Rinconada Canyon in the Petroglyph National Monument
|An easy trail in Albuquerque offering excellent views of petroglyphs. Like the other trails which are part of the Petroglyph National Monument, (Cliff Base and Mesa Point), you get to see many petroglyphs. However, this trail is longer, and gives you a bit more exercise and different petroglyphs.|
|Hike data||Waypoints||Maps||Getting to the trailhead||About the hike||Plants along the trail||Comments|
When we hiked it:
|Time it took us:||2:17.|
|RINCND||Trail point||End of Rinconada Canyon trail|
|RINCTH||Trailhead||Rinconada Canyon in Petroglyph National Monument|
Maps:Geohack online map list Paper maps:
|Map name||Cartographer||Year||Scale||Topo map?||Online access||Notes|
|Albuquerque New Mexico||USGS||1983||1:100000||Y||from sar.lanl.gov (free)|
|Guide to Indian Country of Arizona Colorado New Mexico Utah||Automobile Club of Southern California||1998||1:0||N||Arizona Strip Interpretive Association (purchase)||Good overview road map for northwest NM. No scale is given on the map. The corner coordinates are approximate.|
|Wildernesses of New Mexico||US Forest Service||1981||1:1000000||N||No online copies.||Base map with national forests, wilderness areas and highways.|
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Getting to the trailhead:
From I-40 Westbound from Albuquerque, take exit 154 (Under Blvd, State Highway 345). Head north on Unser for 2.2 miles. At the traffic light at St Joseph's, turn left into the trailhead parking. Note that the park headquarters is beyond Rinconada canyon. If you get there, you have gone too far. This area has had several problems with thefts. Do not leave valuables in your car.
About the hike:
Right after you walk through the gate, you veer right and then left as you meet other trails. You will be walking up the canyon floor. The trail is well marked with arrow signs, such as this one. There are some old trails; they often have signs indicating that they are closed.
Please honor these signs and stay on the marked trails. The desert vegetation grows slowly and is fragile. One footstep can do serious damage or kill the plants. Consider taking binoculars with you for better viewing of the petroglyphs from the trail.
Kangaroo rats live along the trail. Look for a hill with many tunnels; this is where they live.
As you hike to the back of the canyon, watch the rocks to your right (north). Most of the petroglyphs in these canyons are on the south-facing slopes.
Before this area was a national monument, people used to come out here to do target practice. Unfortunately, several petroglyphs are bullet-damaged, such as the one here (the damage is more visible if you click on the picture to view the larger version). You may also see some remains of clay pigeons, especially at the start of the trail.
If you travel with one or more friends, you have extra eyes to watch for the petroglyphs. I have found petroglyphs mainly on the sides and sometimes on the tops of rocks. Sometimes, short trails lead off of the main one to clusters of petroglyphs.
As you can see in this picture and the following pictures, it was snowing fairly hard when I was out (December 2002). However, even in this snowstorm, I met five people.
When you get to the back of the canyon, the trail returns by a different route, further from the canyon wall. However, if there are not too many people coming up the trail, I recommend that you turn around and return the way you came. Because you are traveling a different direction, you will probably see different petroglyphs.
I saw this rabbit only because it moved. Notice how well it blends into the background.
The face in this picture is on the corner of the rock.
The artist of this face used a natural hole in the rock for one of the eyes.
I wonder about the ages of some of these. In some cases, you can easily tell that they are modern. In others, you are left to wonder.
Plants we saw along the trail:
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