Petroglyph National Monument

Petroglyph National Monument

Walking & Hiking

Boca Negra Canyon Trails

Day Use Area

Open 8:00 am - 5:00 pm daily.

A parking fee of $1 weekdays and $2 weekends is charged by the City of Albuquerque. National Park Service passes are honored.

Located off of Unser Boulevard, ¼ mile north of Montaño, the canyon provides quick and easy access to three self-guided trails, (Mesa Point, Macaw and Cliff Base) where you can view 200 petroglyphs. Combined walking time is approximately 1 hour.

Boca Negra Canyon is a 70 acre section of the 7236 acres within the monument boundaries. Approximately 150 petroglyphs can be viewed here. The 3 trails offer a diverse view of the cultural and natural landscape within the monument.


Petroglyph National Monument has four designated trail areas for visitors to enjoy what the park offers. Each trail area offers a little different insight about the natural and cultural offerings within the park boundry.

Rinconada Canyon Trail

Day Use Area

Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Daily

Trail length is 1.25 miles to the head of the canyon. 2.5 miles round trip.

Moderately strenuous, non-paved trail.

Restroom facilities at parking area.

Rinconada Canyon offers an insight into the geologic, cultural and natural resources of this region. From the parking lot a sandy path follows the northern escarpment, carrying you over sand dunes. As you walk into the canyon, the sounds and sights of the city fade away and may be replaced with the coo of a mourning dove or a collared lizard sunning itself on a basalt boulder. Here you see prehistoric and historic petroglyphs, rock wall alignments and shelters, and wildlife living in the vegetation growing throughout the canyon.

The geology of the area shows the remnants of volcanic eruptions of 150,000 years ago. The basalt from these flows caps the sandstone of the Santa Fe Formation. As the softer sandstone erodes away, the basalt breaks off and tumbles down the hillside. This action provided the escarpment where the petroglyphs were carved.

The Rinconada Canyon trail follows the northern escarpment, allowing the hiker views of a variety of petroglyphs. The trail is 1.25 miles long to the head of the canyon and is moderately strenuous. There is not a definitive end to the trail; however, the petroglyphs become fewer as the trail turns south. You may return along the northern escarpment, or continue hiking the southern escarpment.

As with any hiking in the park, or the desert southwest, carry plenty of water and drink often. Wear a hat, sunscreen and sturdy walking shoes or boots . Watch out for the snakes which inhabit the canyon.

DO NOT leave valuables or cash in your vehicle. Take them with you.

Outdoor Activities

Hiking Trails

Petroglyph National Monument offers several hiking trails to allow for viewing of natural features and a variety of petroglyphs. These trails range in difficulty from easy to moderate.

Volcanos Day Use Area

Rinconoda Canyon

Boca Negra Canyon

Piedras Marcadas Canyon

Volcanoes Day Use Area

Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Daily.

Trail can be moderate to strenuous.

Restroom facilities are available at the parking area.

Trail Information

JA Volcano and the Albuquerque Overlook
Distance: One-mile round trip from parking lot to scenic overlook and back
Degree of difficulty: Easy to moderate
This main trail departs from the parking lot and heads east to a scenic view of the Rio Grande Valley, Albuquerque, and the Sandia Mountains. This trail has three shaded rest areas with benches and trash receptacles.

Black Volcano Loop
Distance: 0.8 mile round trip from scenic overlook back to JA Volcano
Degree of difficulty: Moderate
From the scenic overlook, follow trail north. At ‘Y’ intersection take left trail around base of Black Volcano. On the north side of Black Volcano you will come to another ‘Y’. Going left will take you south toward the main trail which leads back to the parking lot. Going right will take you north toward Vulcan Volcano.

Vulcan Volcano Loop
Distance: 2 miles from Black Volcano to parking lot
Degree of difficulty: Moderately strenuous
Follow trail north of Black Volcano to the largest of the cinder cones. The trail along the eastern base of Vulcan is difficult to find but do not give up. A gradual incline up the east side of Vulcan leads to a level, mini-volcanic valley on Vulcan’s north side. Continue on trail and go left (south) when you approach the ‘Y’ on the northwest side of Vulcan. At next ‘Y’ go left again for an up-close look at this well preserved cinder cone. Follow trail down, continuing south on old road which leads to the Volcanoes Day Use parking lot.

Rinconada Canyon

Explore a Narrow Valley


Rinconada Canyon offers insight into the geologic, cultural and natural resources of Petroglyph National Monument. Follow the path of past inhabitants of this landscape along silent volcanic boulders yearning to speak to those willing to listen. Enter a narrow valley that seems to have frozen in time, carrying you over sand dunes and alongside a volcanic escarpment abundant with plant and animal desert life. As you walk into the canyon the sounds and sights of the city fade away and may be replaced with the coo of a mourning dove or a collared lizard sunning itself on a basalt boulder.


The Geologic Story


As you hike the sand dunes in Rinconada Canyon you are walking on the Santa Fe Formation which is believed to be up to 25,000 feet thick in some areas. This formation is comprised of alluvial sediments (sand and gravel) that eroded from nearby mountain ranges and were washed down into the valley by ancient streams.

Geologists estimate the Albuquerque volcanoes last erupted 150,000 years ago. Basaltic lava flowed from a 5-mile long fissure, or crack, in the earth's surface three miles west of Rinconada Canyon. As the sand eroded from underneath the basaltic cap, the rock tumbled down forming the escarpment on which the petroglyph's are found. As you hike this canyon you may see the results of this past geologic activity. The escarpment is moving very slowly westward as the erosion process continues. However, the current dry conditions of the southwest have kept the erosion process to a minimum.


Human Connections


Around A.D. 1300 there was a population increase in the Middle Rio Grande Valley by ancestors of today's Pueblo Indians and other Southwestern tribes. The Ancestral Puebloans lived in adobe villages along the Rio Grande, utilizing Albuquerque's West Mesa for hunting, gathering, dry-farming, cultural and religious activities.

Spanish explorers and Mexican natives arrived in the Southwest in 1540, meeting groups of people along the Rio Grande who lived in what they described as pueblos, or towns, hence the name Pueblo people. Rinconada Canyon exhibits remnants of Spanish activity including rock shelters, rock wall alignments (possible sheep corrals), Christian crosses, and petroglyph's of livestock brands. These sheepherders were likely descendants of the Atrisco Land Grant holders who were granted an 82,000 acre parcel in 1692 by Governor Don Diego de Vargas. Local Native peoples have a long and enduring relationship with the land and its resources.


The Petroglyphs


Most of the petroglyphs were made by pecking. An early method of pecking may have been accomplished by striking the basalt boulder directly with a hammerstone removing the dark, desert varnish on the boulders surface. Later, a more controlled execution was developed by using two stones, in much the way a chisel is used, to peck boulders. This "hammer and chisel" method gave petroglyph makers the ability to peck images with detail.

Archeologists believe Ancestral Puebloans made most of the 1200 petroglyph's in Rinconada Canyon four to seven hundred years ago. Pueblo elders believe the images are as old as time. They also believe that the petroglyphs choose when and to whom they reveal themselves. You may not see them all. The images include anthropomorphs—human-like figures, concentric circles/spirals, animal figures, and geometric designs. Pueblo Indians use petroglyphs to teach their children about their history, culture, and spiritual beliefs.

Petroglyphs offer the opportunity to think about how human inhabitants interacted with nature and with each other. Many Southwest Indians are able to claim cultural relationships to past inhabitants of this area because they recognize the images as having deep cultural and spiritual significance.

As you view the images, consider how they fit into the landscape and how the images might be important in Southwest Indian, Spanish, and Mexican cultures and religious beliefs. Also recognize that petroglyph images have varied interpretations or meanings to different people. Please respect the importance of petroglyphs to the inhabitants, both past and present, of this sacred land.


The Hike


The trail along the base of the north side of the canyon allows you to view a variety of petroglyphs. The trail is 1.25 miles long to the head of the canyon (2 1/2 miles round trip) and is moderately strenuous. You may return by backtracking along the north side of the canyon or continue the trail loop down the middle of the canyon. This route is devoid of petroglyphs but your chance of seeing an Earless Leopard Lizard or hearing the cascading song of a Canyon Wren is worth the trip.

As you watch a turkey vulture soar above the canyon or a desert millipede walk across the trail, take the time to let your imagination wander and experience the beauty of this compelling landscape.

For your safety and for the protection of petroglyphs:

Bring Water And Apply Sunscreen
Water is not available at Rinconada Canyon.

No Climbing
Climbing on boulders or the escarpment can cause a rock fall, putting yourself and others in a dangerous situation and possibly damaging petroglyphs and/or archaeological sites.

Stay on Established Trail Foot
Traffic alters sites in many ways, including removal of vegetation and, often, displacement of artifacts. Restricting the number of trails helps preserve the natural setting.

Please Do Not Touch Petroglyphs
Direct contact with petroglyphs is destructive. Everytime we touch an object, we leave a residue of body oil. An accumulation of body oil causes the images to fade. Applying chalk or other substances can interfere with dating methods and permanently affect the appearance of the images. Attempts to remove graffiti causes further damage.

Leave All Artifacts And Rocks In Place
The relationship of artifacts to the landscape is destroyed when removed or altered. Respect the inhabitants of this land and their culture by leaving Rinconada Canyon as though you were never there.

Help Protect the Petroglyphs


Vandalism impacts many petroglyph sites throughout the southwest and Rinconada Canyon is no exception. Aggressive enforcement of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act and increased public awareness of the value of petroglyph's are two of our best weapons against the destruction of these irreplaceable resources.

Please report any suspicious activities to a park ranger or call either:
Petroglyph National Monument (505) 899-0205
Open Space Dispatch (505) 873-6632
Archaeological Resources Protection Act Hotline 1-800-227-7286.

You may also get involved by volunteering to monitor this canyon and other sites within Petroglyph National Monument. Please inquire at the Visitor Center for volunteer opportunities or call (505) 899-0205.