General Information

There are three main areas in Petroglyph National Monument where petroglyphs are abundant. Just south of the Visitor's Center for the park is Riconada Canyon. North along Unser Blvd is Boca Negra Canyon which has three tiny trails with pavement that wind through areas dense with petroglyphs. The furthest north is Piedras Marcadas canyon which is tucked behind a development near a Sonic (according to my notes).

It is probably possible to visit each of the three areas in one day, though we did it spread out over two days which also included the Volcanoes area and a visit to the Pueblo Museum.

lizard at Piedras Marcadas warning flowers at Riconada Canyon bird at Riconada Canyon

Boca Negra Canyon

Boca Negra Canyon has a set of short trails leading to petroglyphs as old as 3000 years. The range in dates of the petroglyphs is vast, though the majority are believed to be created between 1300 and 1680 BC by the Pueblos. We visited Coronado State Monument later in the week which was a village of the same people that left these beautiful petroglyphs. Dancers, masks, flue players, animals, and hands are just some of the many types of images in this canyon.

petroglyphs with city in the background face mask several glyphs on single stone

The length of time per trail ranges from 5 minutes to 30 minutes according to the park pamphlet. We probably spent longer no the paths than the average visitor, but it was a beautiful day and we were in no hurry. We also took the time to read the Boca Negra Canyon Trail Guide that we purchased at the Visitor's Center. We can't recall the price, but maybe it was a dollar at most. It was well worth it as it enhanced our visit to the trails. It also let us know that we missed the Upper Canyon Trail and reminds us we must return to visit again some day.

The backdrop, as you can see in the first photo, is the city of Albuquerque. What you can not see from the photos is looking out in the other direction, you can see the Volcanoes in the distance that are also a part of the park. It reminds the visitor of the geology and how the rocks were formed. The petroglyphs are only part of a much older story beginning about 130,000 years ago.

Rinconada Canyon

Rinconada Canyon is a rougher path than Boca Negra and the petroglyphs are not as dense as the ones at Boca Negra. Not to say that there are not many, because there are countless images, but some are close and some are far and you have to stop and look around to discover them. Patience and persistence is rewarding as the petroglyphs are at every corner and every angle one you get a good eye for spotting them. Bring binoculars or a camera with a zoom lens to get better glances at some.

woman like a bird face in two sides of a rock, meeting on the corner birds, masks, men

The dirt path is about 2 ½ miles round trip, and a primitive rest area is at the parking lot. Shoes, rather than sandals is an excellent idea due to the tiny cacti that line the sandy path. If you can catch the park in the early summer as we did, the wild flowers are incredible in this area.

An interesting thing to look for is faces that are placed at the edge of rocks. The left side of the face is on the left side and the right side of the face is on the right side of the rock. My private term for this style is "Pueblo Picasso", and I hope this does not offend anyone, but it was really neat that someone thought to do this and you will find it repeats throughout the canyon.

Piedras Marcadas Canyon

man with mask and hands mask hands

Piedras Marcadas Canyon! A treat and a nice way to end the visit. We went after lunch as the sun lowered its position in the sky, making it easier to see some of the art. You may want to be very clear with where to park and how to get there by visiting the Visitor's Center on Unser Blvd as we had to go back and ask twice how to get there in order to find where to park. It is very confusing as the area is really built up and we could not decide if we should park behind the grocery store or not (the answer is no).

dancer dancer with perhaps corn horned beast

Most of our interesting photography from the trip was shot in Piedras Marcadas. The round trip without side trails is 1.5 miles. with side trails, perhaps a little over 2. We went up one of the side trails to the top of the canyon and happened into some's back yard while they were drinking on their screened in porch. Like we mentioned, the real estate is tight, and we were probably not part of the nice view. The neighbors seem to keep a good watch on this place as so much has been preserved without vandalism. Please do your part in preservation by not touching the petroglyphs and staying on trails so that you do not accidentally walk on any that are face up on flat rocks.

If you ever want to have your own replica to keep and touch, visit where you can purchase really nice works.