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


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:

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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Historic Walks of Santa Fe

Walking tours with professional guides leave most of the major hotels every day.

Santa Fe Ghost Tour

Pointing dramatically across the St. Frances Hotel lobby to the Ore House on the Plaza Restaurant, Marilyn launched into her first tale. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For an hour or so at twilight we took a short walk into Santa Fe’s less well known past, a past filled with mysteries, unanswered questions, and the not quite dead. It was a fun walk, including visits to many of the buildings and places where unexplainable things have happened, and are still happening, with the story behind the events. It was a lighthearted but thought provoking look into the inevitable result of 400 years of Spanish folklore, encircled by 1,700 years of Pueblo tradition, both surrounded by Apache, Navajo, and Comanche, topped off with the Wild West.

We met in the lobby of the St. Frances Hotel for the Aspook About, a Ghost Walking Tour of Santa Fe, when suddenly, a one-woman cyclone whirled into our midst. It was Marilyn, our guide.

Marilyn Adams, our “intrepid tour guide”, was quite something. An aging but spritely actress, she took great pleasure in leaping off the sidewalk whenever we came to a halt, waving her arms about, a clipboard firmly in her grasp. She must be a regular sight in these parts as passing cars seem to know to give her a wide berth. We trailed along behind her, hearing stories of bloodshed and trauma.

On the Old Santa Fe Trail. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pointing dramatically across the St. Frances Hotel lobby to the Ore House on the Plaza Restaurant, she launched into her first tale.

It seems a young couple had just seated when the guy stared wild-eyed at something just beyond his girlfriend’s shoulder and began screaming, “Tell that woman to get away from me! Tell her to get away!” His girlfriend began to panic as well and the guests at the surrounding tables reared back like spooked horses. Desperate, their waiter stood in the spot, passing his hand back and forth through the empty air. Immediately, as if awakened from a spell, the man’s face calmed and he said, “Well, I think we’ll have our menus now.”

Marilyn paused a beat. “Shall we be out the door?” she sweeps us down Burro Alley, recounting tales of burros once bustling there, there ghostly hooves echoing down the centuries, best heard “at that marvelous witching-hour time between three and four in the morning.”

On to the Palace Restaurant, our guide paints an enthusiastically vivid imagination of its original owner, La Doña Tulis, a garish dresser who smoked stubby little cigars and who, “well, wasn’t very ladylike.”

We troop into the restaurant behind Marilyn to gawk at Doña’s portrait, hear of her scandalous life and, eventually, her restaurant’s sad decline. “Nowadays, on certain cold, bitter nights—preferably nights with a little snow in the air—if you glance in, you just might see a woman looking very much like Doña sitting at the end of the bar, disappointedly nursing a drink—but don’t look directly at her! Or she’ll disappear.”

The city's most famous ghost is Julia Staab whose Victorian home, the Staab House, is now part of La Posada Hotel. Her painting still hangs in the hotel and Marilyn regales us with a first hand account of meeting Julia in what was her bedroom when she was alive. (Credit:

As we wended our way across the Plaza and beyond, more stories of the weird, the inexplicable, ensued: stories of echoing footsteps in the middle of the night that stop when you stop, stories of the unrequited love, of copious tears being cried into “a white linen serviette” at the corner table (“and now, quite often, someone finds a serviette upon its service. Crumpled. Dampish with tears.”)

I won’t give away Marilyn’s piece de resistance.

Hint: It involves the ghost of La Posada’s Julia Staab. And—Marilyn has actual photos.

Note: This is the final of a four-part series on Santa Fe, New Mexico

Part 1: The City Different: Santa Fe, NM

Part 2: Historically Significant Santa Fe

Part 3: The City of Holy Faith: Santa Fe

Worth Pondering…
For all of us have our loved places; all of us have laid claim to parts of the earth; and all of us, whether we know it or not, are in some measure the products of our sense of place.

—Alan Gussow

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