Petroglyph National Monument Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico - Amazing!

Petroglyphs found at Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Petroglyph found at Petroglyph National Monument
Petroglyph found at Petroglyph National Monument | Source

This hub will address the amazing site of the Petroglyph National Monument found on the west side of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

My girlfriend from Germany who had traveled by car all the way from Houston to the west coast and back with me spending a total of three weeks exploring National Parks and other sites found this Petroglyph National Monument to be of great interest. Of course, I did also. She had already fallen in love with the kokopelli Indian drawings in which she became familiar while at the Grand Canyon.

My husband and I had previously spent a small amount of time visiting Albuquerque, New Mexico in the very beginning of our marriage, but had not had the time to venture out west of town to see this historic spot.

Preserving one of the largest rock art sites in the United States and all of North America, there are at least 15,000 petroglyphs located in this area. Some put the number closer to 25,000. In any case, one can see a great abundance of petroglyphs in this location.

The rocks in which the petroglyphs are carved are volcanic in nature and the images date back as early as 1000 B.C. progressing forward to much more recent times. Some of the oldest of the petroglyphs are to be found along the Canyon Trail area.

Petroglyph National Monument

Petroglyphs on the smooth and dark side of this rock facing one.
Petroglyphs on the smooth and dark side of this rock facing one. | Source

This park consists of a total of 7,244 acres and was authorized in June of 1990 in order to help preserve the hundreds of archaelogical sites and the 15,000+ petroglyphs.

Amazingly, tourists can hike and see the petroglyphs up close and personal. It is pretty much of an honor system to keep ones hands off of the petroglyphs so as to preserve them for future generations of people who might wish to see this living bit of history in its natural environment.

The Petroglyph National Monument is co-managed by the National Park Service as well as the City of Albuquerque.

In additon to the huge number of native Indian drawings left behind, one can also appreciate the now dormant volcanic activity that took place centuries ago creating this site.

Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Look in the dark sections to the right to see the petroglyphs
Look in the dark sections to the right to see the petroglyphs | Source

Additional pictures of petroglyphs from this area...

2 parrots or macaws...parrots were a trade item from Mexico back in those days.
2 parrots or macaws...parrots were a trade item from Mexico back in those days. | Source
Uplifted arms may have signified praying...
Uplifted arms may have signified praying... | Source

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque's western horizon is dominated by a volcanic basalt escarpment and runs for 17 miles along the city's edge called the West Mesa. This is the location of now dormant volcanoes (called fissure volcanoes.)

One can see five identifiable volcanic cones and also lava tubes in this area.

My friend and I chose to take the Mesa Point Trail. While it only takes about 20 minutes or so to follow the trail and climb to the top of the lava flow, it is a moderately strenuous trail partly because of the elevation. A person is one mile above sea level at that point...some 5,280 feet high. Make sure one is dressed appropriately with good hiking shoes. One will be climbing up and over many rocks on this trail.

We saw numerous examples among the jumbled piles of lava rock of different petroglyphs as we made our way up and back down the trail.

Some of the rock drawings are rather easy to decifer. These include different animals, insects, hands, animal tracks, crosses, and people in various poses. Star shapes and birds comprised many drawings while others were not as easy to understand.

The meaning of all of these disparate petroglyphs may never be identified but obviously meant something special to the people who lived or traveled through this area along the Rio Grande Valley.

Most of the petroglyphs have been identified as having been created from the years 1300 to 1680 AD.

At this time many pueblos were built and inhabited along the Rio Grande and thus, the vast majority of the petroglyphs are called Rio Grande style.

Some of the pottery that also dates back to those periods have similar drawings as do the murals on walls that have also been found.

The volcanic rocks provided an easy palate in which to make and display their drawings.

My friend and I have never personally seen so many petroglyphs in such a limited area that can be so easily viewed. This Petroglyph National Monument was not on our scheduled itinerary to see, but when traveling by car across the country, many such small "discoveries" can be accommodated if one has a little extra time.

If I ever go back to Albuquerque, I would like to spend more time taking the other trails in order to see even more of this amazing area.

Rock-Art of the Southwest: A Visitor's Companion
Rock-Art of the Southwest: A Visitor's Companion

It is nice to know what many of these symbols mean when viewing them.


Spanish conquest of this area and the Indians

Although native Indians were the first inhabitants, in the year 1540 changes started occurring when the Spaniards started exploring this part of the country.

The first contact was made by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado.

In 1598 colonists led by Juan de Onate began to establish settlements along the Rio Grande and the Indians began to be impacted. Their numbers were significantly reduced.

By 1680 the repressed Indians joined in revolt and drove the Spanish settlers back to El Paso and reclaimed their land until 1692 when once again, the colonists reclaimed the area as their own.

A grant establishing the Town of Atrisco was granted in 1692 and that locale is now where the volcanic escarpment and mesa top exist today.

Some of those sheep shepherds from the town of Atrisco undoubtedly carved some of the brands as well as other drawings found in the petroglyphs combining them with the earlier Indian rock art.

Indian descendants dating back to pre-Spanish conquest of this part of Albuquerque, New Mexico still live in the Pueblos of Sandia and Isleta today.

Who created petroglyphs and what was the meaning?

Petroglyph National Monument: Boca Negra Canyon Trail Guide
Petroglyph National Monument: Boca Negra Canyon Trail Guide

A guide like this would really come in handy when walking that trail.


Have you seen petroglyphs here or elsewhere?

  • Yes, I have been to the amazing Petroglyph National Monument
  • I have seen petroglyphs in other areas of the country
  • I have seen petroglyphs in other areas of the world
  • No, I have not yet viewed a petroglyph in person.
See results without voting

Meaning of some of the petroglyphs

A brochure that was acquired at the Petrified National Monument described one of the pictures with the bird drawings on it. It stated the following:

"Two parrots or macaws, identifiable by the long-plumed tails. The smaller macaw appears to be in a box or cage. Parrots are not native to the Southwest. Their natural habitat is in Mexico. Parrots were a major trade item from Mexico in prehistoric times and are shown prominently in kiva mural paintings made during the same time period ( Circa AD 1300 to 1600's)."

The same brochure described upraised arms as being significant of a person saying prayers which is also depicted in some of the petroglyphs and pictured here to the right.

My friend and I spent a little time in Old Town Albuquerque after seeing some of the amazing petroglyphs in the Petroglyph National Monument before moving on to the next portion of our trip which would take us back to Texas. The address: 6001 Unser Blvd., NW, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87120. Telephone #: (505) 899-0205 ext. 331.

Don't miss seeing the Petroglyph National Monument if you find yourself anywhere near Albuquerque, New Mexico! You will see countless amazing rock drawings within touchable distance (but don't touch!). Remember to bring your camera!

TERRIFIC video of this area including history and photos

A markerPetroglyph National Monument -
Petroglyph National Monument, 4735 Unser Blvd NW, Albuquerque, NM 87120, USA
[get directions]

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5 out of 5 stars from 3 ratings of Petroglyph National Monument

© 2009 Peggy Woods

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Comments 32 comments

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas Author

Hello alocsin,

If you ever return to the Albuquerque area and have a bit of time, perhaps next time you can work in a visit to the Petroglyph National Monument park west of town. Glad you enjoyed learning about it and thanks for your comment and votes.

alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

As usual, great photos. I'm sorry I missed this when I was in N.M., because this ancient art forms really interest me. Voting this Up and Beautiful.

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas Author

Hi doodlebugs,

Like you said...the Petroglyph National Monument is an amazing place. Perhaps someday I will be fortunate enough to see more of it as you and your wife also wish to do. Here's hoping! Thanks for your comment.

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas Author

Hi NMLady,

Thanks for the vote up and comment on this Petroglyph National Monument hub.

doodlebugs profile image

doodlebugs 4 years ago from Southwest

My wife and I visited the Petroglyph National Monument last year. What an amazing place. Unfortunately we missed an extra tour that would have taken us to over 1000 other petroglyphs, but hope to make it back there someday.

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