After days of being cooped up in the car, we were ready for a morning of hiking at the Petroglyph National Monument. Now you may be asking yourself, what the heck is a Petroglyph? (It’s okay, I had to google it too). Petroglyphs are symbols, images, or art found on the faces of rocks created by removing a layer of the rock’s surface through some form of abrading or scratching. Many petroglyphs are of spiritual or cultural significance. In North America, they were carved into rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers as early as 3,000 years ago, most seeming to be around 400-700 years old.
Albuquerque, New Mexico is home to one of the largest sights of Petroglyphs. The Petroglyph National Monument has three easy to moderate hiking options within the park. Since we had limited time before getting back on the road, we opted for the shortest hike; Boca Negra Canyon. There are three short trails within the Boca Negra Canyon, where over a hundred petroglyphs line the paths.
Mesa Point Trail
Hiking all three trails will take just under an hour. We took our time climbing the Mesa Point Trail, which has a large petroglyph to greet you at the beginning of the trailhead. The National Park Service labels this trail as strenuous. If you take your time to stop and view the petroglyphs, you’ll be at the top of the hill before you know it. Once we made it to the top, the view of the mountains in the distance and the city of Albuquerque were breathtaking. Not having traveled much out west, this was my first time seeing the desert landscape, and it seemed to stretch to the far ends of the earth.
Deciphering the Petroglyphs
Most of the meanings of the Petroglyphs have been lost over time. Today, we may recognize some of the symbols, but the actual meaning is known only to those who carved them into the stone centuries before the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock. One can only make up their own story of what the indigenous people centuries ago were trying to communicate.
Rinconada Canyon & Piedras Marcadas Canyon
If we had more time, we would have made a stop at the Rinconada Canyon and Piedras Marcadas Canyon. Both of these trails are longer than Mesa Point but have considerably more petroglyphs. Unlike Mesa Point, Rinconada Canyon and Piedras Marcadas Canyon do not have water fountains or restroom facilities.
Rinconada Canyon is an easy 2.2-mile loop with 300 petroglyphs scattered along the trail. This trail is noted as much more sandy, and binoculars are recommended to see some of the more distant petroglyphs.
Piedras Marcadas Canyon is another easy 1.5-mile trail densely pack with over 400 petroglyphs. This is also one of the only trails pets are allowed to hike on.
Honorable Mention – Frontier Restaurant
Before we set out on our hiking adventure, we stop for breakfast at Frontier Restaurant. Located across the street from the University of New Mexico, Frontier Restaurant serves delicious breakfast and Mexican food. I ordered the Breakfast Burrito with a cup of coffee and a Frontier Sweet Roll. Aaron ordered Huevos Rancheros with fresh-squeezed orange juice and a side of Green Chilli Stew. A hearty meal was the perfect way to get a taste of New Mexico and then venture out to the Petroglyph National Monument. Frontier Restaurant is also open late. If after a long day of hiking you’re looking for food that’s quick and will hit the spot, look no further.
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