NSS 75th Anniversary Convention

Grimes Point Archaeological
Area & Hidden Cave

Grimes Point is one of the largest and most accessible petroglyph sites in northern Nevada. It contains about 150 basalt boulders covered with petroglyphs. Nevada petroglyphs were of magico-religious significance in insuring the success of large game hunts and were located near seasonal migration routes.

Running east and west along the ridge, on the hill above the petroglyphs, there is evidence of an aboriginal drift fence for driving deer or antelope. This required concentrated group action in construction and operation.

The act of making a petroglyph was a ritual performed by a group leader before each hunt. Evidence suggests that there existed a powerful taboo against doodling in places, for purposes, and by persons other than those directly associated with the hunt.

Petroglyphs in this area probably date between 5,000 b.c. and 1,500 a.d.

Grimes Point was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an archaeological site in 1972. It is located seven miles east of Fallon, NV on the north side of U.S. Highway 50. If you're travelling from the west coast to the convention in Ely, Grimes Point and the Churchill County Museum would be excellent stopping points.


During the Pleistocene Epoch, this area and most of northwestern Nevada, was covered by ancient Lake Lahontan. Over the last 10,000 years, the level of ancient Lake Lahontan fluctuated widely, at times drying up completely. When above water, the Grimes Point area would have been marshland with a wide variety of wetland plants and animals available for use by prehistoric populations. Grimes Point was first visited by Native Americans perhaps 8,000 years ago or more.

Grimes Point is a field of basalt boulders that are covered with a glossy black patina, commonly called desert varnish. Many of the boulders are covered with pecked or carved rock art called petroglyphs. The antiquity of many of the petroglyphs can be evidenced by how varnish has completely repatinated the carved surfaces.

Visitors today can view examples of petroglyphs along a 1/4 mile, self-guided interpretive trail. The trail was originally constructed by the Youth Conservation Corps and named Nevada's first National Recreation Trail in 1978. Handicapped accessible restrooms and picnic facilities are available at this popular stop on U.S. Highway 50.

Hidden Cave

Hidden Cave is an archaeological site which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, in 1972, as part of Grimes Point. The cave itself was formed around 21,000 years ago by the waves of rising Pleistocene Lake Lahontan. In the mid-1920's, the cave was found by four school boys, the first 20th century humans to do so. The cave has been excavated by archaeologists three times: once in 1940, again in 1951, and finally a large excavation in 1979-1980 by the American Museum of Natural History. A high proportion of the artifacts found in Hidden Cave were unbroken and arranged in concentrations. That led to the conclusion that 3,500 to 3,800 years ago people used the cave more as a cache (a place to store objects for later) than for habitation.

The BLM gives free public tours of Hidden Cave on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month with the exception of any three day weekend where the Friday or Monday is a federally recognized holiday, like Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, and Labor Day. The tours begin at the Churchill County Museum in Fallon, at 9:30 a.m. with a special video showing, and then the group caravans out to Hidden Cave and walks up the trail to the cave entrance. The tours end by 12:00 p.m.

Audio Tour

Audio compliments of Nevada Commission on Tourism

Additionally, tours for private groups can be arranged to be given at other times by docents from the Churchill County Museum.

If you plan to visit Hidden Cave, please wear sturdy walking shoes, bring water, and dress appropriately for the weather (it can change in a hurry during every season).

Hidden Cave can only be accessed through taking a scheduled tour. The site is on a 1/2 mile interpretive loop trail that is not handicapped accessible. The tour may not be suitable for very young children because of its length and the climb up the hill.

A single vault toilet and a picnic table are located at the gravel parking lot at the Hidden Cave trailhead (no facilities at the cave). There are additional restrooms and shaded picnic sites available at Grimes Point, on the north side of U.S. Highway 50, 1.5 miles south from the cave area parking lot.

Additional Information

  • Treat all rock art as you would a fragile cave formation. No touching, please.

  • If you take the self-guided tour through the boulder field, please stay on the trail.

  • We're not aware of any restrictions on pets in this area, but a short leash would be a good idea.

  • Removal, disturbance, or attempting to remove archaeological materials is a felony.

  • Topographic Maps

    USGS 7.5 Quad Map: Grimes Point
    USGS 7.5 Quad Map: Lahontan Mountains


    Elevation: 3,940 ft (at parking area)
    State: Nevada
    District: Churchill County
    Coordinates (WGS84): 39.401470, -118.647590
    Nearest town: Fallon, NV
    Distance from Ely: ~4 hours

    Links & Resources

  • Archaeology of Hidden Cave

  • BLM, Carson City District Office

  • Churchill County Museum

  • Sand Mountain Recreation Area

  • Wikimedia GeoHack

  • Fallon, Nevada