Millions of years ago, Angel Canyon was a shallow sea, home to dinosaurs at the beginning of the Jurassic Era. (You might see some 3-toed dino footprints during your walks in Angel Canyon.) The earliest humans came to Angel Canyon about 11,000 years ago.
Seven locations in the canyon are noted for their beauty and the atmosphere of peace and healing that emanates from them. The first is Petroglyph Rock.
The figures on the wall of Petroglyph Rock were carved about a thousand years ago by people known as the Anasazi or Hisatzanome.
Nobody has completely deciphered the meaning of all the petroglyphs (carvings) and pictographs (paintings) of the Anasazi. But they share a unique characteristic when compared to the rock art of almost every other ancient civilization of the world. Nowhere, among all the pictures and carvings, will you ever see a depiction of war, violence, slavery, subjugation, or any other form of aggression.
On the popular TV show, the Lone Ranger and Tonto took refuge in Angels Landing, a huge dome-shaped cave of red sandstone at the heart of Angel Canyon.
But long before the Lone Ranger or, indeed, any other European settlers came here, Angels Landing had been a sacred gathering place for thousands of years. Nearby, you can see evidence of people who settled here more than 10,000 years ago.
A short path at the top of the pasture leads down sharply to a cave full of dark, still, chilly water that quickly curves around and goes out of sight. Bats nest in the cracks of the rock over the lake during the day, then swarm out at sundown.
The entrance gate depicts a dog and cat with rabbits perched on their backs, surrounded by flowers in bloom. Colorful rocks form walls that hold urns, vases, and memorials. Stones and markers proclaim, “Always in our hearts,” “The best wee cat in the whole wide world,” and other loving sentiments.
Animal statues dot the landscape – a napping cat, a smiling sheepdog, an elegant owl, and many others
a kiva, a small circular building, built partially underground, in one of the caves that was home to a community of the Anasazi people.
The kiva was the heart of the community – most likely a ceremonial room where the people would gather on special days for prayer or purification.
Faint petroglyphs (carvings in the stone) and pictographs (paintings) decorate the walls of this cave home. The paint is red and yellow, colors that were painstakingly distilled from the iron oxide that gives the cliffs those same colors.
But your attention is immediately, almost hypnotically, drawn to the handprints.
They’re quite small. Perhaps the hands of a young person, although the adults were not large people and the prints have been carefully placed on the walls with no smudges.
Near the caves, millions of years earlier, a family of dinosaurs walked by and left their huge, three-toed footprints in the red sand one rainy day. The sand dried and the prints remained.
The entrance to Best Friends is about five miles north of Kanab on the east (right) side of Hwy 89. Between the 69 and 70 mile markers, a green highway sign indicates Kanab Canyon. Turn into Kanab Canyon and drive about 1.5 miles to the Welcome Center, which is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. seven days a week.