Petroglyph National Monument is a relatively new park, that did not exist when I was a kid. I have been to Albuquerque, a number of times but have never had the chance to explore this park. Have you? What’s your favorite thing to do here?
The Petroglyph National Monument is a 17-mile long, volcanic basalt on a long, steep slope, encompassing approximately 7,236 acres, located on the West Mesa of Albuquerque, New Mexico. This area has a long history of occupation, being used by Native peoples for prayers, offerings, gathering of medicinal plants, and is considered sacred to dozens of tribes in the Southwest. The name Petroglyph National Monument reflects the monument’s greatest treasure, an estimated 25,000 images carved by native peoples, and early Spanish settlers.
Rock paintings are called pictographs, while petroglyphs are rock carvings, made by pecking directly on rock surface using a stone chisel, exposing lighter rock underneath. Many rock carvings at the Petroglyph National Monument are depictions of animals in the Southwest: rattlesnakes, birds, frogs, coyotes, mountain lions, eagles, parrots, toads/frogs, and dragonflies. These images reflect the natural history of the area, as well as animal-human interactions throughout the area’s history.
During the mid-20th century, as Albuquerque expanded, the area became littered with trash, imitation rock drawings, and bullet scars from target practices. The 1980s gave birth to a movement to protect the petroglyphs. Specifically, in 1985, New Mexico legislator Joseph Carraro passed legislation allocating monies to begin building Paseo del Norte and its accompanying bridge across the Rio Grande to eventually extend beyond what is now called the Petroglyph National Monument.
In 1986, “The Friends of the Petroglyphs,” organized a meeting with members of nearby community organizations and American Indian groups to discuss the possibility of establishing an urban park on the West Mesa of Albuquerque, N.M. Their aim was the prevention of petroglyph, damage, removal and or desecration. Authorization to create a National Monument out of this cultural place and unusual topography came on June 27, 1990. The Monument protects a variety of cultural and natural resources including five volcanic cones located to the west of the basalt escarpment containing hundreds of archeological sites.
One of the things I found very interesting when I was writing about this national monument is that historians continue to debate the presence of Sephardic crypto-Jews in New Mexico. Many believe that Spanish-Jews migrated to the United States, seeking religious freedom and fleeing the scrutiny of the Spanish Inquisition, during the late 1500s. Descendents of these Jews hid their ritual practices and cultural identity until Spanish control ended in 1821.
Phoenician, old-Hebrew inscriptions (the Ten Commandments) and a zodiac calendar have been found in Los Lunas basalt rock petroglyphs; some experts believe that it is possible that there are similar inscriptions among the carvings at the Petroglyph National Monument. Some analysts studying the weathering of the rock carvings in Los Lunas speculate that the carvings date from 500-2000 years ago and some people say the stone pre-dates Christopher Columbus’ voyage to Hispaniola by as much as 1500 years. There are also some experts who do not believe that the petroglyphs were from King Solomon’s lost ships who may have visited the new world. You will have to visit Petroglyphs NPS and look for yourself.
—– Location —-
The Monument’s visitor center is located on the west side of Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is important to know that there are no petroglyph viewing trails located at the visitor center. Each of the petroglyph viewing trails is a one-mile to a 6.5-mile drive from the visitor center. From Interstate 40 take the Unser Blvd. exit (#154) and proceed north 3 miles to Western Trail. Turn left or west onto Western Trail and follow the road to the visitor center parking lot. From Interstate 25 take the Paseo del Norte exit (#232) and proceed west to Coors Road exit south. Proceed south on Coors Road to Western Trail. Turn right or west onto Western Trail and follow the road to the visitor center. You can fly into Albuquerque from all of the larger cities airports.
—- Park Camping —-
There is no camping at this national monument, however, there are several campsites around the area.
—- Free Camping —-
Based on https://freecampsites.net/#!Petroglyph%20National%20Monument there are 14 free camping sites with 50 miles of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
—- Area Camping —-
—- Hiking & Biking —-
Petroglyph National Monument offers four different hiking trails. Three trails allow for petroglyph viewing and one trail does not. These trails range in length, from one to four miles round trip, and in the degree of difficulty, from easy to moderately strenuous. Trail guides for each trail system are available at the visitor center.
The Albuquerque Volcanoes Mountain Bike Rides are popular, easy mountain bike rides on Albuquerque’s west side in the US NPS Petroglyph National Monument. The volcanoes are visible from much of Albuquerque as several low hills on the western horizon.
The trails provide stunning views of the Sandias and Albuquerque to the east. One of the larger volcanoes output warm air from far below which hints that not all the activity is dormant. The area is totally open and hot in the summer so take plenty of water. This is a good spring, fall, or even winter ride. There are a variety of double and single track trails that encircle the volcanoes. Many of these are rocky so are not as fast or easy as some dirt roads. A double track takes off north to the powerlines that get sandy and rocky in places.
The distances are all pretty short unless you ride back to the city to the east. Some double tracks go right over the tops of the volcanoes, which aren’t very high, and some contour around them.
—- Things to do —-
Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico and is located in the central region of the state along the Rio Grande. There is an abundance of things to do in Albuquerque. Whether you’re taking a scenic hot air balloon flight over the city, mountain biking in the Sandia foothills, hiking through history, kayaking the waters of the legendary Rio Grande, or strolling through Old Town, you’ll find Albuquerque offers a real breath of fresh air. Don’t miss the great views of the city below by taking a ride on the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway as it climbs to the 10,378-foot peak of the Sandia Mountains—an ideal spot for taking in the Albuquerque sunsets.
—- References —-