photos: October 2008
Before diving into this post, I’d like to note that it’s my policy on this website NOT to discuss the locations of archaeological sites at the Grand Canyon. In this case, however, I’m making an exception because the National Park Service has no qualms about discussing this pictograph panel on their public website.
Directions to see the pictographs
As you descend the Bright Angel Trail, after only about 100 yards you’ll come to a short tunnel or archway that’s been blasted into the trail with dynamite.
On the far side of this tunnel (as you descend), stop and look immediately up and to the left. There, high on the wall, you’ll see faint red markings. It’s best to use binoculars to view the images.
I was lucky one day to see this bighorn sheep resting perfectly in place below the pictographs. As you look at the image above, you can see red markings on the smooth wall in the top-center portion of the photo. These are the pictographs called Mallery’s Grotto.
The Park Service states that the markings here date back as far as 4000 years ago (2000 BCE) and as recent as the year 1950. I always understood the dating of the main, red-hued images to have been drawn in the vicinity of 800 to 1,000 years ago.
In modern times the site has been called Mallery’s Grotto in honor of Garrick Mallery, a 19th century ethnologist known for his study of pictographs.
The location at the top of the Bright Angel Trail, today’s busiest trail into the depths of Grand Canyon, is not a coincidence. Natives used the route for hundreds and thousands of years before us, and left these images to tell us their story.
Please respect the site and help future generations by staying on the trail here.
October ’08 Bright Angel Trail Hikes
The photos on this page were taken on numerous hikes in October of 2008. On one occasion I went just to see Mallery’s Grotto, and on another occasion I went to seek out another small panel located further down the trail.
On another occasion I explored the social trail that leads away from “the cinch-up,” or the end of Bright Angel’s uppermost switchback. The social trail follows the geologic Toroweap Formation for a significant distance, below Trailview Overlook and beyond.
I turned around long before rounding Maricopa Point, but for the record, it’s possible for an experienced off-trail hiker to do so, all the way to the old Orphan Mine.
A macabre thought when exploring the social trail is the awareness that numerous people have fallen (and / or jumped) from Trailview Overlook, requiring Park Service to visit the route to clean up the mess.
Otherwise, it’s nice to have a seat out there and look upon the busy activity along the top of the trail, and in the Village above.
On one of these days I very lucky to see and photograph some bighorn sheep that were stuck on the promontory that extends from the upper tunnel on Bright Angel. I say “stuck” because a significant crowd gathered on the trail itself, effectively blocking the sheep’s escape from the rabid tourists.
I counted myself among the rabid tourists that day. in hindsight I never should have been as close as I was to these wild animals to get these photos.