The Petroglyph National Monument is located along Albuquerque's West Mesa in New Mexico and has an estimated 24,000 petroglyphs carved by ancestral Pueblo people and early Spanish settlers. While the petroglyphs at this monument may not be nearly as old as many in this world, they are incredibly numerous and easy to access.

To see some ancient Petroglyphs in an exotic location, see the ancient and intriguing petroglyphs in Kazakhstan. Another hotspot of petroglyphs in the United States is at Nine Mile Canyon in Utah - home to thousands of ancient petroglyphs.


About Petroglyph National Monument

The Petroglyph National Monument is one of the largest petroglyph sites in all of North America. The designs and symbols were carved into these volcanic rocks over a period of between 400 and 700 years ago. Today they represent a valuable record of cultural expression. They are of profound spiritual significance for contemporary Native Americans as well as descendants of early Spanish settlers.

Many of the petroglyphs are of people, brands, crosses, animals, and other recognizable symbols, although others are more complex.

The Petroglyph National Monument is cooperatively managed by the National Park Service and the City of Albuquerque. The Petroglyphs are located in a volcanic basalt escarpment and are contained within the 7,236-acre monument.

  • Established: In 1990
  • Petroglyphs: Around 24,000

The many petroglyphs are not the only attraction that one can see here. One can also explore the chain of dormant fissure volcanoes. The five volcanic cones in the monument include Butte, Bond, Vulcan, Black, and JA volcanoes.

The West Mesa (where the petroglyphs are found) is visible from Albuquee was formed by a series of eruptions over 100,000 years ago. The violent history of the site is visible in the dormant volcanic cones and the seventeen-mile-long basalt escarpment.

As the basalt boulders tumbled down to the edge of the escarpment and proved to be the ideal material for carving petroglyphs.

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History and Significance Of the Petroglyphs

Petroglyphs are rock carvings made by pecking on the rock surface using a stone chisel and a hammerstone. As the desert varnish (or patina) was chipped off from the surface of the rock, the lighter rock beneath the layer would be exposed creating an easily visible image.

  • Petroglyphs: Rock Carvings
  • Pictographs: Rock Paintings

It is thought that around 90% of the monument's petroglyphs were created by the ancestors of the Pueblo people. While the Puebloans have lived in the region for over 1500 years, their population increased significantly around 700 years ago with many more settlements springing up. It is believed most of the petroglyphs were carved between 1300 up to the late 1680s.

  • Carved: Mostly Between 1300 and the Late 1680s
  • Oldest Petroglyphs: A Small Percentage of Petroglyphs Pre-Date The Pueblos - Perhaps From as Far Back As 2000 BC
  • Newest Petroglyphs: From The 1700s By Early Spanish Settlers

The Spanish began to arrive in the area in 1540 and had a dramatic impact on the pueblo people. The Pueblo tribes in the region rose in revolt against the Spanish around 1680 and drove back the settlers to El Paso, Texas. The Spanish returned and resettled the Albuquerque area in 1692.

Related: 20 Unique Destinations Where We Can Go Back In Time And See Cave Paintings

Visiting The Petroglyph National Monument

There are four main sites to access the monument - Boca Negra Canyon, Rinconada Canyon, Piedras Marcadas Canyon, and the Volcano Day Use trails. The petroglyphs are easy to access by car and rarely require a lot of walking.

Piedras Marcadas Canyon: The Piedras Maracada Canyon leads visitors on an undeveloped trail to some of the largest concentrations of petroglyphs in the National Monument. The trail runs along the base of the escarpment and is accessible from the Las Marcadas parking lot on Jill Patricia.

  • Facilities: No Facilities Are Available Here

Boca Negra Canyon: Boca Negra Canyon offers easy access to both the petroglyphs and various other interesting geologic and cultural features. It has three developed trails that range from 5 minutes to 30 minutes on a roundtrip.

  • Trails: Three Short Developed Trails
  • Facilities: Water, Restrooms, Picnic Tables
  • Hours: Open 8.30 am to 4.30 pm, Seven Days A Week
  • Closed: January 1st, Thanksgiving Day, and December 25th
  • Fee: $1 Per Vehicle Weekdays, $2 Per Vehicle Weekends
  • Managed: By the City of Albuquerque Open Space Division

Volcanoes Day Use Trails: The monument is home to the remnants of five cinder cone volcanoes. This part of the park is managed by the National Park Service and offers shaded resting benches along the trail as well as a restroom.

  • Open: 9.00 am to 5.00, Seven Days A Week
  • Closed: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day

The monument embodies aspects of America's geologic, pre-history, and Spanish colonial times. It is a great place to learn about the history of Arizona.

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