Do you know what in the world is a petroglyph?? Neither did I until I visited the Petroglyph National Monument outside of Albuquerque, NM. Apparently, a petroglyph is an image picked or carved into a rock stone. This sounds a lot like pictographs at first, but pictographs are painted, not carved. Petroglyphs can be found all around the world, and the ones found in northern New Mexico are supposedly quite distinctive and are referred to as the Rio Grande style, featuring lots of pictures of people an nature (animals, stars, etc.).
The first place to go at the National Monument is the visitor’s center. That might sound fairly obvious, but the monument is very spread out and you’ll need a map in order to find your way through various streets and neighborhoods to get to the different trails. Warning: the visitor center is also the last place to use the restroom before you set out depending on which trails you visit.
There are several trails, each with their own pros and cons. The first trail I recommend is the Mesa Point Trail in Boca Negra Canyon. Pros: the trail is relatively short, the petroglyphs are close to the trail, there are informational markers, the mesa top has a gorgeous view of Albuquerque and the Sandia Mountains, and there are occasional handrails to help navigate the trail. Cons: the trail may be short but it is very steep, there are no bathrooms or water fountains, and the trail is supposedly paved, but it’s still very rocky, so wear tenis shoes or boots and watch your ankles.
The second trail I recommend is the Cliff Base Trail in the Boca Negra Canyon. Pros: short and relatively easy to hike, picnic tables nearby, and the trailhead has bathrooms and a water fountain. Cons: not many petroglyphs to see and the water fountain is turned off during winter and spring.
The last trail I recommend is Rinconada Canyon. This trail is a few miles from the others, but not difficult to find, but is also 2 miles long, so be prepared. You should also try and go in the morning rather than the afternoon so the sun isn’t in your eyes the whole time. Pros: more petroglyphs to see than any of the other trails, the trailhead has bathrooms and a water fountain. Cons: the trail is packed sand, which gets all in your shoes and socks, there is no shade, so it’s easy to sunburn, the petroglyphs are further from the trail, and if you accidently stay past 5pm, you’re car will be immediately towed.
I don’t plan on going back any time in the future – it’s more of a once and done thing in my book – but I’m glad I went. It was a pretty cool experience over all, I learned a lot, got a nice tan and got to see a snipet of history. Overall a pretty sweet day!