The Petroglyph Trail is the most popular trail in Mesa Verde National Park. It is located near the Chapin Mesa Museum, where the Park Headquarters are located. It's near Spruce Tree House, one of the largest and best preserved cliff dwellings in the park. And the trail itself follows beneath a rim of Chapin Mesa to the largest petroglyph panel in the park.
The beginning of the trail is a short walk down a paved series of switchbacks from the Museum. At the junction of the Spruce Canyon Trail, a sign directs you to the first set of steps on the Petroglyph Trail. Get ready for lots more stone steps, both up and down, though the overall elevation gain won't be that much. If your knees can't take stepping down, this might not be the trail for you. Or if you're not acclimated to hiking an uneven trail at 7,000 feet elevation.
Since you started at the top of the mesa, then dropped down about a hundred feet in elevation, you aren't far below the canyon rim. That will soon become apparent as spectacular views of the surrounding canyons that are cut into Mesa Verde become visible through the trees.
Further along the trail you pass beneath a small cliff dwelling. Just another of hundreds in the park that were left behind by the Ancestral Puebloans as they continued their migrations southward about 800 years ago.
Nearby the cliff dwelling were some sandstone boulders that the ancient ones used to sharpen their stone tools on.
Then more steps...and more.
After a little over a mile, you come to the petroglyph panel. It's not the largest one in the Southwest, but it is a great one. And the location is awesome, in an awesome World Heritage Park.
Some people think that ancient inscriptions such as these are mere doodling--graffiti--by the ancient peoples. No way. The descendants of the people who lived here know what the symbols mean, even if their religious societies prevent them from revealing too much about what they know. Even among those people, there are various interpretations among the clans of the Pueblo people, but it's apparent that the work that was put into each one was important.
After the Petroglyph Panel, there was just one more series of steps. The steepest ones, climbing up onto the rim of the mesa. But once up there, it was a relaxing walk along the mesa top back to the Museum and park headquarters.
Photo location: Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.
© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg