The moon rises over J A Volcano
Petroglyph National Monument lies on the western edge of Albuqueruque, NM covering over 7,000 acres. It received its National Monument designation in June, 1990 and is managed both by the National Park Service and the City of Albuqueruque. The two biggest draw to this monument are the dormant volcanoes and the namesake of the area; the petroglphs. This interesting mixture of geology and history makes this monument a must visit area in central New Mexico. The best place to start is the visitor center where you can learn all about this Monument.
The petroglyphs found in this area were first carved into the dark volcanic rock by native Anasazi hunters. Some pictures and designs are seen repeatedly through the area. This area is estimated to have over 15,000 drawings of people, animals, symbols, or other designs. Others are simply designs they may have had meaning to the carver but now we can only guess. Some of this Anasazi artwork is estimated to date back thousands of years, although some artwork could have been created in the past few hundred years by early Spanish settlers. Unfortunately, in the past few decades people have carved graffiti on the rocks and even used some of the petroglyphs for target practice. If you see this happening please report it to the authorities and please refrain from disturbing the ancient drawings.
In addition to the petroglyphs, the nearby volcanoes were considered sacred by the native people. This area is considered sacred and was used for worship and ceremonies. This site continued to be used for worship and ceremony by early Hispanic settlers.
The volcanic activity that formed Petroglyph National Monument occurred about 150,000 years ago when lava flowed from fissures in the Earth. The lava flowed east, creating a lava-covered plateau on the western border of where Albuquerque now sits. As the flow of lava decreased the lava did not flow as far, creating the build-up of the volcanic cones that we still see today. The reason these volcanoes are situated in a line is because they were all created by the same fissure. Once the lava hardened on top of the sandy soil, wind and water began slowly eating away at the sand underneath the edge of this lava flow. Under its own weight the basalt lava rock would break and fall down the escarpment creating the boulders we see today.
Getting ThereVisitor Center/Rinconanda Canyon:
Petroglyph National Monument is located on the western border of Albuquerque, NM. From Albuquerque take I-40 West to exit 154 (Unser Blvd). Continue on Unser Blvd for 3 miles until you reach Western Trail. Turn left onto Western Trail and continue to the visitor center. The Rinconada Canyon trailhead is located just south of the visitor center off of Unser Blvd.
From Albuquerque take I-40 West to exit 149 (Paseo del Volcan). Turn right onto Paseo del Volcan and continue about 5 miles to the trailhead. The trailhead is on the right side down a short paved road. The Volcanoes are easily visible on the approach to this trailhead.
Boca Negra Canyon:
From Albuquerque take I-40 West to exit 154 (Unser Blvd). Continue on Unser Blvd for about 5 miles. Just north of Montano Rd Unser Blvd will split. Follow the right splint into the Petroglyph National Monument - Boca Negra Canyon area.
Piedras Marcadas Canyon:
From Albuquerque take I-25 North to exit 232 (Paseo del Norte). Head west on Paseo del Norte for about 6 miles to the intersection with Golf Course Rd. Go north on Golf Course Rd for about a half mile then turn left onto Jill Patricia St. Shortly after turning onto Jill Patricia St. there will be a parking lot on the right side of the road.
Hiking at the Petroglyphs
The primary activity at Petroglyph National Monument is hiking among the petroglyph lined canyons or climbing one of the small volcanoes. In addition to the canyons and volcanoes there are some extensive stretches of grassland that see few hikers. The best time of year to hike is in the spring, winter, or fall since the temperatures are moderate and significant rainfall is unlikely. Even in winter the sun can be very warm so bring a hat and some sunscreen. When hiking this area be careful of rattlesnakes. In warmer months they frequent this area and even on cooler days they can be found sunning themselves on the warm black rocks.
A full moon rises over J A Volcano A view of the three southern Volcanoes from the eastern grasslands
There are five small dormant volcanoes in the Petroglyph National Monuement. From North to South the volcanoes are Butte, Bond, Vulcan, Black, and JA volcanoes. The northern two volcanoes are rarely climbed since they are much further north and smaller than the other three. The other three can be easily climbed in combination from the trailhead.
Data from Lists of John
for a map of the hiking trails that cover the three southern volcanoes.
There are three canyons located within Petroglyph National Monument land. The canyons all have similiar geology with petroglyphs enscribed on the dark volcanic rock that create the canyon walls. All of these canyons have easy access and easy hiking although they can get very hot during summer months.
A view of Rinconada Canyon from the grasslands above
The Rinconada Canyon Trail is 1.25 miles to the head of the canyon for a 2.5 mile round trip total. The trail is well marked and easy to follow but is very sandy. Sandals are not recommended for this hike. The trail only covers the northern part of this broad canyon since that is where all the petroglyphs are found. This map
shows some of the more prominent petroglyphs in Rinconada Canyon. The return trail comes directly back to the parking area near the center of the canyon.
A view of Boca Negra's Mesa Point from the start of the Cliff Base trail
Boca Negra Canyon
Boca Negra Canyon has three seperate hiking trails. All three trails are paved, well marked, and have easy access via the Boca Negra Canyon road and parking lots. This map
shows the three trails and an approximate hiking time although those times assume you hike VERY slowly and stop to take lots of pictures. The distances are very short and you can easily walk between trails. The entire canyon can be hiked in 1-2 hours at an easy pace.
Piedras Marcadas Caynon
Piedras Marcadas is the least visited Caynon of the three canyons. As with the other canyons there are easy trails to follow and hike along. Petroglyphs can be found along the base of the canyon walls. Just like Boca Negra canyon the trails of this canyon can be covered in a short period of time Here is a map
of the area and trails.
The grasslands can be accessed from the east from the trails near the visitor center or from the west from the volcanoes. The majority of the Petroglyph National Monument is a large plain. These grasslands are almost featureless other than the previously mentioned volcanoes and canyons. They are seldom visited due to this fact. In these grasslands it is easy to see large jackrabbits, the New Mexico state bird; the roadrunner, as well as rattlesnakes during warmer months.
Red TapeVisitor Center
The visitor Center is open year round from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. At the center you can receive maps and current information about the Petroglyphs. The visitor center is closed on: New Years, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and closes early the day before Thanksgiving and Christmas eve.
The Volcanoes is a day use area only that is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily. If you plan on being there past 5:00 pm you should park outside the gate to prevent your car from being locked inside. Parking is free and restrooms are available at the parking area.
Rinconada Canyon is a day use area only open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily. Parking is free and the parking area has a pit restroom facility. All dogs should be leashed and picked up after. There is no alcohol or firearms allowed in the park. There are heavy fines for drawing on the rocks or defacing the petroglyphs.
Boca Negra Canyon
Boca Negra Canyon is a day use area open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm daily. There are NO DOGS ALLOWED at Boca Negra Canyon. There is s parking fee of $1 on weekdays and on $2 weekends. National Park Service passes are honored. For information on Commercial Fees in this area contact the City of Albuqueruque for rate information at (505) 873-6620. There are heavy fines for drawing on the rocks or defacing the petroglyphs.
Piedras Marcadas Canyon
Piedras Marcadas Canyon is owned and managed by the City of Albuquerque, Open Space Division. This canyon is open daily from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Parking is free but space is limited. There are heavy fines for drawing on the rocks or defacing the petroglyphs.
Local weather: Albuquerque
City of Albuquerque open space info
Local Search and Resuce Team: Cibola SAR
U.S. National Parks Service - Petroglyph National Monument