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Hot Hiking in Piedras Marcadas Canyon, NM

by Kelly A. McCauley on August 19, 2013

In June or 2013, my wife (now ex-wife) April, my son Jory, and I took the long drive from Kentucky to New Mexico to visit family and friends and take in the sights. We love petroglyphs and one of the places that we really wanted to visit was Petroglyph National Monument. We decided on hiking the trail at Piedras Marcadas Canyon.

An image of a rock, from Piedras Marcadas Canyon, containing petroglyphs.  One of which is a person wearing a headdress and holding a rod, spear, or arrow.
Photograph by April McCauley.

The trail meanders along the edge of a crumbling ridge of basalt rock which was formed by long ago erupting volcanoes.

An image of the ridge of crumbling basalt rock.
Photograph by Kelly McCauley.

The boulders became the canvas for the people living and passing through the area some 400 to 700 years ago. Most of the petroglyphs come from that era, but some are from later periods, such as when the Spanish explorers left their mark.

How were the petroglyphs made?

They used stone tools to peck and chip away the basalt boulder's dark desert varnish exposing the lighter, true gray color of basalt beneath.

Visitor Map and Information sign located at the trail head.

I could have spent several hours looking at all of the petroglyphs, but alas I had not brought enough water. Next time I will. I’ll also bring a longer zoom lense and tripod.

A word of warning, though. Walking on the soft sand requires extra effort and may be difficult for young children. The heat and dry air also saps water and energy from the body, especially in young children who are not used to that environment. Jory, age 6, tried hiking the trail twice and did not make it very far either time. Also note that there is no water or restroom facilities at this trail.

Enjoy the pictures …

An image of a rock with petroglyphs of various animals.
Photograph by April McCauley.
An image of a rock with a petroglyph of a person with a headdress and an arrow through their nose.
Photograph by April McCauley.
An image of a rock with petroglyphs of a posed person with a headdress, a bird in flight.
Photograph by April McCauley.
An image of a rock with a petroglyph of a quail.
A quail. Note the hand on a far rock in the background.
Photograph by April McCauley.
An image of a rock with a petroglyph of two hand prints.
Pushing rocks?
Photograph by April McCauley.
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