Nine Mile Canyon is also known as the 'world's largest art gallery' and for good reason. This canyon is home to tens of thousands of ancient artworks in the form of petroglyphs and pictographs, most of which can be seen just by hiking its numerous trails. These ancient art forms were created thousands of years ago which makes it even more impressive that they can still be seen painted and carved along the canyon walls today.

These carvings were done by native peoples who first lived in the area known as the Fremont. It's in the work that they've left behind that clues have been deciphered by archeologists as to how they lived, and visitors have the chance to see the same ancient messages today. While the canyon spans more than nine miles, hikers can see a good portion of the glyphs depending on how far they trek. In addition, the canyon is home to some of Utah's most gorgeous desert landscapes, making the trip all the more worth it.

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The History And Discovery Of Nine Mile Canyon

Nine Mile Canyon can be found in Carbon County, Utah, and sits about 125 miles outside of Salt Lake City. Also going by the name of the world's 'longest' art gallery, the canyon isn't actually nine miles long. In reality, the total length of the canyon is closer to 40 miles which means it would take days at a time for a hiker to see all of its ancient carvings. The best theory as to why it was given the name it bears is is that it may have come from the nine-mile transect, which was a method used to map the area. The petroglyphs and pictographs found in the area are estimated to date all the way back to 400 CE, with the most recent carvings estimated to date back to at least 1400 CE.

Additionally, the Fremont peoples weren't the only ones to leave their mark on these canyon walls. Carvings can be found from the Ute Native Americans as well as settlers who later came to the area, sometime during the 19th century. The artwork tells a story of all those who lived in the area and passed through it, and many people speculate that which is undecipherable.

Those petroglyphs that can be easily deciphered depict daily life from the time, including things such as hunting and details about animals that roamed the area. The unexplained carvings, of course, have led to speculation about extraterrestrial life or other conspiracy theories that will likely never be proven or have any factual basis.

The Ghost Town Known As Harper

These ancient carvings aren't the only things that can be found within the canyon, though. Hikers passing through may stumble upon a town that was once known as Harper but now sits, abandoned, as a ghost town in the middle of the desert. The town was once known as a stop for stagecoaches but had fallen into eventual disuse. What's left of this ghost town are several cabins that are falling apart (and are not safe for entry if they're still standing). However, the town was also once home to a saloon, general store, hotel, school, and a post office.

Those visiting today will find it roughly 30 miles into the canyon hike but should be aware that it is posted property and exploring the ghost town means that hikers are trespassing on private land. The main route that takes hikers through the canyon gives more than enough of a glimpse into Harper, and photos are permitted - and encouraged without leaving the road itself.

Visiting Nine Mile Canyon

While the ancient carvings that line the walls of the canyon can still be seen today, it doesn't mean that they're entirely protected from the elements. Those who visit should be wary of what they touch and should avoid touching any of the walls intentionally. Erosion and various weather conditions are responsible for wearing down the canyon rock and this happens naturally, so some petroglyphs might be hard to find. Visitors should also be aware that anything they find within the canyon is likely an artifact and should not be taken from the spot. Rocks and other 'souvenirs' are discouraged, even if they're loose and simply just laying on the ground.

Getting To Nine Mile Canyon

  • Solider Creek Road becomes Nine Mile Canyon Road, and visitors have the option to travel the canyon by the road that continues through it for 78 miles or walk part of the way. There are no gas stations or stops through the canyon, so drivers should be aware of this before starting the drive.

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