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Real petroglyphs just a day trip outside of Las Vegas

Grapevine Canyon, just north of Laughlin off state Route 163, is one of the finest petroglyph sites in Southern Nevada. It is accessible to just about anybody who can walk on a gravel path — the main rock art panels are only about a quarter mile from the trailhead.

From the parking area, walk toward the mouth of the canyon along the trail, which lies on a sandy shelf above usually dry Grapevine Wash. Once you reach the mouth of the canyon, you will find dozens of petroglyph panels on both sides.

Native Americans inhabited this area starting around AD 1100, and the rock art here is thought to range from more than 800 years old to as recent as 150. It remains important to Native Americans in the region. The designs are different than those in many other sites and seem to have been executed with special care.

After about 30 yards, the canyon is blocked by large boulders and a dry fall. This is the place to turn around if you are hiking with children. Visitors with rock scrambling skills can carefully climb up the boulders and cliffs and drop down into the wash again on the other side. There isn’t as much rock art above the fall, but it’s scenic. There are even cottonwood trees and usually a bit of water. Also, there is a nice slot canyon upstream.

What to pack: Hiking boots or sneakers with good tread, sun hat, sunblock, food, water. Binoculars are handy for a good look at the rock art higher on the canyon walls. At an elevation of 2,385 feet, you’ll find temperatures similar to those in Las Vegas.

Length of stay: This is a day trip from Las Vegas.

Hands off: When visiting a cultural resource site such as this, be sure not to touch the rock art or move any rocks. Merely touching the petroglyphs with your hands can damage them because of the natural oils of our skin. Just use binoculars to get a closer look.

History: A few miles to the north towers 5,639-foot Spirit Mountain, said to be the spiritual birthplace of the Yuman-speaking peoples of the lower Colorado River region, such as the Havasupai, Hualapai and Mojave. Spirit Mountain is considered sacred ground, and Grapevine Canyon’s proximity to it is thought to be one reason so many petroglyphs were created here.

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