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Discover Hand Carved Inscriptions in Sandstone Dating From The 1600s Found Only in New Mexico




It’s rare to find timeless echoes of history. Luckily that’s not the case in New Mexico. This place is filled with sites that could make you marvel all day long. And when here, why not visit a place where history comes alive and legends are etched in stone?

Welcome to Inscription Rock at El Morro National Monument, a place where time itself seems to stand still as the tales of centuries past come alive before your eyes.


There was a time when water was scarce and a permanent spring was a rare treasure. At the base of a cliff in El Morro, a spring flowed for over a thousand years, creating an oasis that has drawn travelers like a magnet. Native Americans, Spanish conquistadores, and 19th-century pioneers all found solace and sustenance here, leaving their mark on the walls of time. 


Therefore, the walls of Inscription Rock tell a tale unlike any other. Inscription Rock is a fascinating historical site. It’s a massive sandstone rock formation that has been a significant landmark for centuries. From the ancient Ancestral Puebloan people who carved petroglyphs to the Spanish adventurers who claimed these lands, each stroke of the chisel or pen adds a chapter to this epic saga. The rock has over 2000 inscriptions on it. Isn’t that wild? 


But the most prominent one is by Juan de Oñate. He was a Spanish conquistador who, in 1605, left one of the earliest European inscriptions in America on El Morro’s wall. The rock features a large inscription that reads: “Passed by here the Adelantado Don Juan de Oñate, from the discovery of the Sea of the South, the 16th of April of 1605.” in Spanish. His bold mark is a testament to the age of exploration and conquest that shaped the Americas.


In 2015, a groundbreaking project began to capture and preserve the inscriptions and petroglyphs at El Morro by the National Park Service, University of Colorado Denver and Cultural Heritage Imaging. Using advanced technology like photogrammetry, experts created digital records of these priceless relics, ensuring they remain intact for generations. It’s a testament to our commitment to safeguarding the past while embracing the future.

Important Info Before You Visit

Location: Highway 53, Ramah, New Mexico

Best Time to Visit:

  • Spring and Fall are the best time. 
  • Avoid visiting in the summer due to high temperatures, especially in midday.

What to Bring Along:

  • Comfortable walking shoes for exploring the trails.
  • Sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses for sun protection.
  • Water and snacks for hydration and energy during your visit.
  • Camera or smartphone for capturing the stunning views and inscriptions.
  • Binoculars for birdwatching and enjoying distant vistas.


How To Reach The Rock:

  • Take I-40 W toward Grants/Albuquerque for about 55 miles.
  • Take exit 85 for NM-53 toward El Malpais National Monument.
  • Follow NM-53 N for approximately 16 miles.
  • Turn left onto NM-53 N/NM-122 W and continue for about 13 miles.
  • Turn right onto Inscription Rock Loop Rd, which leads directly to the parking area for Inscription Rock.

Explore the Inscription Trail:

  • The Inscription Trail is a must-do activity for visitors. It offers a scenic hike that winds around Inscription Rock, allowing you to get up close to the ancient inscriptions and petroglyphs.
  • Along the trail, you’ll encounter informative plaques that explain the historical significance of the inscriptions, giving you a deeper understanding of the rock’s cultural heritage.
  • The trail is moderate in difficulty and suitable for families and individuals of varying fitness levels. 


As you bid farewell to Inscription Rock and El Morro National Monument, take a piece of you. Let the echoes of ancient voices past adventure whispers inspire your own journey. Remember, the legends of Inscription Rock are not just etched in stone—they live on in the hearts of those who dare to explore and discover.


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