Best-in-the-Country: National Monuments of New Mexico

The state of New Mexico has a number of great monuments that everyone should visit at some point. These monuments include:

  • Aztec Ruins National Monument
  • Bandelier National Monument
  • Capulin Volcano National Monument
  • El Malpais National Monument
  • Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
  • Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
  • Petroglyph National Monument
  • Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument


A brief summary of each of these monuments follows.

Aztec Ruins National Monument

The Aztec Ruins National Monument is the footprint of Ancestral Pueblo Society. You can follow the ancient passageways of the Pueblo people and go back to a distant time. Features of this monument include:

  • A 900-year old ancestral Pueblo House with over 400 masonry rooms
  • Fingerprints of ancient workers in the mortar
  • Reconstructed Great Kiva

Bandelier National Monument

The Bandelier National Monument is an open book of human history. It features 33,000 acres of rugged and beautiful canyon and mesa country with evidence of human presence dating back 11,000 years. Other features of this monument include:

  • Petroglyphs
  • Dwellings carved into the soft rock cliffs
  • Standing masonry walls paying tribute to early Aztec culture

Capulin Volcano National Monument

The Capulin Volcano National Monument features a beautiful view from the top of Capulin Volcano. Features of this monument include:

  • View of four states from 1000 feet above the surrounding landscape
  • Excellent views of other volcanoes in the Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field

El Malpais National Monument

The El Malpais National Monument has 115,049 acres in west-central New Mexico that is one of the most volcanic areas in the U.S. It was established in 1987 to protect natural and cultural resources. Features of the monument include:

  • Eleven volcanoes, lava tubes and other cave systems
  • Ice caves with paleo-climatic information
  • Artifacts and ancient dwelling sites from the Paleoindian, Archaic, and Ancestral Puebloan Periods

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument sheds light on the Mogollon Culture from the late 1200’s. Features of this monument include:

  • Mogollon dwellings with rooms
  • Crafted pottery
  • River caves

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument offers an opportunity to observe, study, and experience the geologic processes that shape natural landscapes. Features of this monument include:

  • National recreation trail that is 5,570 to 6,760 feet above sea level
  • Hiking, birdwatching, geologic observation, and plant identification
  • Cone-shaped tent rock formations

Petroglyph National Monument

The Petroglyph National Monument is a landscape of sacred symbols. This monument features:

  • One of the largest petroglyph sites in North America
  • Designs and symbols that are 400 to 700 years old
  • A valuable record of cultural expression for Native Americans and early Spanish settlers

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument

The Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument is a tale of two cultures. This monument offers:

  • Three distinct sites that offer a glimpse into history
  • Sites teach about cultural borrowing, conflict and struggles
  • Reminders of Spanish and Pueblo peoples’ early encounters

A brief summary of each of these monuments follows.

Aztec Ruins National Monument

The Aztec Ruins National Monument is the footprint of Ancestral Pueblo Society. You can follow the ancient passageways of the Pueblo people and go back to a distant time. Features of this monument include:

  • A 900-year old ancestral Pueblo House with over 400 masonry rooms
  • Fingerprints of ancient workers in the mortar
  • Reconstructed Great Kiva

Bandelier National Monument

The Bandelier National Monument is an open book of human history. It features 33,000 acres of rugged and beautiful canyon and mesa country with evidence of human presence dating back 11,000 years. Other features of this monument include:

  • Petroglyphs
  • Dwellings carved into the soft rock cliffs
  • Standing masonry walls paying tribute to early Aztec culture

Capulin Volcano National Monument

The Capulin Volcano National Monument features a beautiful view from the top of Capulin Volcano. Features of this monument include:

  • View of four states from 1000 feet above the surrounding landscape
  • Excellent views of other volcanoes in the Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field

El Malpais National Monument

The El Malpais National Monument has 115,049 acres in west-central New Mexico that is one of the most volcanic areas in the U.S. It was established in 1987 to protect natural and cultural resources. Features of the monument include:

  • Eleven volcanoes, lava tubes and other cave systems
  • Ice caves with paleo-climatic information
  • Artifacts and ancient dwelling sites from the Paleoindian, Archaic, and Ancestral Puebloan Periods

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument sheds light on the Mogollon Culture from the late 1200’s. Features of this monument include:

  • Mogollon dwellings with rooms
  • Crafted pottery
  • River caves

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument offers an opportunity to observe, study, and experience the geologic processes that shape natural landscapes. Features of this monument include:

  • National recreation trail that is 5,570 to 6,760 feet above sea level
  • Hiking, birdwatching, geologic observation, and plant identification
  • Cone-shaped tent rock formations

Petroglyph National Monument

The Petroglyph National Monument is a landscape of sacred symbols. This monument features:

  • One of the largest petroglyph sites in North America
  • Designs and symbols that are 400 to 700 years old
  • A valuable record of cultural expression for Native Americans and early Spanish settlers

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument

The Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument is a tale of two cultures. This monument offers:

  • Three distinct sites that offer a glimpse into history
  • Sites teach about cultural borrowing, conflict and struggles
  • Reminders of Spanish and Pueblo peoples’ early encounters

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