Petroglyph Point Hike is an amazing 2.5 mile round trip hike that is self-guided. You’re on your own, walking paths of beauty at your own pace to discover small dwelling ruins and walk in the footsteps and stairs carved into stone that were once used by the ancient people who lived there … leading you to a wall of ancient symbols carved into stone.
The trailhead is in the canyon by Spruce Tree House cliff dwelling (shown above). Note: as of this article, Spruce is closed for repairs, but you can still view it from an overlook. The trail, however, is open and in great shape … marked as ‘moderately strenuous’ as there are stairs and rocky areas.
At the trailhead you can pick up a fifty-cent guide noting points of interest, plants and information about the petroglyphs. And there’s a sign-in sheet there to let rangers know you’re on the trail.
This map is of the bottom east side of the park … the Chapin Museum side. Once you locate Spruce Tree House (upper left), notice the dotted line winding down around, south of the house. That’s the trail.
Depending on how often you stop to take in beautiful viewpoints and study the ruins, it can take 2 to 3 hours so be sure to bring plenty of water.
All of these photos were taken by Mr.D on an early morning hike and we’ve been itching to share them now that the weather has become sunny, milder, and flowers are blooming again …
At first you’re on a level dirt path in the bottom the canyon. Surrounded by trees. It’s very quiet. Then it gradually inclines and a few parts have stepping stones.
Pictured above is the 2-foot wide crevice you walk through.
Looking back to the crevice.
The path hugs rock walls, with slender stone stairways.
Keep in mind to look for alcoves (cave openings) because there’s most likely a dwelling or point of interest. This is the first alcove you come to, with rubble. As you pass this, look behind you and up to another alcove …
… where there are tell-tale sandstone bricks of a ruin.
This is the second dwelling foundation you come to.
A sandstone rock with markings where they used to sharpen their tools.
Continuing on you will reach the petroglyphs. You can’t miss them, and there’s a marker.
The highlight of the hike. You might pause and wonder ‘why this spot?’ Was this a storytelling place? A ceremonial area? Was it a lookout point? … because the view from this wall is wide and far.
A map of the trail?
With no written language, we can only guess and create our own interpretations of what they were meant to communicate.
This is the view from the petroglyph wall.
Note: be careful to stay on the path, there is a drop off.
To get to this spot, you take the trail as it loops back to Spruce Tree House. This is the most strenuous part with mild climbing and stone steps. At this point you are on top of the mesa, above Spruce Tree House.
Then a simple trail back that descends and takes you back to Chapin Museum.
At an elevation of 7000 feet, the air is thin and the sun can be intense, so be sure to bring at least 2 quarts of water, wear sunscreen, pace yourself, wear a hat, and hiking shoes or boots … no sandals.
Current temperatures (as of this post in early April) have been in the high 60s … very comfortable for hiking. In the summer months the highs can reach the mid-90s and occasionally low 100s. Again, bring plenty of water.
Mornings, in the early cool air, are best for this hike. In the spring, the gate to the trail opens generally around 9 am. Moving into the summer it opens at 8:30.
Anyone with respiratory or walking difficulties should not take this hike, as some parts are strenuous.
Also, as of this post, Mesa Verde is expecting storms this weekend so be sure to check weather conditions. The park phone number to speak with a ranger is 970-529-4465.
Petroglyph Hike has been described as one of the most beautiful and educational hikes that adults and children can enjoy … not to be missed.