sego canyon rock art utah

Sego Canyon Rock Art: Out Of This World Pictographs Just An Hour From Moab

If you’ve been here a while you’ll know it’s not shocking that I had no idea what the Sego Canyon Pictographs were basically until we were going.  I had heard of Sego Canyon earlier this summer but didn’t really know what it was.  We decided to go last minute after the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail and I’m so glad!

Sego Canyon is an easy drive from Moab, 48 minutes, and you don’t even need a special car to get there.  It’s a cool canyon with tons of rock art not too far from the Interstate making it the perfect road trip stop.

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Ute Panel
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Fremont Panel

Things to keep in mind when visiting ruins:

  • Do not touch the rock art (pictographs or petroglyphs) because the oils on our fingers can degrade them.
  • If you find artifacts, do not take them.  Leave them where they are and just take pictures.
  • If there are structures (rooms, kivas, anything like that) don’t enter them unless it is stated that you can.  Most places you can’t but national and state parks will have restored structures you can enter.  Mesa VerdeEdge of the Cedars, and Anasazi Museum all have ruins you can enter.
  • And finally, don’t carve in or write on the rocks!  I don’t want to have to say this, but I need to fo sho.
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Fremont Panel

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What are the Sego Canyon Pictographs?

Sego Canyon Rock Art is made up of three styles: Fremont, Ute, and Barrier.  They’re all very distinct, but the Barrier style is arguably the highlight.  These are the out of this world alien-looking creatures that you’re probably there to see.

The Archaic People (that made the Barrier Style figures) roamed the area over 8,000 years ago and made the Anthropomorphic figures that look a little bit like aliens or mummies.  There are ten or so of these lifesize things that don’t have arms or legs and feature some pretty big bug eyes.  These are very distinctive and are similar to the ones in Horseshoe Canyon.

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The Ute drawings (straight ahead from the parking if your back is to the road) features white men (one with leggings), horses, bison, and a shield.  You can see these in the first picture of this post.  Unfortunately, this section has been vandalized, so do your part and don’t vandalize anymore.

The Fremont Panel (to the right of the Ute) shows lifesize human figures, bighorn sheep, and geometric designs.  The oldest carvings are at the top (the faint red section) and the newer are lower down.

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So, what are these weird alien figures?  Some people think they are depictions and evidence of aliens visiting Earth in the ancient past, but scholars maintain that they’re shamanistic art related to ritual activities.  The weird features like the bug eyes were part of the rituals and are attributed to the use of hallucinogens.

This area is undergoing a long-term conservation program to help preserve this awesome rock art, so please be respectful of the area, just like you would at any rock art or ruin site.

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How to get to the Sego Canyon Pictographs

Sego Canyon is super easy to get to and the road is paved most of, if not all, the way to the parking area, which is about four miles from the Interstate.  From the parking lot if your back is to the road, you can see some of the art straight ahead (Ute) and to your right (Fremont).  The good stuff (Barrier) is around the outcropping to the right.  There is more across the road from the good section.

Moab to Sego Canyon

From Moab, head out towards the Interstate.  Merge onto I-70 East and get off at Thompson Springs (Exit 187).  Turn left onto UT-94, which turns into BLM 159/Sego Canyon Road, and follow this until you get to the rock art.  It will be on your left.  There is a parking area and bathroom here with small trails leading to all the rock art.

Sego Canyon from the Interstate

Take the Thompson Springs exit (Exit 187) and turn left onto UT-94, which turns into BLM 159/Sego Canyon Road. Follow this until you get to the rock art.  It will be on your left.  There is a parking area and bathroom here with small trails leading to all the rock art.

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What to bring camping in Utah

NatGeo National Parks Book – This is one of the best national park guidebooks and I take it on all my park trips.  Plus, it’s got the nice glossy pages.  Buy the book here.

Hiking poles – These will be helpful on longer hikes that are on the steeper side.  They’ll be good if you have bad knees for when you’re going downhill and will give you something to lean on going up the hills.

Snacks – These are more important for long hikes, but you never know when you’ll get hungry!  I like EPIC bars (kind of like beef jerky but different), Sahale nut mix things, and Moon Cheese.  There’s always the good old Clif Bars and trail mix, too.

Water bottle – It’ll be hot and humid and you’ll need to stay hydrated.  A Hydro Flask will keep your water ice cold all day long.

Sunscreen – If you plan on being outside, you’ll want sunscreen.  I like the Neutrogena a lot, but if you’ll be visiting a beach soon, you’ll want a reef-safe sunscreen.

Hat – You’ll want some kind of hat to keep the sun out of your eyes.  A baseball hat should be fine but a bucket hat or sun hat could help keep the sun off your neck.

Sunglasses – This is a must, especially with the strong desert sun.  Sunglasses are best paired with a hat on those really bright days.

Light Jacket – Because you just never know.  Weather can change quickly depending on where you are and if you’ll be in any slot canyons, they can get cool depending on the time of day and season.  I usually use my rain jacket for this.

Headlamp – I tend to carry my headlamp around all the time when we’re hiking.  This isn’t the exact one I have, but it’s similar and if I needed to replace mine, I’d probably get this one.

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Tent – I love the REI Passage 2 tent for one or two people.  It’s small and fairly light.  If you need a four-person tent, I’d go with this one, the REI Half DomeYou can check out my tent here.

Sleeping pad – Gotta make the tent comfy!  The one I have isn’t available anymore but this one is similar.  It’s self-inflating and just needs a little help filling all the way.  Buy the sleeping pad here.

Sleeping Bag – I have the Nemo Viola 35 and love it because it’s not as restrictive as the mummy bags.  It has ventilation slits for those warmer nights.  Check out my sleeping bag here.

Puffy quilt – If you’re a really warm sleeper and visiting in the summer, a puffy quilt might be a better option.  I prefer this for hotter nights.  Check out the Rumpl camp quilts here.

Pillow – If you’re just driving, I’d just bring a regular pillow, but if you’re flying then renting a car, you might want a smaller pillow.  This is a good non-inflatible option.  Here is a good inflatable option.

Camp chairs – If you plan on doing a lot of camping outside of this trip, and backpacking especially, the REI Flexlite chairs are great choices.  Check out the camp chairs here.

Lantern – I love having a lantern for in the tent at night, reading in the dark, or going to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  The LuminAID is my favorite and you can charge your phone on it.  Buy the LuminAID lantern here.

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Have you been to Sego Canyon?  Do you think these are pictures of aliens?  Do you want to go?

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