Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail In New Mexico

Here is everything you need to know about the Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: New Mexico
  • Length: 2.15 miles.
  • Type: Hiking.
  • Surface: Dirt
  • Managed By: Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
  • Permit Required?: Yes.
  • Website:

The Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail is a significant historical site located in the southwestern region of the United States. This trail is renowned for its collection of ancient petroglyphs, which are rock carvings made by Native American tribes thousands of years ago. The history of the Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail dates back to prehistoric times when the area was inhabited by various indigenous cultures.

The petroglyphs found along the trail provide valuable insights into the lives and beliefs of these ancient peoples. The carvings depict a wide range of subjects, including animals, human figures, celestial bodies, and abstract symbols. Each petroglyph holds cultural and spiritual significance, serving as a form of communication and expression for the Native American tribes that once resided in the region.

The exact origins of the petroglyphs along the Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail remain a subject of ongoing research and speculation. However, archaeologists believe that the carvings were created by the ancestors of the present-day Pueblo and Apache tribes. These tribes have a rich cultural heritage and have inhabited the southwestern United States for centuries. The petroglyphs are believed to have been made between 900 and 1400 AD, during a time when these tribes flourished in the area.

The Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail stands as a testament to the ancient civilizations that once thrived in the region. It serves as a reminder of the rich cultural heritage of the Native American tribes and provides a glimpse into their daily lives, beliefs, and artistic expressions. The trail is not only a historical treasure but also an important site for archaeological research, helping to unravel the mysteries of the past and preserve the legacy of these ancient cultures for future generations.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trailhead: This is the main access point for the trail and is located at the trailhead parking area off Highway 380, about 12 miles east of Carrizozo, New Mexico.

2. Carrizozo Visitor Center: This is another access point for the trail, located at 1116 Central Ave, Carrizozo, NM 88301. From here, you can get information about the trail and directions to the trailhead.

3. Valley of Fires Recreation Area: This access point is located about 5 miles west of Carrizozo on Highway 380. From here, you can access the trail by following the signs and directions provided.

4. Smokey Bear Ranger District Office: Located at 901 Mechem Dr, Ruidoso, NM 88345, this is another access point for the trail. You can get information and directions from the ranger district office.

5. Bonito Lake: This access point is located about 8 miles northeast of Ruidoso, New Mexico. From here, you can access the trail by following Forest Road 107.

These are some of the major access points or trailheads along the Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail. There may be other smaller access points or trailheads along the trail as well.

Transportation Available

1. Rio Bonito Shuttle – Shuttle service offering convenient transportation to and from the Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail.
2. Local Taxi – Taxi service available for quick and reliable transportation to the Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail.
3. Ride-Share Services – Popular ride-sharing platforms like Uber and Lyft operate in the area, providing convenient transportation options to the Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail.
4. Rental Car Companies – Various rental car companies offer vehicles for self-driven transportation to the Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail.
5. Public Bus – Local bus service with routes passing near the Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail, providing affordable transportation options.


The amenities available at the Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail may include:

1. Restrooms: There may be restroom facilities available for visitors to use.

2. Parking: There might be designated parking areas for visitors to park their vehicles.

3. Camping Sites: Depending on the location, there could be camping sites available for overnight stays.

4. Picnic Areas: There may be designated picnic areas where visitors can enjoy meals or snacks.

5. Hiking Trails: The trail itself is an amenity, offering a scenic and educational hiking experience.

6. Interpretive Signs: Along the trail, there might be interpretive signs providing information about the petroglyphs and the area’s history.

7. Benches or Seating: There could be benches or seating areas along the trail for visitors to rest or take in the surroundings.

8. Trash Receptacles: There may be trash cans or bins available for visitors to dispose of their waste properly.

9. Information Center: There might be an information center or visitor center where visitors can obtain maps, brochures, or additional information about the trail and its features.

10. Accessibility Features: The trail may have accessibility features such as ramps, handrails, or paved paths to accommodate individuals with disabilities.

It is important to note that the availability of these amenities may vary, and it is recommended to check with the specific location or park management for the most up-to-date information.

Nearby Services

1. Rio Bonito Campground – A nearby campground offering lodging options for visitors to the Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail.
2. Rio Bonito Lodge – A rustic lodge located near the trail, providing comfortable accommodations for hikers and nature enthusiasts.
3. Rio Bonito Restaurant – A restaurant serving a variety of delicious meals, conveniently located close to the Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail.
4. Rio Bonito Gas Station – An emergency service providing fuel and basic supplies for travelers near the trail.
5. Rio Bonito Medical Clinic – An emergency medical facility offering healthcare services for any medical emergencies that may arise during your visit to the Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail.

Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail Difficulty Notes

The Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail presents a moderate level of difficulty for hikers. The trail spans approximately 2.2 miles and features a mix of flat terrain and slight inclines, making it accessible for most individuals. However, the trail can become rocky and uneven in certain sections, requiring careful footing and attention. Additionally, the trail lacks shade, making it more challenging during hot summer months. Overall, while the Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail may pose some challenges, it remains a manageable and rewarding hike for those seeking to explore the ancient petroglyphs and enjoy the scenic beauty of the area.

Features And Attractions

The Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail is located in the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico. Along this trail, you can find several scenic views, historical sites, natural landmarks, and more. Here are some notable points of interest along the Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail:

1. Petroglyphs: The trail is named after the numerous petroglyphs found along its path. These ancient rock carvings were created by Native American tribes and depict various symbols, animals, and human figures.

2. Scenic Views: As you hike along the trail, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the surrounding Lincoln National Forest. The trail offers panoramic vistas of the forested mountains and valleys, providing a serene and picturesque experience.

3. Rio Bonito: The trail follows the Rio Bonito, a beautiful river that flows through the forest. You can enjoy the soothing sound of the flowing water and even take a dip in some of the calm pools along the way.

4. Wildlife: The Lincoln National Forest is home to a diverse range of wildlife. While hiking the trail, you may encounter various bird species, deer, elk, and other animals that call this area their home.

5. Historical Significance: The petroglyphs found along the trail have significant historical and cultural importance. They provide insights into the lives and beliefs of the Native American tribes that once inhabited this region.

6. Forested Landscapes: The trail takes you through dense forests of pine, fir, and aspen trees. The lush greenery and the scent of the forest create a tranquil and immersive experience.

7. Rock Formations: Along the trail, you’ll come across unique rock formations that have been shaped by natural forces over thousands of years. These formations add to the scenic beauty of the area.

8. Picnic Areas: The trail offers designated picnic areas where you can take a break, enjoy a meal, and soak in the natural surroundings. These spots provide a perfect opportunity to relax and rejuvenate.

9. Hiking Opportunities: The Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail is a popular hiking destination, offering various levels of difficulty. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker, you can find a suitable trail segment to explore.

10. Educational Signage: Throughout the trail, you’ll find informative signage that provides details about the petroglyphs, the local flora and fauna, and the history of the area. These signs enhance the educational experience for visitors.

Remember to check with local authorities or visitor centers for any specific guidelines or restrictions before visiting the Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail.

Usage Guidelines

– No pets allowed on the Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail.
– The trail is open year-round, with no specific seasonal restrictions.
– Visitors are not allowed to touch or disturb the petroglyphs in any way.
– Camping or overnight stays are not permitted on the trail.
– Visitors are required to stay on designated paths and trails.
– Littering is strictly prohibited; visitors must carry out all trash.
– Open fires or barbecues are not allowed on the trail.
– Bicycles, motorized vehicles, and horses are not permitted on the trail.
– Visitors are encouraged to bring water and appropriate sun protection.
– Smoking is not allowed on the trail.
– Visitors should respect the natural environment and wildlife, refraining from feeding or disturbing animals.

Seasonal Information

The Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail, located in New Mexico, offers visitors a unique opportunity to explore ancient rock art created by Native American tribes. When planning a visit to this trail, it is important to consider the best times of the year to fully enjoy the experience. The ideal time to visit the Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail is during the spring and fall seasons. During these times, the weather is mild, with comfortable temperatures and less chance of extreme heat or cold. The trail is surrounded by beautiful desert landscapes, and the spring season brings vibrant wildflowers, adding to the scenic beauty of the area.

It is worth noting that the Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail is subject to seasonal closures. The trail is typically closed during the summer months due to the high temperatures and increased risk of wildfires. This closure is necessary to ensure the safety of visitors and to protect the delicate ecosystem surrounding the trail. It is advisable to check with the local authorities or the trail’s official website for the most up-to-date information on closures and reopening dates.

Visitors to the Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail should also be aware of the limited facilities available in the area. There are no restrooms or water sources along the trail, so it is essential to come prepared with enough water and any necessary supplies. Additionally, it is important to respect the rock art and the surrounding environment by not touching or damaging the petroglyphs. These ancient carvings hold significant cultural and historical value, and preserving them for future generations is of utmost importance.

In conclusion, the best times to visit the Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail are during the spring and fall seasons when the weather is pleasant and the landscape is at its most beautiful. However, it is crucial to stay informed about any seasonal closures and to come prepared with the necessary supplies. By respecting the trail and its ancient rock art, visitors can have a memorable and meaningful experience exploring the Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail.


1. Wheelchair Accessibility: The Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail offers wheelchair accessibility, allowing individuals with mobility challenges to explore the trail and enjoy the petroglyphs.
2. Paved Pathways: The trail features paved pathways, ensuring a smooth and accessible surface for wheelchair users and individuals with mobility aids.
3. Accessible Parking: The trail provides designated accessible parking spaces near the trailhead, allowing easy access for individuals with disabilities.
4. Accessible Restrooms: Accessible restrooms are available near the trailhead, ensuring convenience for individuals with disabilities.
5. Signage and Braille: The trail features clear signage with Braille, providing information and directions for individuals with visual impairments.
6. Handrails and Guardrails: Handrails and guardrails are installed along certain sections of the trail, offering stability and support for individuals with mobility challenges.
7. Benches and Rest Areas: The trail offers benches and rest areas along the way, providing opportunities for individuals with disabilities to take breaks and rest if needed.
8. Assistance Animals: Service animals are permitted on the trail, allowing individuals with disabilities to be accompanied by their trained assistance animals.
9. Accessible Interpretive Materials: The trail provides accessible interpretive materials, such as large print or audio guides, ensuring individuals with visual impairments can learn about the petroglyphs.
10. Accessible Picnic Areas: The trail offers accessible picnic areas, allowing individuals with disabilities to enjoy outdoor meals and gatherings.

Safety Information

1. Wear appropriate footwear: Sturdy shoes with good traction are recommended to navigate the rocky terrain safely.
2. Stay on the designated trail: To protect the petroglyphs and avoid potential hazards, it is important to stick to the marked path.
3. Carry enough water: Due to the desert environment, it is crucial to bring an ample supply of water to stay hydrated during the hike.
4. Protect yourself from the sun: Apply sunscreen, wear a hat, and bring sunglasses to shield yourself from the intense desert sun.
5. Watch out for wildlife: Be aware of your surroundings and respect the natural habitat, keeping a safe distance from any wildlife encountered.
6. Be cautious of rattlesnakes: As the trail is located in a desert area, it is important to be alert and watch for rattlesnakes, giving them a wide berth if spotted.
7. Hike with a buddy: It is recommended to hike with a companion for safety and to have someone to assist in case of an emergency.
8. Carry a first aid kit: Be prepared for minor injuries by carrying a basic first aid kit with essentials such as band-aids, antiseptic, and pain relievers.
9. Check weather conditions: Before embarking on the trail, check the weather forecast to avoid potential dangers such as flash floods or extreme heat.
10. Inform someone of your plans: Let a trusted person know about your hiking plans, including the expected duration, to ensure someone is aware of your whereabouts.

Conservation Notes

The conservation status of the Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail is of utmost importance due to its cultural and historical significance. The trail is home to a vast collection of petroglyphs, which are ancient rock carvings made by Native American tribes. These petroglyphs provide valuable insights into the lives, beliefs, and artistic expressions of these indigenous communities.

Efforts have been made to protect and preserve the Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail, as it is recognized as a significant cultural resource. Conservation measures include the establishment of regulations and guidelines to ensure the responsible visitation and interpretation of the site. These measures aim to prevent vandalism, erosion, and other forms of damage that could potentially harm the petroglyphs.

Furthermore, ongoing monitoring and maintenance activities are conducted to assess the condition of the petroglyphs and their surrounding environment. This includes regular inspections to identify any signs of deterioration or threats to the site’s integrity. Conservationists and archaeologists work together to document and study the petroglyphs, enhancing our understanding of the past and contributing to the preservation of this unique cultural heritage.

In conclusion, the conservation status of the Rio Bonito Petroglyph Trail is actively managed to safeguard its historical and cultural significance. Through regulations, monitoring, and ongoing research, efforts are made to protect the petroglyphs from damage and ensure their preservation for future generations to appreciate and learn from.

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