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U.S. Southwest:

Petroglyph National Monument

September 1, 2019

(Elevation: 5,600 ft.)

Petroglyph National Monument, located just west of the urban sprawl of Albuquerque, protects one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America, featuring 24,000 designs and symbols carved onto volcanic rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers 400 to 700 years ago.


These images are a valuable record of cultural expression and hold profound spiritual significance for contemporary Native Americans and for the descendants of the early Spanish settlers.

Some 200,000 years ago, volcanic eruptions created a 17-mile-long geologic formation containing thick basalt layers of rock and cooled lava. The geologic properties of basalt allow for the creation of the petroglyphs, or rock carvings, on their surface. Over thousands of years of exposure to the desert's hot and exposed environment, a "desert varnish" forms on the surface of the rocks, allowing easy and effective etching of letters on figures.


National Park Service

Rinconada Canyon Gallery

Our visit to Petroglyph NM included an excellent hike on the 2.2 mile Rinconada Canyon Trail. Archeologists believe ancestral Puebloans made most of the 1,200 petroglyphs in Rinconada Canyon 400 to 700 hundred years ago; from the trail, we spotted more petroglyphs than we could count.          

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