Petroglyph National Monument

Almost every time we stopped at our next destination in New Mexico, I realized how unprepared I really was for this trip! In my defense, I had planned a full vacation to Arizona when New Mexico announced they lifted the quarantine rules (we had originally planned to go to NM). I thought I had already planned everything out and briefly went over my New Mexico itinerary and foolishly thought it looked finished without actually going through everything.
Long story short, I knew where we were going, but had no idea what it actually consisted of. So I was quite surprised to see that we had three separate locations for Petroglyph National Monument (we skipped the Volcano this time). I knew the visitor center was a drivable distance, but that was where my knowledge ended. We had originally planned to start early here, then head to El Morro, but we ended up cutting El Morro out because we spent so much time at all three locations (and petroglyphs are my sister’s main interest, so we just had to make a decision because we also had a long drive to Truth or Consequences this day!).

Petroglyph National Monument
Visitor Center Address: Unser Blvd. NW at Western Trail, Albuquerque, NM 87120
Fees: Boca Negra Canyon $1.00 parking fee week days, $2.00 weekends (covered by annual pass)

Addresses for each canyon:
Boca Negra Canyon: Atrisco Dr NW, Albuquerque, NM 87120
Rinconada Canyon: 7601 St Josephs Ave, Albuquerque, NM 87120
Piedras Marcadas Canyon: Jill Patricia St NW, Albuquerque, NM 87114
Volcano Day Use Area: GPS Lat: 35.1306 GPS Long: -106.7803

*These are all full sun, please be prepared with sunscreen and water!*

We decided to get the one that was listed as the longest out of the way first, Rinconada. Though I’m 100% positive Piedras Marcadas took us much longer. Not sure what this was all about, but hey, it was all cool either way! We had a quick breakfast at the picnic table in the parking lot and hit the trail.

Some of these are easy to spot, some are better viewed with binoculars or zooming in on that camera.

We took our time walking through so that we could really look over the rock surfaces, doing our best to spot as many as possible.

This trail was very soft and sandy, so if you have trouble walking in sand, do keep that in mind. There were a lot of runners here, they usually would say “to your left” or whatever direction they were coming up, so that you could easily move more out of the way as they ran by.

The second stop was Piedras Marcadas. As I mentioned, I felt like this was much longer, and I’m going to give you the advice I wish I would’ve had. Either take the right staircase from the start, walk along the top and come down the other end to view the petroglyphs, or walk back down the stairs and head to the trail, then come back the way you came. There’s nothing up there as far as petroglyphs go, though you do get some sweeping views. I would rather go back through the sand, I think.

Rinconada was quite easy to tell where you were going. There wasn’t really anywhere to wonder which way you were going. In Piedras Marcadas, there were a few times I wasn’t sure exactly where the trail was. Though it was easy enough to follow along the twisty wall, I do hate walking on undesignated trails!

There were so many petroglyphs here that it was quite overwhelming at times. I would have to refocus and just take in one at a time, otherwise my brain was scrambling to try and see them all at once!

Again, this is quite the soft and sandy trail, so do be aware. It’s also full sun. (Click any thumbnails to view larger!)

Our last stop was Boca Negra. This was the shortest of the three, but does have slightly more climbing. There were very small kids on this one, so it’s doable. There are very clearly marked stairs and trails here and there are two parking lots. It wasn’t super crowded, and I was so tired at that point that we hiked the trail by the first lot, then drove to the second one before checking it out. There were a few picnic areas here, too, in between both lots. They looked pretty nice.

You get really close to these petroglyphs. (Remember, don’t touch these! The oils on our skin can deteriorate them!)

And you have quite the sweeping views.

The second trail has a bathroom if it’s needed. Again, the trail is clearly marked.

You also get close to the petroglyphs on this trail.

Less sand, more rock, here. Which was nice for me, I have a hard time in soft sand. And as I said, more inclines here than the other two.

I want to warn one more time that these trails are all full sun. I had sunscreen on my face, and reapplied after some sweating, and still got a face and scalp sun burn! I bought a hat (it was a “fishing hat” with a drawstring so the wind wouldn’t blow it off) and used it the remainder of my trip to prevent any more sunburns. The sunscreen/hat combo worked out well. If you burn easy, please be prepared! I don’t even burn easy and it still got me!
None of the locations are super far, they’re all within a few miles apart and some of the turns are a little hidden, but the roads here aren’t super packed so it’s easy to turn around if you miss that turn.

It’s hard to choose a favorite, but for the petroglyphs spotted, I would have to choose Piedras Marcadas, but they all were really cool to check out! Have you every been to Petroglyph National Monument? If so, which stop was your favorite?

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