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The Best Hikes in Petroglyph National Monument

8 Triplog Reviews in the Petroglyph National Monument National Park
Most recent of 5 deeper Triplog Reviews
2.5 mi • 50 ft aeg
Piedras Marcadas Canyon
Petroglyph National Monument

I was en route to Albuquerque on Amtrak with several other railroaders; we were being deadheaded to Belen New Mexico to crew trains moving west out of Belen. We were going to have about 10 hours off before going on duty so I was hoping to spend the afternoon finishing the last section of Piedras Marcadas Canyon that I had not been able to complete the last time that I was there. I had only about half a mile of the canyon to finish and was looking forward to the hike and the petroglyphs.

A friend and fellow engineer, Joe asked if he could tag along. I was glad to have the company. We grabbed my car from the depot parking lot and headed back to Albuquerque and Piedras Marcadas. We parked at a small playground parking area that provides access to the canyon about half a mile south of the main parking area. This put us right at the area that I had previously missed.

We spent about 4 hours hiking up and down the face of the escarpment searching out the petroglyphs and photographing them. We hiked a total of about 2.5 miles along the base of the mesa before we had circled back to the car. I was amazed at the large quantity of petroglyphs in this last section of the canyon. We located hundreds and had a great time. This area of Petroglyph National Monument has the highest concentration of petroglyphs with nearly 5,000 here.
4 mi • 50 ft aeg
Piedras Marcadas Canyon
Petroglyph National Monument

I drove up from Belen for another visit to Petroglyph National Monument and arrived around noon at the Las Marcadas Parking Area on Jill Patricia Street. The parking area is just behind a Jiffy Lube or something like a Jiffy Lube. There are no fees for this area. The only area where you have to pay a fee is at the Lower Boca Negra Canyon area where a $1 weekday and $2 weekend parking fee is charged by the city of Albuquerque. I grabbed my pack, locked the car and headed up the concrete drainage that runs up beside the home next to the parking area. I followed the trail along the base of the escarpment and started a methodical process of hiking up and down the face of the escarpment carefully checking the boulders for petroglyphs. This greatly increased the length of my hike verses the straight path of the trail along the base of the escarpment but it allowed me to cover the area more thoroughly to view and photograph a larger percentage of the glyphs in this area.

Near the top of the escarpment, about halfway through the hike I was suddenly surrounded by hundreds of honey bees flying all around me. I paused and closely watched them and was able to locate where they were coming from. There were 2 basalt boulders about 20 feet from me and it appeared that the bees were coming from under these rocks. I slowly made my way over to the rocks and was able to look in under them and see a large mass of bees covering a nice piece of honeycomb. There was a small tumbleweed partially blocking my view so I moved it out of the way to lie down on the ground in front of the hive. I slowly crawled up to where my head was about 3 feet from the mass of bees so that I could get some photos of the hive. I was sure glad that I was wearing a bright red T shirt so that I was inconspicuous! :lol:

My father was a bee keeper when I was growing up so I have some prior experience with bees and I was not afraid of them but I did have the question running through my head of whether these bees were of the Africanized variety that have proven dangerous when aroused by intruders. :pray: The bees were passing busily in and out of the opening under the rocks less than a foot from my head and were leaving me unmolested. I returned the favor and just watched for a while and took several photos of the bees before carefully backing up and exiting the area to continue my search for the petroglyphs.

Near the end of the day I surprised a small Cottontail Rabbit under a large boulder. He froze as they will often do if they think you don't see them and I was able to get several good shots of him. He looked like he had, had a close encounter with a coyote or some other predator and he was missing half of one of his ears but seemed to be ok other than that. I also jumped a Jack Rabbit on my way back to the parking area.

After 6 hours of climbing up and down the escarpment face, I was beat and decided to call it a day. I ended up not quite making it all the way to the end of the trail and missed the 6th and last, large concentration of glyphs there. I will return on a later date to complete that section of the hike.
3 mi • 77 ft aeg
Rinconada Canyon
Petroglyph National Monument

Having previously explored the two areas at Boca Negra Canyon I was eager to take a look at what Rinconada Canyon had to offer. I was astounded at the huge number of petroglyphs that are in this area and very happy that they are now protected by the NPS. I was to discover on this hike the extent of the damage the petroglyphs have suffered over the last century by vandals who somehow can't see the value in these treasures from the past. Rinconada Canyon has the largest concentration of gunshot damage of any of the monuments areas. I absolutely love to go target shooting but I just cannot comprehend the mental process that would determine that a petroglyph was an acceptable target.

I parked just outside the gates of the parking area because I knew that I would not be out of the canyon before 5 pm when the parking area closed and the gates are locked by the rangers. The trail is easy walking and sandy and mostly level. I proceeded along the base of the escarpment and spent the next 5 hours picking my way through the boulders, searching out the petroglyphs one by one and working my way up to the head of the canyon. Once there I continued along the escarpment base on the trail that follows the south canyon perimeter and made a large loop back to the parking area and my car. Along the way I spotted a couple of cottontails playing among the rocks and got a couple of shots of them.
0.25 mi • 100 ft aeg
Boca Negra Upper Canyon
Petroglyph National Monument

I had enjoyed a couple of hours walking the trails and viewing the petroglyphs in lower Boca Negra Canyon and having completed those trails I hopped in my car to leave. Upon entering the park I had noticed a road that had continued up the hill past the entrance to the lower area. I had no idea that there was a separate area nearby. Not being in a hurry I decided to see where the road went. Arriving at the top of the hill I found a small parking area and a sign indicating that this was Upper Boca Negra Canyon. More Petroglyphs! I parked and found a set of stairs leading down into the small canyon.

I spent the next couple of hours roaming the canyon searching out the petroglyphs hidden there. This was a small section of the park but had several interesting glyphs to check out as well as a scenic view down the canyon and across the valley towards the Sandia Mountains on the opposite side of the valley.

I had a great day and was looking forward to returning in the near future to explore some of the other areas of the monument.
1 mi • 20 ft aeg
Lower Baca Negra Canyon
Petroglyph National Monument

Stranded at the hotel in Belen after a long train ride from Winslow, I jumped into my old, dented round house car and headed north to Albuquerque and a visit to Petroglyph National Monument. After a short stop at the visitor center, I drove north to the entrance to Baca Negra Canyon. This section of the monument is divided into two areas, the lower area that is described in this hike guide by Page Rob and an upper area of the canyon with a separate parking area a short drive from the main area of Baca Negra.

I hiked the entire trail around the base of the escarpment and climbed to the top of the mesa on the rather rough trail and was really astounded at the large number of petroglyphs located there. The housing subdivisions of Albuquerque are amazingly close to the monument and the petroglyphs. The documentation I received from the visitor center states that there are somewhere between 20 and 25 thousand petroglyphs in the monument.

After closely checking out everything in the lower canyon I drove up the parking area at Upper Baca Negra Canyon, parked and hiked the loop through the canyon. This area is less defined as far as the trail is concerned and you tend to wander randomly among the boulders searching for the drawings. I spent about 5 hours at the monument and had plenty of time to explore both areas of Baca Negra Canyon.

All of the photos posted with this triplog are from the lower canyon area. I will post another triplog with the photos of the upper canyon area later.

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