El Morro National Monument

Top choice in New Mexico

The 200ft sandstone outcropping at this monument, also known as Inscription Rock, has been a travelers' oasis for millennia. The only reliable water source for miles upon miles, the thousands of carvings – from petroglyphs in the pueblo at the top (c 1275) to elaborate inscriptions by the Spanish conquistadors and the Anglo pioneers – offer a unique means of tracing history. It's about 38 miles southwest of Grants via Hwy 53.

The half-mile Inscription Rock trail stops by the key petroglyphs at the base of the mesa. If you have time, take the slightly strenuous 2-mile Mesa Top Trail, which extends off the Inscription Trail. On top of the mesa you'll have sweeping views of the region and you can look into ancient pueblo ruins, which sit beside the trail. At the visitor center, pick up a loaner copy trail guide for interesting details about the inscriptions.

There are nine basic first-come, first-served campsites here (free); water is not available in colder months, typically November through April.

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