Located just off of Picture Rocks Road, on the way to Saguaro National Park at the base of the Tucson Mountains, is a site with hundreds of petroglyphs from the Hohokam era and before carved into the rocks.
The site’s glyphs are of a variety of designs, depicting anthropomorphs (human-like figures, but archaeologists are unsure if they depict humans, deities, or something else), animals, and designs such as spirals. Archaeologists are unsure of the meanings of most of the petroglyphs, however, one of the spiral glyphs on the west face of the rock formation interacts with the sunlight in a way that indicates its use as a calendar. During each fall equinox and summer solstice, the light interacts with the glyph to form a “light dagger” through the center of the spiral.
Accessing the Site
The Picture Rocks Petroglyph Site is located on the grounds of the Redemptorist Renewal Center, a Catholic retreat site. The site is open to the public, but the Center asks that all visitors check-in at the main office, or call (520) 744-3400 before visiting. There is a well-signed, easy trail that leads from the Lower Parking Lot down into the wash, which lets you see the majority of the petroglyphs.
The petroglyphs are best viewed before noon, since the shadows shade the rocks and put the petroglyphs in higher contrast. Please note that the Picture Rocks Site is a delicate, historically-significant site, and is located on private property. Please respect the environment of the Center by talking in a quiet voice, and refrain from climbing on the rocks or touching the petroglyphs, so as not to cause damage.
Solstice and Equinox Tours
If you want to experience the Picture Rocks Site and other Hohokam-era sites with an experienced and knowledgeable archaeologist, the Old Pueblo Archaeology Center offers guided tours every Summer Solstice and Fall Equinox.