Petroglyph Point Trail (dayhike)

SA Report: Unstuck in time

Trip Date: 8/26/2017

Location: Mesa Verde National Park

Permit/Pass: Vehicles: (1/2-4/30, 11/1-12/31 - $15), (5/1-10/31 - $20), Motorcycles: (1/2-4/30, 11/1-12/31 - $10), (5/1-10/31 - $15), Bicyclists/Individuals: (1/2-4/30, 11/1-12/31 - $7), (5/1-10/31 - $10)

Trail Maps:, nps.gov2

Directions: From Highway 160 in southwest Colorado take the Mesa Top Ruins (Mesa Verde NP) exit and follow the road 15 miles, where you'll pass the right turn for Wetherill Mesa, and continue onto Chapin Mesa. Remain on Mesa Top Ruins Rd. for another 5.4 miles before coming to a right turn onto the signed loop for Spruce Tree House and Chapin Museum. Circle the loop for 0.8 miles to the parking area, then head down the walk to the south of the museum to the trailhead for the Petroglyphs Trail and Spruce Tree House trail.

Synopsis: Plan to hike this wonderful trail is you have the time. There will be some rocky climbing. But the petroglyphs (or pictographs) are fun and worth the time, it passes by the Spruce Tree House dwelling, and best of all it gives the hiker a chance to stretch his legs and travel along and under some of the cliffs that the Puebloans must have frequented hundreds of years ago.

Trail sequence: Petroglyph Point Trail

Type: Loop

Distance: 3.3 miles

Elevation: min - 6733', max - 6970'


Rating: Moderate (factors: heat, steep sections, rocky steps)

Notes: This guide reads longer than official ones, likely because we tracked our hike from the parking area.

Track: Petroglyphs Trail - Mesa Verde NP: AllTrails, GaiaGPS

Turn by Turn:

  -- Several sources advised that one take this hike in the counterclockwise direction, presumably because of the ascent from the canyon floor at the end. But the climb isn't so bad, and depending upon the time of day (and the heat), you may want to get the exposed portion of the hike over at the beginning by taking it clockwise.

  -- To follow this track, head down the paved path between the museum and the ranger station, looking for the left turn onto the dirt trail that heads out around the upper mesa (and above the dwelling area). If you come to the Spruce Tree House viewing area you've gone too far.

  -- Follow the trail as it circles around the canyon edge and turns to head south, then southwest. 

  -- After a little over a mile and a quarter you come to the turnaround point. Here the trail descends below the cliff rim. After negotiating several series of rock steps you level out and come to the petroglyph area. This is a good spot for a break.

  -- Upon getting underway, continue your northward walk, ducking in and out of several different alcoves, some of which show signs of former inhabitation.

  -- Eventually you drop to the canyon floor and begin working your way back up past the Spruce Tree House cliff dwelling, finishing at the overlook area. This leaves the short walk back up past the museum and to the parking area.

Photos: Flickr

Video: Youtube