Cerrillos Hills State Park

History and Culture

Geological History

The Cerrillos Hills are what is left of the core of ancient volcanoes. The outer shells of the volcanoes eroded away long ago, leaving deposits of silver, lead, turquoise and iron that attracted miners for centuries. Yellow-orange rock indicates areas of leached ores. 

Mining Cultures

About 900 years ago Native Americans began mining blue-green turquoise from these hills. They also mined lead to produce a distinctive pottery glaze which, like turquoise, was traded throughout the Southwest and Mexico. Spanish explorers and colonists, lured by tales of rich silver deposits, mined the hills for over 200 years starting in the late 1500s. In the late 19th century, thousands of prospectors broke their hearts and backs working on claims that rarely delivered. Throughout the park, you will find the evidence of their pit mines.