Links to the Past: Petroglyph National Monument, NM

Petroglyph National Monument contains over 7,000 acres of a volcanic basalt escarpment made from ancient lava flows, known as the West Mesa. The monument protects a variety of cultural and natural resources, including five volcanic cones, hundreds of archeological sites, and an estimated 25,000 images carved into these dark rock outcroppings.

Visitors to this monument can travel 12 centuries into the past, turn around, and snap back into the present—because Albuquerque is right next door. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In desert areas stones often are covered with desert varnish, a thin coating deposited on the rocks for hundreds or thousands of years. Artists chipped away this colorful dark layer to expose the lighter rock underneath, leaving behind images of animals and people, brands, crosses, and handprints; other petroglyphs are more complex and less easily understood.

These images are inseparable from the greater cultural landscape, from the spirits of the people who created them, and from all who appreciate them today.

The monument is cooperatively managed by the National Park Service and the City of Albuquerque.

While it may be tempting to reach out your hand, don’t touch! Oils from your skin can permanently damage the petroglyphs.

Las Imagenes Visitor Center

Begin at the Las Imagenes Visitor Center with a brief orientation to the monument and to check the schedule for guided tours and special events; then, lace up your hiking boots and hit a trail.

Boca Negra Canyon

Boca Negra Canyon provides quick and easy access to three partly paved self-guiding trails where you can view 200 petroglyphs. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located two miles north of the visitor center on Unser Boulevard, Boca Negra Canyon provides quick and easy access to three partly paved self-guiding trails where you can view 200 petroglyphs.

This is the most popular section of the monument, and is the only fully-developed area with restroom facilities, shade, and a drinking fountain. A nominal parking fee is charged by the City of Albuquerque.

Rinconada Canyon

Located one mile south of the visitor center on Unser Boulevard, Rinconada Canyon is one of the few places, where at the end of the trail you can be out of sight of the city.

A 2½-mile round-trip sandy trail follows the base of the escarpment where you can view more than 800 petroglyphs.

This trail area has no water, so bring your own.

You are advised to stop at the visitor center for an orientation and map before hiking this trail.

Piedras Marcadas Canyon

The northernmost area of the monument, Piedras Marcadas Canyon, means “canyon of marked rocks”. Piedras Marcadas is home to the densest concentration of petroglyphs along the monument’s 17-mile escarpment, with an estimated 5,000 images.

This area may be entered from a small parking lot west of Golf Course Road.

This volcanic basalt escarpment is home to a dense concentration of petroglyphs. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This trail area has no water, so bring your own.

You are advised to stop at the visitor center for an orientation and map before hiking this trail.

Petroglyph National Monument

Details

Operating Hours: Open year-round, 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

Admission: No entry fee charged; Boca Negra Canyon parking fee $1/vehicle weekdays, $2 weekends charged by the City of Albuquerque

Pets: Dogs are not allowed at the Boca Negra Canyon area

Location: From I-40, Exit 154 (Unser Boulevard) north 3 miles to Western Trail; turn left or west onto Western Trail and follow road to the visitor center

Camping: No camping facilities

Address: 6001 Unser Blvd. NW, Albuquerque, NM 87120

Contact: (505) 899-0205

Web site: nps.gov/petr

Worth Pondering…

Each of these rocks is alive, keeper of a message left by the ancestors…There are spirits, guardians; there is medicine…

—William F. Weahkee, Pueblo Elder

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