Delve into Zion History

There are tens of thousands of ruins, artifacts, petroglyphs and pictographs throughout the region. One of the most fun things you can do is find an ancient artifact on your own.

The Four Corners region and southern Utah are one of the continent’s richest areas in indigenous history. Although Zion doesn’t have any major archeological sites within the park boundaries, the Zion Human History Museum does show how humans have interacted with the local geography, flora and fauna, water resources and ecosystems. Outside the park, however, the area is an archeological treasure trove. There are tens of thousands of ruins, artifacts, petroglyphs and pictographs throughout the region. One of the most fun things you can do is find an ancient artifact on your own. Here are some of favorite places to look.

South of Panguitch near Zion’s eastern entrance, Parowan Gap and Vermilion Cliffs offer evidence of the Fremont and Paiutes who lived here. Pictographs and petroglyphs still are visible carved into or painted onto the bright red canyon walls.

Search for the Head of Sinbad in Capitol Reef National Park. Located in the center of the Swell, it features Wingate sandstone cliffs, arches and not-to-be-missed to find rock art juxtaposed with dramatic natural arches.
Canyonland’s Great Gallery pictographs are life-sized rock paintings using a deep burnt red pigment. This extremely ancient art is called Barrier Canyon Style rock art after Canyonlands panels which the first major panels were found.
The most famous of all American cliff dwellings are those found at how the ancient Pueblo people lived. Walnut Creek National Park, in Arizona, features similar cliff dwellings.

The ruins with the deepest mystery are those found at Chaco Canyon National Park, a site appears to be a central spiritual crossroads for the continent’s most ancient residents. The engineering and astrological precision astounds modern man.

Anasazi State Museum is believed to have been occupied from A.D. 1050 to 1200. The village remains largely unexcavated, but many artifacts have been uncovered and are on display in the newly remodeled museum.

The Trail of The Ancients National Scenic Byway includes over 5,000 archaeological sites that range from early Basketmakers who lived here over 10,000 years ago to pristine ancient Puebloan ruins. Four Corners Monument connect Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. The Hovenweep National Monument along the Colorado border contains ancient ruins built when Europeans were putting up castles.

Edge of the Cedars State Park is a restored site with pathways through ruins as well as the chance to enter a kiva via ladder.

Butler Wash and Mule Canyon, the Grand Gulch Primitive Area on the way to Natural Bridges National Monument hold rarely seen to see Native American ruins including a cliff dwelling and a somewhat reconstructed tower. Natural Bridges features Puebloan ruins similar to those found at Valley of the Gods.

Monument Valley Tribal Park showcases modern Navajo culture.


Cutthroat Castle at Hovenweep National Monument

Historic Attractions in Utah

From some of the continent's most ancient artifacts through the living history of the earliest European settlers, there are more historic sites than you can shake a stick at.

Telephone Canyon, the Temple of Sinawava. Photo by NPS Jason Burton

History Behind Zion Park Names

The first Anglo-European settlers, Mormon pioneers, named the area Zion, which is ancient Hebrew for sanctuary or refuge.


Human Use of Zion Goes Back 12 Millennia

The earliest evidence of humans in the Zion National Park area is about 10,000 BC, from ancient spear points found among the remains of woolly mammoths and other Ice Age species.

Romancing the Stone Movie had scenes in Zion

Zion: Movie and TV Hotspot

Southern Utah has long provided spectacular scenery for westerns, and just plain wild/weird scenery for science fiction or horror movies.

1920's Union Pacific Railroad

Railroad shaped beginning of Zion National Park

Railroads have always been involved with the national park system in the United States, from the founding of the first national park, Yellowstone.

Hoodoos at sunrise in Bryce Canyon National Park

The National Parks: America's Best Idea

Filmed over the course of more than six years at some of nature's most spectacular locales from Acadia to Zion -- The National Parks: America's Best Idea really does express one of our best ideas ever.

1903 Painting of Zion Canyon by Frederick S. Dellenbaugh

Frederick S. Dellenbaugh: Zion Artist

Frederick S. Dellenbaugh was a painter and a photographer that helped popularize Zion National Park and bring national attention to southeastern Utah.

A tunnel on the Mount Carmel Highway road in Zion National Park

Will You Fit Through the Mt. Carmel Tunnel in Zion National Park?

A 1.1 mile-long tunnel is credited with converting Zion from an isolated and rarely visited park, to one of the most popular national parks

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park

Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness

Abbey's book evokes the stark beauty and grandeur of Utah's red-rock country. He champions the cause against "industrial tourism."