Fremont Village Trail
Nine Mile Canyon, Utah
THE DEVELOPMENT OF OIL reserves in the plateau surrounding Nine Mile Canyon, started in 2000, nearly spelled disaster for 60-plus prehistoric rock art sites, which were getting coated in the dust kicked up by heavy truck traffic. But energy companies paved the canyon road, and now, it’s heavy visitation that threatens these gems: As more people enjoy easier access to the 10,000 petroglyphs and pictographs, vandalism is on the rise. In May 2014, two hikers defaced the famous “Pregnant Buffalo” site, etching their initials into the panel.
But hikers can also be a force for good. Other visitors at the Pregnant Buffalo site witnessed the vandalism and noted the couple’s license plate number, which led to the perpetrators’ eventual prosecution. The episode proved that increased visitation at Nine Mile Canyon and other archaeology hot spots (like Bears Ears National Monument, page 36) can actually protect ancient artifacts. Hopefully, people will show more respect if they know hikers are watching.
Visit Nine Mile Canyon, which contains more Fremont petroglyphs and pictographs than any other location in the Lower 48, and hike the Fremont Village Trail. Starting near the split of Nine Mile Canyon and Cottonwood Canyon Roads, the .5-mile out-and-back ascends a sagebrush-dotted hillside to a bench 200 feet above Nine Mile Canyon’s floor. Pass a ring of stones marking an unexcavated pithouse, admire the red handprints that the Fremont people stamped on a large boulder some 1,000 years ago, and peer into caves where they made basic dwellings.
TRAILHEAD Fremont Village (39.7832, -110.1343) SEASON Year-round PERMIT None CONTACT castlecountry.com
See the Pregnant Buffalo petroglyph in Nine Mile Canyon.