Petroglyph National Monument Travel Guide

  • Petroglyphs
    Petroglyphs
    by Basaic
  • Visitors Center
    Visitors Center
    by Basaic
  • Hiking Trail
    Hiking Trail
    by Basaic

Petroglyph National Monument Things to Do

  • Petroglyphs

    Petroglyph National Monument is located on the west side of Albuquerque. It is actually made up of old volcanic rock that made a basalt escarpment that lies along the west side of the city. Five volcanic cones can be seen in the distance which created the escarpment. It is estimated that there are 25,000 images carved by either native peoples that...

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  • Upper Canyon Trail

    This section of canyon, up the road from the 3 sites at Boca Negra, is considered part of that unit but still just far enough away to be a little bit isolated. The trail here isn't long but it's undeveloped, parts are steep and except for a few picnic pavilions and a parking lot, there's no facilities. This little piece of canyon has some of the...

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  • Getting started

    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...

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  • Boca Negra Canyon

    This is the most popular of the three canyons and has the shortest trails. It also has the fewest petroglyphs relative to the other two sites but there's still plenty of them to see. The canyon is about and mile and 1/2 north of the Visitor Center. The trails are:Macaw Trail: short and easy at only .1 mileCliff Base Trail: .2 mile with a moderate...

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  • Macaw Trail - Boca Negra Canyon

    Macaw Trail is very short, paved and good for tiny people and anyone unable to walk very far. It's named for a petroglyph of a macaw you'll find here - interesting because these birds aren't native to New Mexico. Archeologists have found remains of macaw feathers at the Chaco Canyon ruins and believe that prehistoric trade routes ran deep into...

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  • Cliff Base Trail - Boca Negra Canyon

    Cliff Base is the 2nd shortest trail in the park, mostly paved and an easy stroll. It's a loop that shares a trailhead with Macaw loop - the two of them make an hourglass configuration - and combined make a nice 20 - 30 minute walk.

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  • Mesa Point Trail - Boca Negra Canyon

    Mesa Point was, for me, the most fun of the three Boca Negra trails as it winds up the side of a hill - a little more work but far from strenuous. It's about a half-mile loop with a small 1/4 mile optional leg that takes you to a nice vantage point on top of the mesa. Unfortunately, you also get some not-so-welcome views of suburbia.

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  • Rinconada Canyon

    This trail is the longest in the park at 2.5 miles RT but it's relatively flat and other than some deep sand, an easy hike. Because of the 1 and 1/4 miles it extends into the canyon from the road, it's also the most remote - although nothing much at Petroglyph really classifies as that. The parking area (no fee or pass required) and trailhead are...

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  • A little about petroglyphs

    Petroglyphs are common throughout the Southwest and range in age from thousands of years old to just a few hundred. The oldest images at this park are found along Canyon Trail - a more remote and undeveloped piece of the Boca Negra section - and date back some 3000 years. The majority of other images are categorized as Rio Grande - a style dating...

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  • Boca Negra Canyon

    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...

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  • Cliff Base Trail

    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,...

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  • Macaw Trail

    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...

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Petroglyph National Monument Transportation

  • kymbanm's Profile Photo
    footprints ...

    by kymbanm Written Jul 11, 2005

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    I'll be honest, I don't ride the bus here at home .... I have my car and usually choose this method to get around when I know I can get parking :)

    For those of you traveling about without your own wheels, it looks like the local bus service, AKA: Suntran or ABQ Ride, does have a route that gets pretty close to the petroglyphs. From the route map, it looks like Route 94 takes you nearby ..... since most of the entrances to Petroglyph part are off of Unser ... I thought I would include this as a 'just in case' .

    Related to:
    • Budget Travel
    • National/State Park
    • Archeology

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Petroglyph National Monument Local Customs

  • goodfish's Profile Photo
    Mother Nature taking a rest

    by goodfish Updated Jan 3, 2010

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    The constant stream of visitors is tough on our National Parks and occasionally trails may be closed or re-directed to give the fragile ecosystem a break. Staying on clearly marked paths helps keep the damage contained - and your toes away from snake-infested areas! Curious youngsters will naturally want to scoot off for a climb on the big rocks but an informative chat about gentle practices in old and overused places will make great Junior Rangers of your wee ones.

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    • Hiking and Walking
    • National/State Park

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Petroglyph National Monument Warnings and Dangers

  • Destructive visitors

    Because of its close proximity to the city and virtually free admission, vandalism is a huge problem for the park. Some of the rocks with ancient, sacred carvings have been used for target practice and still others defiled with modern graffiti. Sad. If you should see anyone willfully damaging park property, please report them to park authorities as...

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  • Lock your car

    The parking areas are spread out and not monitored so break-ins are a real possibility. Lock your car, take your valuables with you and stow anything that may be of interest out of sight.

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  • Rules and Regs

    The rules are simple. Take nothing but pictures and leave no trace. Please don't touch the petroglyphs - oils from your hands can be damaging.Leave Rover at home (and not in a hot car!!!) - dogs aren't allowed on the trails.

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Petroglyph National Monument What to Pack

  • goodfish's Profile Photo
    Rinconada Canyon

    by goodfish Updated Jan 3, 2010

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    Luggage and bags: Daypack

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Study, closed-toe shoes (for walking deep sand), hat, sunglasses - it's very hot and dry here in the summer. A rain jacket might be good idea but I wouldn't recommend visiting if heavy weather threatens - there's nowhere safe but the car to wait out a Southwest storm with dangerous lightening. In fact, if you see one coming, make tracks for your vehicle.

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Sunscreen, bandaids, wet wipes, whatever else you might want if you take a nosedive. Trails are short and easy enough that blisters shouldn't be a problem.

    Photo Equipment: Yes, bring it all!

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: NA - no campsites at the park.

    Miscellaneous: Water bottle (full) and snacks - drinking water isn't available at all of the trailheads. A backpack or sling to carry tiny children is a must as most of the terrain isn't stroller-friendly.

    Related to:
    • Hiking and Walking
    • National/State Park

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Petroglyph National Monument Favorites

  • Born here

    I was born in Albuquerque, back when the city had barely 100,000 people. Now it's a sprawling city full of life! Petroglyph was one of those things that was a day trip because it was outside of the city. Now the city is encroaching on it. I would recommend visiting here, as well as the rest of the city, as New Mexico is one of those hidden gems...

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  • Blue Skies and Dark Rock

    Petroglyph National Monument is fun for just a day outing to explore and hike. Situated so close to Albuquerque, it makes it easily accessable. Albuquerque itself sits around 5,000+ feet, so it is mild most of the year. The summers are dry, and semi-hot, but the nights can cool down. The winter time can be chilly, as the desert does get cold at...

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