See my Petroglyph National Monument pages for more info on this.
The ancestors of some of today's pueblo tribes painstakingly carved the majority of 25,000 images of plants, birds, animals, people and mysterious shapes into the tumbled black basalt within Petroglyph National Monument.
The park is spread out over four sections: three canyons with high concentrations of petroglyphs, and a fourth area encompassing the volcanoes that created much of the distinct geology long ago. Your first stop should be the Visitor Center for maps, park brochures and a general overview of what to see and do. The four districts are far enough from each other that you will need to drive between them, and exploration will involve walking over terrain that varies from short, paved paths to steep, undeveloped trails. There's something here for just about any age and ability with the exception of wheelchairs, strollers or anyone unable to walk distances of 1/4 mile or so.
The Visitor Center is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and January 1 but the park itself is open every day of the year from 8:00 - 5:00 (Volcanoes 9:00 - 5:00). The best part? It's free except for a small parking fee of $1.00 weekdays and $2.00 weekends at the Boca Negra Canyon section.
Getting there will depend on which way you're coming from so see the park website for downloadable maps and directions.
MORE INFO COMING SOON...
Las Imágenes Visitor Center and Boca Negra Canyon hours: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily.
Park is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Days.
$1 weekdays/$2 weekends per person
The great thing about Petroglyphs National Monument is that it is REALLY close to the city, and only about a 15 minute drive from Downtown.
The admission is only a $2 parking fee ($1 on weekdays), and it provides access to some wonderful petroglyphs scattered on lava rocks towering above the valley. Off to the west you can also see the cones of the ancient volcanoes that originally spread the rocks here, which accessible via unpaved road.
There are three sites scattered around the monument, the best and most popular being Boca Negra Canyon. You'll be able to see the most petroglyphs here. Get a map/guide at the visitor's center on Unser Boulevard, or print one out online before going.
Petroglyph National Park, just west of Abuquerque (on the West Mesa) is a great place to take a hike and search for Petroglyphs. The Petroglyphs range in age from the earliest settlers to the area to the first hispanic settlers. After seeing the Petroglyphs in Hawaii, I really wanted to see these as well.
The stone over time ages and turns a dark grey/black. The people who created the petroglyphs noticed that when you chipped away the outer part of the stone what was underneath was lighter in color. Through this chipping process they created pictures. Crosses are usually attributed to the first hispanics that moved up. Other works are not as easily to interpret since each group may have had a different meaning for the same symbol.
There are also two volcanoes on this park but unfortunately I didn't have the time to check them out.
The Visitior center is a good stopping point and they can point you to hikes from 5 minutes in length to several hours. If you want to get out of the city and get some exercise and fresh air, this is a great spot to start.
Cliff Base Trail is the second shortest trailhead at Boca Negra Canyon. If you wander just the main part of the trail, you'll only need about 15-20 minutes to walk this route. If you take the short detours along the way - give yourself about 30-40 minutes.
The interesting sites along this trail include the contrast between old and new petroglyphs, as well as grafitti left behind from more modern visitors. The patina of the 'glyphs vary depending on the age: the older / authentic petroglyphs have a light brown coloration, while the vandalism is lighter and grey in color. (if you click on the pic to enlarge it, you can see the petroglyphs and an area of vandalism in the center of the star ....)
There are 2 small cave-like areas on the path where large volcanic boulders sit atop one another in a manner to create small indentations and much appreciated shade.
Petroglyph National Monument is one of the first places I went in ABQ. Wear sturdy shoes and in summer go in the morning when it's cooler. You can take a well-marked, well-worn path that's about a mile long, and not only has lots of petroglyphs but a great photo-op for views of the city against the mountains; or you can be more adventurous and just ramble and see what you can find.
In the picture, there are two petroglyphs off to one side, and one right in the middle of the photograph that (to me) looks like Hello Kitty. In the background, you can see the volcanoes--extinct of course!
Be sure to first go to the Visitor’s Center to find out what hiking options are available. The trails are all pretty flat and shouldn’t be too taxing on most couch potatoes. The Riconada Canyon trail is longer and has the most petroglyphs. Keep a watchful eye out as they can sometimes be hidden depending on how the sun is shining on the basalt. There is no fee to enter the park at Riconada Canyon and it’s a nice park to visit especially considering its close proximity to metro Albuquerque. I have to say, however, that you can see a lot more petroglyphs at Three Rivers Petroglyph Park in SE New Mexico (see tip on my Alamogordo page).
Don’t leave valuables in your car if you go to Rinconada Canyon as of this writing (April 2005) there had been car break-ins at that parking lot. The visitor’s center staff will watch your valuables if you don’t want to go back to the hotel and leave valuables there. They were happy to watch my laptop for me.
Boca Negra Canyon has 3 trailheads and a nice picnic area ... it's also close enough to a major intersection that it is easy to get to and to get 'stuff' afterwards - or to pick up your picnic gear :)
Macaw Trail, Cliff Base Trail and Mesa Point trails are all short - less than an hour each and along each route are various petroglyphs and display stands which provide information on the 'glyphs, as well as local flora and fauna.
About 1/4 mile north of Boca Negra is the entrance to the upper Canyon where there are less tended paths/trails and you can still view amazing petroglyphs.
BTW- feel free to pick up a Boca Negra Trail Guide for 75cents from the visitor center you'll pass on the way to the canyon. It provides information on local critters, the 'glyphs, as well as the trails themselves.
It's only $1 to park there for the day.
The macaw trail is the shortest trailhead at Boca Negra Canyon. It's less than a 15 minute walk around a short loop. There are some very nice petroglyphs along this loop - including the macaws .... trade w/ Mexico was important to the local natives who prized macaw feathers for ceremonial purposes.
Please be smarter than I was ..... DON'T WEAR STUPID SHOES!!!!! I wore birkenstocks, and though the trail is an easy one - the lack of tread led to a slip and slide event that could have been prevented by thinking about the day's activities BEFORE leaving the house :)
This scene certainly is not very inspiring. And it's hard to imagine you're really not alone here. After a while you will notice the occasional hawk overhead or roadrunner behind the rocks.
Tthere is no charge for stopping here. The parking lot is at the end of a short gravel road. The hike up to the Volcano is clearly marked. While wandering around on the rocks on the volcano you can see the petroglyphs. It's kind of fun to find one here and there, gently reminding us of the people who lived along the Rio Grande in much earlier years. There are a few markers around to describe what is here.
The view from the top of the volcano is wonderful.
Petroglyph National Monument stretches 17 miles along Albuquerque's West Mesa. This volcanic basalt escarpment dominates the city's western horizon.
There is also a place for a picnic and there are toilet facilities and fresh water.
This is an inexpensive, easy day-trip.
Petroglyph national monument is located on the west side ot the city. The park lay over a mesa of volcanic land for 17 miles. Native peoples carved in those basaltic lava rocks over 25,000 images representing animals, people, brands and crosses.
The five estinguished volcanoes of Albuquerque rise up from this rocky plateau
When you're surrounded by strip malls and cookie cutter suburban development, it's great to realize that ABQ has not alwyas been like that. That there were Native People who settled in the Rio Grande valley and had a written language that didn't involve an alphabet.
And, what's great about this place, at least for me, is that it's outdoors, but you don't have to do any strenuous hiking--that is, if you don't want to--to see any of the petroglyphs, although the Park Ranger did say the best were found by an uphill hike. Oh, well. Maybe next time!
There are two sets of hiking trails providing access to the petroglyphs. A paved trail at Boca Negra Canyon (north of the Visitor Center on Unser Blvd., beyond Montano Road) leads past several dozen rock carvings.. The trail at Rinconado Canyon (south of the Visitor Center on Unser) is unpaved.
For centuries, Native Americans camped at the base of Albuquerque's West Mesa, chipping and scraping designs into the volcanic rock. This National Monument contains more than 15,000 ancient rock drawings (petroglyphs) inscribed on the 17-mile long escarpment overlooking the Rio Grande Valley.
OPEN: Daily 8-5
ADMISSION: weekdays, $1.00; weekends, $2.00
Features the most impressive collections of Indian and Hispanic petroglyphs dating from 1300 AD. More than 15,000 fascinating ancient Indian rock drawings can be seen on the 17-mile long West Mesa escarpment.