Vulcan Volcano is the tallest in the chain of volcanoes west of Albuquerque. It sits in the middle of the Rio Grande Rift, offering stunning vistas in all directions. From here, Mount Taylor, Ladron Peak, the Jemez Mountains, Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Sandia Mountains, Manzano Mountains, and San Mateo Mountains are all visible. Only a 30-minute drive away, this, as well as the other volcanoes in the area are extremely accessible.
The summit is 1 mile of trail from the north end of the parking lot or 1.5 miles if you choose to tag the other two volcanoes to the south, Black Volcano and JA Volcano. Elevation gain is about 250 feet via the short route or over 600 feet doing the loop.
The region around Albuquerque forms a rift valley much like that in the Red Sea, separating slowly for millennia and placing unimaginable tension on the crust below. Around 150,000 years ago, the Rio Grande and Rio Puerco Valleys were a highly active volcanic field with hundreds of vents. Together, they created the table-like uplift seen between the two valleys today as they spewed layer upon layer of lava much like the volcanoes of Hawaii.
After the vents quieted, erosion ate at the landscape eventually leading to the collapse of large portions of the eastern slopes to produce the escarpments seen today. It is the exposed basalt of these cliffs that hold much of the petroglyphs for which the monument is named. The dark surface of the rock proved to be exquisite canvasses for the native tribes in the area as well as the first Spanish people to come into the region.
Take I-40 west to Exit 149. Drive north 11 miles on Atrisco Vista Blvd., which was formerly known as Paseo del Volcan. The short road to the parking area is easily visible on the right from the main road. It is shortly after the turn-off to the shooting range, which is a left-hand turn.
The volcanoes day-use area of the Petroglyph National Monument is open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily. May close early due to severe weather. Keep in mind that the gate to the parking lot is locked precisely at 5:00 pm and any vehicles left inside will be ticketed and/or towed. Since this is a desert, please stay on the trails to prevent destruction of the fragile flora that take ages to recuperate.
No camping is allowed within the national monument.
External LinksWeather per NOAA
Petroglyph National Monument