El Morro National Monument
Managed by National Park Service
A small pool of reliable water at the base of a sandstone bluff has attracted humans and animals for centuries in this arid region. Ancestral Puebloans built a village atop the 200-foot-tall mesa and Spanish explorers carved their names alongside petroglyphs at a place they dubbed “el morro” (the headland). Today, El Morro National Monument is located about 125 miles west of Albuquerque, about 42 miles off Interstate 40.
Inscription Rock Trail, Atsinna Pueblo ruins, Mesa Top Trail
The National Park Service visitor center offers a 15-minute film and the half-mile paved Inscription Rock Trail loop to view the carvings. Pick up a free guidebook that provides details on the earliest European inscriptions that date back to 1605 and the petroglyphs that may be around 1,000 years old.
The Mesa Top Trail loop climbs to the top of the bluff where there are Ancestral Puebloan ruins and great views of the volcanic El Malpais National Monument. The hike is about two miles roundtrip, with interesting steps carved into the soft sandstone in places. The trail may be closed during thunderstorms during the summer and after heavy snowfalls in the winter.
It is worth the short but steep climb to check out the ruins of Atsinna Pueblo (built in the late-1200s) atop the sandstone bluff.
Spring and fall
The short entrance road is paved from Highway 53.
The small primitive campground at El Morro National Monument is open year round (except during snowstorms), plus there is a private RV park located near the entrance.
El Malpais National Monument (New Mexico)
Cibola National Forest (New Mexico)
Chaco Culture National Historical Park (New Mexico)
Explore More – Who were the first Anglo-Americans to inscribe their names at El Morro in 1849?