UT – San Rafael Swell, Rock Art at Black Dragon, Rochester and Temple

This trip through Utah seems to be focused on pictographs and petroglyphs aka rock art. The Rochester site was on the highly recommended list and conveniently located just off Highway 10 near Emery.

The trail is well signed and I’d guess receives fairly high use although I only saw one group on the day I visited.

The rainbow makes this panel very identifiable.

There are so many characters and stories in the panel. I stared at it for a long time enjoying the many details.

Another example showing how this history will not be around forever.

I drove Interstate 70 East seeking out two places I’d marked for further exploration. The first was The Head of Sinbad Pictograph area. Looking at my map I could see there wasn’t an exit and a note 4WD underpass. I figured I could hike the mile or two requiring 4WD. Well I drove the connecting roads and the nearer I got, the more concerned I got about road conditions and possible rain. So after driving about 5 miles I chickened out and turned around. Well, sometimes that’s part of the adventure. The next POI on my list was Black Dragon Pictograph. It too had one of the dreaded 4WD underpasses and a long access road. I drove through my favorite cut of the San Rafael Swell stopping at the overlook while pondering my situation.

I reversed direction as I thought I saw a BLM sign and access from I-70. Sadly I passed it without an opportunity to pull over and found myself at the viewpoint where I was reminded I was supposed to be chasing wildflowers.

It was a 15-mile detour to flip at Exit 160 so I could drive west only to flip again at Exit 149. Not especially convenient.

Hard to complain those when you get to bust through the swell and stop to enjoy views and blooms.

Early the next morning I decided to give it one more go. SUCCESS! I found the secret entrance and gate.

The geology was so yummy.

The “swell” or anticline runs for 75 miles and has a width of 30 miles.

I was feeling pretty satisfied to have found two out of three POI’s.

The location of petroglyphs always surprises me.

The style of this panel is different than anything I’ve previously seen.

The pictographs were outlined in white. I can’t help but wonder if that was added later.

This one made me think it was a fake.

After spending some time gawking at the rock art, I began my hike. According to the WOW guide, I was to ascend the slickrock ramp shown as purple on the right side of the photo.

Walking these sidewalks makes me giggle with delight.

There was only one scramble section; definitely not my favorite activity.

As I ascended, I was rewarded with views like this.

These ramps kept me going and going and going. It was only the developing black clouds that motivated me to turn around.

As I turned the corner there was more awesome slickrock . . . but alas I had to call it.

With recent rains water was begin saved nicely for the wildlife and plants.

There were even a few blooming beauties to soften the expanse of rock.

I was thrilled to be off the slickrock before the rains came to make it slicker than slick, and out of the sandy wash.

I made it back to the viewpoint and took a few photos before the rain began in earnest.

I finished my tour of the San Rafael Swell by visiting Temple Mountain.

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 6-7, 2019


  • There were a couple of nice campsites available a the Rochester Panel Trailhead.
  • There are quite a few dispersed camping options near Temple Mountain and on the road to Black Dragon.



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