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Rock Art in Willow Springs Canyon
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Willow Springs
Rock art is a precious resource. Please help protect and preserve these sites.
Willow Springs
Boulder with hand prints (view east from outhouse)


Willow Springs is located a deep, shady canyon where the east-west trending La Madre Mountains meet the north-south trending Spring Mountains. Compared to the surrounding desert, Willow Springs Canyon is deep, cool, and moist. Permanent water is available here at two springs: Willow Spring (north end of the picnic area) and Lost Creek Spring (about 0.4 miles south of the picnic area). Water also runs in the wash during winter. It is easy to see why native people spent time in this area.

Willow Springs Petroglyphs
Hand prints (view E)

Scattered about the area are boulders and sandstone cliffs. Many rock faces are covered in desert varnish, a naturally occurring dark patina that forms on the surface of rocks in the desert. Native peoples created petroglyphs by pecking away the desert varnish to reveal the underlying red and white sandstone rock. The best examples of petroglyphs here are on a wall across the wash from the picnic area. From a few yards past the end of the pavement, follow the Petroglyph Wall Trail northwest across the wash.

Native peoples also used paint to mark on the rock surfaces (pictographs), the best examples of which are hand paintings high on the underside of an overhanging boulder behind the small outhouse in the picnic area. Here, native peoples put red paint on their hand, then jumped up and slapped the rock, leaving a red imprint of their hand on the rock. There area relatively few pictographs in the area, as most probably deteriorated in the weather, and hand paintings are unusual among pictographs. Please be especially careful with these rather personal messages from the ancients.

Willow Springs Petroglyphs
Hand prints in the snow
Another pictograph, a more-typical symbol rather than a hand painting, can be seen on the Willow Springs Loop Trail, two or three minutes north of Lost Creek Spring. Please remember that rock art, and especially pictographs are national treasures that are easily damaged -- take care and leave the area as you found it for generations to come.
Willow Springs
Agave roasting-pit adjacent to hand prints (view S)

Native people also made agave-roasting pits in the canyon. An excellent example of which is located adjacent to the hand paintings. Agave-roasting pits are large cooking pits (10 to 45 feet across and up to 10-feet high) used by native peoples and recognized as doughnut-shaped piles of limestone rocks. Native peoples dug a pit, lined it with limestone rocks, and built a big fire in the pit. When the fire burned down to coals, they scraped the coals to the side, put the food (agave and meat) in the hot bottom of the pit, and covered everything with coals and hot limestone rocks from the edge of the pit. When the food was cooked, they uncovered it by scraping the rocks and ash to the side. Apparently the rocks don't hold the heat after a couple of roastings, so new rocks are constantly added, which results in the large doughnut-shaped piles. More agave-roasting pits can be found along the wash up the canyon.

Willow Springs
Pictograph near Lost Creek Spring (view SW)

There are some nice petroglyphs on the wall across the canyon. From the end of the pavement, walk across the wash on the Petroglyph Wall Trail. The trail is well-defined; watching for a pole fence that blocks access to the base of the cliffs. The rock art is right just behind the fence. There are also a few pictographs (faint red paintings) to the left of the petroglyphs under an overhang.

Access to Willow Springs Canyon is via a good, paved road. Access to the hand paintings and an agave-roasting pit are via a short paved trail. Access to the petroglyphs is via a short, rocky trail.

Petroglyph Wall
Petroglyph Wall (view northwest from the road)


The area is located along the Scenic Loop Road in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, about 1 hour west of Las Vegas.

Links to Area Map and Site Map.

From town, drive out to Red Rocks. From West Charleston at Scenic Loop Road (Table 1, Site 519), turn right and drive north for 0.2 miles to the entrance station (Site 855). Pay the fee, then drive around the one-way Scenic Loop Road to Willow Springs Road (Site 526), which is at Mile Marker 7.5 (0.5 miles past Mile Marker 7). Turn right onto Willow Springs Road and drive north for 0.6 miles to the end of the pavement at Willow Springs Picnic Area (Site 181).

Petroglyph Wall
Petroglyph Wall petroglyphs (view west)


Red Rocks is a day-use area. The actual opening and closing times change through the year, but generally follow sunrise and sunset.


$7 per vehicle. Federal Lands and other passes accepted.

Table 1. Highway Coordinates based on GPS data (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Highway GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Site Location Latitude (°N) Longitude (°W) UTM Easting UTM Northing Elevation (feet) Verified
181 Willow Springs picnic area 36.1610 115.4980 635106 4002654 4,575 Yes
519 Charleston Blvd at Scenic Loop Rd entrance 36.1318 115.4206 642120 3999525 3,681 Yes
526 Scenic Loop Rd at Willow Springs Rd 36.1561 115.4891 635906 4002118 4,441 Yes
855 Scenic Loop Rd at Entrance Station 36.1325 115.4228 641918 3999598 3,682 Yes

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 120421

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