Painted Rock Petroglyph Site, approximately 90 miles southwest of Phoenix, Arizona, provides visitors the opportunity to view an archaeological site containing hundreds of figures and designs carved into rocks, known as petroglyphs. These were produced centuries ago by indigenous peoples. This site is considered important and even sacred to many of the Native American tribes in southern Arizona. Please keep this in mind when you visit and be respectful. There are also inscriptions made by people who passed through during historic times.
Many important trails are near the site, some of which have been traveled for thousands of years. The 1775 expedition of Juan Bautista de Anza passed nearby on his way to deliver soldiers, padres, settlers, and their livestock to a new home in northern California to secure the area for Spain. In 1846, the Mormon Battalion passed through, following Philip St. George Cooke along some segments of this trail to help secure California from Mexico. This venture included road building tasks along the trail, assuring that future trips could accommodate wagons. A need to improve communication and travel from east to west prompted Congress to fund a stage line. The result was the Butterfield Overland Stage Route, which began service in 1858 and traveled by this site. This mail and freight service guaranteed that the mail, freight, or passengers would be able to travel from Saint Louis to San Francisco in 25 days. Use was halted when the railroad was constructed in 1879.
Formerly a unit of the Arizona State Park system, jurisdiction of Painted Rock Petroglyph Site returned to the Bureau of Land Management in 1989.
The day-use site is right next door to the campground and offers two shaded picnic areas and a small interpretive trail around the petroglyph site with informational displays. The petroglyphs face the east-southeast primarily and would have been noticed by any travelers approaching from that direction. Hiking, birdwatching, and star gazing opportunities all present themselves at this site.
The campground offers visitors 59 individual campsites and two large group sites featuring picnic tables and steel fire rings. There is no water or electric hookups at the campground, but there are two vault toilets and trash collection. The neighboring day-use site has two shaded picnic areas with tables and charcoal grills.
The path to the Painted Rock Petroglyph Campground is on 11 miles of paved roads with an additional 1/2 mile of a dirt road. All roads in the campground and day-use site consist of hardened dirt and gravel suitable for larger RVs (Class A) and trailers (fifth wheels) when road conditions are dry. This area is prone to flash flooding during monsoon season, so be sure to check the weather before planning your visit.
Set between impressive geologic features such as Oatman Mountain, a few miles to the northwest and the Painted Rock Mountains, situated on the eastern horizon, this campground offers scenic panoramic views and plenty of opportunities for solitude and vast night skies. The surrounding area features a diverse Sonoran Desert plant community including the iconic saguaro cactus, various cholla species, barrel cactus, creosote bush, and both ironwood and palo verde trees. The area is home to a large population of desert mule deer and many other desert species such as kit fox, Gambel’s quail, chuckwalla, and desert iguana.
Woolsey Peak Wilderness
Woolsey Peak Wilderness offers rugged topography, colorful scenic vistas, rich variety of wildlife and vegetation, and outstanding opportunities for solitude and unconfined recreation. Woolsey Peak stands 3,270 feet above sea level and about 2,500 feet above the Gila River (to the south). It is a landmark visible from much of southwestern Arizona. The Painted Rock Dam flood- control dam is situated on the Gila River not far from the southwestern corner of the area. Encompassing a major portion of the Gila Bend Mountains, it is barely separated from the smaller Signal Mountain Wilderness to the north. You will find sloping lava flows, basalt mesas, ragged peaks, and broken ridges dotted with saguaro, cholla, palo verde , creosote, and bursage. Desert mesquite, paloverde, and ironwood grow in the washes throughout this rugged and expansive desert wilderness. The region is especially inviting for its desert backpacking. Desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, bobcats, mountain lions, hawks, and owls might make an appearance.
Signal Mountain Wilderness
A narrow, four-wheel-drive road is all that separates Signal Mountain Wilderness from Woolsey Peak Wilderness to the south. Signal Mountain itself, rising just north of the center of the area, reaches a summit of 2,182 feet (1,200 feet above the surrounding desert floor). Here you will find sharp volcanic peaks, steep-walled canyons, ragged ridgelines, arroyos (slim, usually dry riverways), and plains spreading out from the washes. Paloverde, saguaro, and creosote are scattered throughout the bajadas and upland regions. Washes are lined with mesquite, ironwood, acacia, and palo verde. Wildlife watchers may see desert bighorn sheep, desert tortoises, and several species of raptors. Wildlife game species are common, and quail and mule deer hunters are frequent visitors.
Exit Interstate 8 at Painted Rock Dam Road/Exit 102, about 12.5 miles west of Gila Bend. Travel north on Painted Rocks Dam Road 10.7 miles to Rocky Point Road. Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site is 0.6 miles west of Painted Rock Dam Road on Rocky Point Road.