcases a complex of 28 Hohokam era sites that are located northwest of Tucson. More than 3,000 petroglyphs have been discovered here. It is located in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains, the Coronado National Forest. The trail is moderate and covers 3.7 miles roundtrip, and takes about a half-day to complete. There are four concentrations of ancient petroglyphs near the Sutherland Wash, a major drainage of the Santa Catalina Mountains. In addition to the petroglyphs, massive old saguaro cactuses and wildflowers abound. You will enjoy grand vistas of Pusch Ridge, a spectacular rock face on the north side of this mountain range.


Get Personal With the Past

Contact us for prices and times.

Explore the Southwest through a historical lens. Hike up to the pictographs and petroglyphs of the past while learning about the people who drew them on stone.

Each one of our tours is slightly different, so you’re always in for a new experience alongside our expert guides. Intrigued?