Rinconada Canyon Trail - Loop Trail, Rinconada Canyon Trailhead, Petroglyph National Monument, New Mexico

Rinconada Canyon Trail - Loop Trail - 2.5 miles

Rinconada Canyon Trailhead

Located at the west end of Rinconada Canyon is this mix of petroglyphs on a single boulder

Located at the west end of Rinconada Canyon is this mix of petroglyphs on a single boulder

Round-Trip Length: 2.5 miles
Start-End Elevation: 5,184' - 5,184' (5,285' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +101' net elevation gain (+201' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Easy-Moderate
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Rinconada Canyon Trail - Loop Trail - 2.5 Miles Round-Trip

The Rinconada Canyon Trail offers the greatest number and variety of petroglyphs in Petroglyph National Monument.

The trail follows a deep sandy path along the north side of the escarpment (beside the canyon wall) to the first of many petroglyphs. Pre-historic and historic petroglyphs are present everywhere, as are rock walls and evidence of ancient dwellings. The dark boulders scattered about are basaltic rock. Take advantage of side trails that lead to closer views.

The trail bends south as you approach the far west end of the canyon (1.5 miles) through the highest concentration of petroglyphs in the entire monument. This is a great place to stop and focus your eyes on the canyon wall. Almost everywhere you look will reveal petroglyphs.

The trail loops south and then heads east back to the trailhead. As the trail heads east, it leads away from the canyon wall and runs through the middle of the sand sune. Due to the high grass and shifting sand, the trail can become difficult to follow. Be sure to look eye-level at trail markers that have been placed here for your convenience. While there are no petroglyphs along this section of trail, you stand a good chance of seeing the Earless Leopard Lizard and other wildlife which inhabit the canyon.

While it is difficult to get lost due to the short nature of the hike, rattlesnakes spend their time resting and hunting within the sand dune area. Therefore, watch your feet on the way back and listen for any signs of rattling.

Images in Rinconada Canyon include multiple human-like figures, spirals, animal figures and geometric designs. Archeologists believe that Ancestral Pueblo peoples made the majority of these petroglyphs anywhere from 400 - 700 years ago and modern Pueblo still believe this canyon to be sacred. A main belief is that the petroglyphs are as old as time istelf and that the petroglyphs, not nature, will decide when they reveal themselves.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N35 07.605 W106 43.505 — Rinconada Canyon Trailhead

Worth Noting

  • As the sandstone of the Sante Fe Formation erodes, the harder basalt rocks from ancient lava flows tumble to the ground and break apart. Over time, a dark desert varnish forms from the oxidation of minerals in the basalt, thus creating the black/brown canvas on which the petroglyphs are made.

  • There is a restroom facility located at the Rinconada Canyon Trailhead.

  • Keep a close watch on children as rattlesnakes love to sun themselves on the basalt rocks and in the sand dune of Rinconada Canyon.

  • Petroglyph National Monument is co-managed by the City of Albuquerque, the State of New Mexico and the National Park System.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • There is no camping available in Rinconada Canyon.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs are allowed in Rinconada Canyon on leash only. Pets cannot be kept in vehicles while owners are hiking.

  • This is a day-use area only with hours generally being from 8am - 5pm. However, please contact the park for most current day-use hours. Often times, the last time they allow visitors to enter the canyon is 4:30pm to ensure visitors vacate the canyon by sunset.

  • Conservation of the ecosystem and petroglyphs are the uptmost concern for park authorities. Defacing, damaging or removing any petroglyph or artifact will result in prosecution to the fullest extent of the law. Destruction or poaching of park artifcats is the most serious offense and rangers reserve the right to search vehicles.

  • Due to the fragile ecosystem of Rinconada, please remain on trails and do not attempt to go off trail.

  • There are Western Diamondback and Western Prairie Rattlesnakes in Rinconada Canyon. Please be cautious of where you step and where you place your hands.

  • Desert Millipedes are quite common in Rinconada Canyon. Do not disturb them or attempt to pick them up. While harmless to humans, they do emit a foul smelling and somewhat toxic liquid as a defense mechanism. Millipedes also play a crucial role in the local ecosystem so their survival should be ensured and protected by all visitors.

Directions to Trailhead

From I-40, exit onto Unser Boulevard (exit # 154) and head north. After about 2 miles you'll come to St. Joseph Avenue. Turn left you will see the parking lot and trailhead of Rinconada Canyon.

Contact Information

Petroglyph National Monument
Attn: Visitor Services
6001 Unser Blvd. NW
Albuquerque, NM 87120

By Phone
Visitor Information

By Fax

Las Imagenes Visitor Center is open all year from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

*Closed on: New Years, Thanksgiving, and Christmas days. The visitor center typically closes at 2:00pm on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"Just wanted to let you know that Pets ARE allowed at the Rinconada Canyon Trail. See: http://www.nps.gov/petr/planyourvisit/pets.htm Pets are not allowed at the Boca Negra Canyon due to over crowding. Thanks! E "
Eric  -  Austin TX  -  Date Posted: August 16, 2012


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