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Don't Miss the Amazing Petroglyph National Monument Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

Petroglyphs found at Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Petroglyphs found at Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, New Mexico

There is an amazing site called the Petroglyph National Monument found on the west side of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

My girlfriend from Germany and I traveled by car all the way from Houston to the west coast and back spending a total of three weeks exploring National Parks and other sites. We found this Petroglyph National Monument to be of great interest. She had fallen in love with the kokopelli Indian drawings near 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. We did not have time to venture out west of town to see this historic spot.

Preserving one of the largest rock art sites in 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. 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

Petroglyph National Monument

This park consists of a total of 7,244 acres. It was authorized in June of 1990 in order to help preserve the hundreds of archaeological 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. Preserving them for future generations of people who might wish to see this living bit of history in its natural environment is important.

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

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

Look in the dark sections to the right to see the petroglyphs at the  Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Look in the dark sections to the right to see the petroglyphs at the Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

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

People 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 moderately strenuous because of the mile high (5,280 feet) elevation.

Make sure to be dressed appropriately with good hiking shoes. People 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.

Some of the rock drawings are rather easy to decipher. 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.

Petroglyphs on the smooth and dark side of this rock.

Petroglyphs on the smooth and dark side of this rock.

Most of the petroglyphs were created from the years 1300 to 1680 AD.

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

Some of the pottery also dates back to those periods and 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 When traveling by car across the country many such small discoveries can be accommodated if one has the 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.

Who Created Petroglyphs and What Was the Meaning?

Spanish Conquest of This Area and the Indians

Although native Indians were the first inhabitants in the year 1540, changes occurred 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 impacting the Indians whose numbers were significantly reduced.

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

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

Sheep shepherds from the town of Atrisco undoubtedly carved some of the brands and 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.

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.

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 1600s)."

Uplifted arms may have signified praying.

Uplifted arms may have signified praying.

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

My friend and I spent a little time in Old Town Albuquerque after seeing some of the amazing petroglyphs in this most interesting national monument. We then moved 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 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


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Peggy Woods


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 17, 2012:

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.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on February 17, 2012:

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 Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 10, 2011:

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 Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 10, 2011:

Hi NMLady,

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

Nolen Hart from Southwest on November 10, 2011:

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.

NMLady from New Mexico & Arizona on November 10, 2011:

Well, you had me the minute I saw it was ABQ!

voted up!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 10, 2011:

Hi Lucky Cats,

This Petroglyph National Monument was not on our original itinerary but when we saw it not that far away from where we were traveling, we decided to stop and take a look. So glad that we did. If we had more time, it would have been fun to take some of the longer trails. Glad that you enjoyed this and thanks for the votes and comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 10, 2011:

Hi dallas93444,

This Petroglyph National Monument lets one view so many of these Indian etchings in one place and up so close. It is just amazing. I doubt that the spray painted graffiti will ever last this long. But you are correct...people will probably be studying the graffiti years from now just as they do the petroglyphs. Thanks for your comment.

Kathy from The beautiful Napa Valley, California on November 10, 2011:

Hi Peggy! You've given us a wonderful view and history of this fabulous park. I have always loved New Mexico and find myself traveling through the state back and forth many times these days. We always drive via 40 to avoid going through Colorado on 70. I have to admit I was unaware of the Petroglyph National Monument Park in Albuquerque. So incredibly rich with history and geographic magisty as well as the awe inspiring beauty of this desert area which is astounding. I hope to be able to take the time to visit in the near future. You do us such service with your valuable and educational hubs about so many of the amazing places you've visited and shared with your readers. I must find the time to read each and every one of your hubs, Peggy...Thank you.

All ups for this one (except funny!)

Dallas W Thompson from Bakersfield, CA on November 10, 2011:

Another outstanding article. Interesting today's grafiti may be tomorrows petroglyph! Flag up!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 24, 2011:

Hello marshacanada,

Hope that you do get to visit the Petroglyph National Monument Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico and get to see these petroglyphs for yourself. It is amazing to me that one is allowed to wander in and among them and be so close to them as we got to do. As to our modern day artwork not lasting that long...in many cases that is probably a good thing. Haha! Some of course is wonderful.

marshacanada from Vancouver BC on February 24, 2011:

Thanks Peggy W. I hope to go to this monument and see the petroglyphs. I have see petroglyphs in many places and it always gives me a thril to imagine a person so many years ago chipping away to make the picture. Our art work and messages wont last that long.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 02, 2010:

Hello Franck,

Thanks for viewing this hub about the Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Franck on October 01, 2010:


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 19, 2009:

Hello sandwichmom! Nice to meet you!

Happy that this hub about the Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, New Mexico interested you. Hope that you and your daughter have a wonderful trip during the Thanksgiving holiday. Thanks for the comment.

sandwichmom from Arkansas on September 19, 2009:

Thanks for this info- my daughter and I ahve been tlaking about heading out that way over Thanksgiving break.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 14, 2009:

Hi Melody,

I hope your wishes come true and that you get to visit the Petroglyph National Monument and more in New Mexico someday. Actually that entire part of the country has so much to offer by way of amazing sight-seeing opportunities. Thanks for the comment.

Melody Lagrimas from Philippines on September 14, 2009:

Would like to visit it given the chance. Nice hub.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 06, 2009:

Hello sarovai,

Yes, I liked the petroglyphs, the petrified forest, etc., and enjoy all of nature. All the national parks in Utah have distinctive rock formations and each are different in one way or another. Guess I am drawn towards appreciating rocks.....and all of nature for that matter. Thanks for commenting.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 06, 2009:

Hello frogyfish,

My husband and I did take the ride up to Sandia Peak. Fantastic scenery but I must admit, I was a bit white knuckled on that ride. At the time I believe it was the longest cable ride in the world. May still be?

The Petroglyph National Monument also did not exist when we were there taking the cable ride. Obviously the petroglyphs were there...just not the park.

Albuquerque is a great place. Do you still go back there and visit? Have you now seen the park?

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 06, 2009:

Hi James,

Yes, personal representation of art has a long history and these petroglyphs show some of that. I also love art of all types. Thanks for the comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 06, 2009:

Hello qlcoach,

Fortunate you...getting to live in Albuquerque, New Mexico for a number of years. It is a great place that I have only gotten to visit briefly a couple of times. Thanks for the comment. Will check out your cruise hub.

sarovai on September 05, 2009:

I like your interest in petrified forest and petroglyphs, all one or other way related to rock. thank u.

frogyfish from Central United States of America on September 05, 2009:

Albuquerque is my birthplace/hometown, and this hub was very interesting - I knew as a chld there were Indian writings in the lava beds, but never visited - and that was looong before the Park existed. My grandparents lived on the West Mesa and I loved visiting them, looking over the city, the Sandia peaks. If you ever get there, take the trip up to Sandia peak - it's beautifully appealing! Thank you so much Peggy W for this great hub!

James A Watkins from Chicago on September 05, 2009:

So, people have been artists since time immemorial. That is interesting, isn't it. I love all kinds of art. These petroglyphs are fascinating. Thanks for the trip.

Gary Eby from Cave Junction, Oregon on September 05, 2009:

Thank you for this wonderful HUB. I lived in Albuquerque NM for nines years while I worked as social worker at the VA. You brought back many found memories and the video was excellent. For fun, hope you will visit my new HUB about cruising....Gary.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 05, 2009:

Hi Ethel,

The American Southwest is filled to the brim with interesting places and the Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, New Mexico is just the "tip of the iceberg" so-to-speak. Thanks for your comment.

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on September 05, 2009:

You do visit some interesting and different places Peggy.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 04, 2009:

Hi jill of alltrades,

That is a very nice compliment. Hope you get to viewing the Petroglyph National Monument for yourself someday. Thanks!

jill of alltrades from Philippines on September 04, 2009:

Wow, what an interesting and amazing place!

I like the way you write. You always make me want to visit every time you share something like this.

Thank you very much!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 04, 2009:

Hello loveroflife,

You are most welcome. The Petroglyph National Monument is just one of so many great sites in the American Southwest...specifically, in this case, Albuquerque, New Mexico. If you have not yet visited here, I would greatly encourage it. Thanks for reading and leaving the first comment.

loveroflife on September 04, 2009:

Thanks for sharing this amazing history from the American Southwest.

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