Attention GPS Users
To find the visitor center please use the coordinates provided in the 'Directions' link. Otherwise you will get lost driving in various neighborhoods that surround the monument. Do not go to Headquarters (6001 Unser Blvd.) it is not designed for visitors. More »
Trail Closures due to trail restoration project
Per Superintendent's Order: T36 CFR 1.5(f), Rinconada Canyon and other side trails are closed until further notice due to an extensive trail restoration project. Inquire at visitor center for open petroglyph viewing trails. Thank you.
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.
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 petroglyphs of livestock brands. These sheep herders 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 people have a long and enduring relationship with the land and its resources.
Archeologists believe ancestral Puebloans made most of the 1,200 petroglyphs in Rinconada Canyon 400 to 700 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 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.
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 petroglyphs are two of our best weapons against the destruction of these irreplaceable resources.