El Morro National Monument is located in New Mexico. While smaller than many national monuments, it doesn’t disappoint. Messages and drawings from hundreds of years ago are etched into the cliffs of El Morro. A pool hidden within the cliffs was the water source for travelers for many years and was the water supply for the approximately 600 people that once lived in Astinna Pueblo.
Once at El Morro National Monument, the first stop should be the Visitor Center where you can take in exhibits and a short video to learn about the history of the monument. The two hiking trails at El Morro both begin near the visitor center. Keep in mind the elevation of the monument is 7,219 feet. Those who are visiting from low elevations should take time to adjust to the altitude and allow extra time for hiking. While hiking, visitors will have the opportunity to observe petroglyphs from hundreds of years ago in the sandstone cliffs. Those that make the trek to the top of The Headlands Trail will also see Astinna Pueblo.
El Morro has a campground with nine campsites that is open year-round. RVs up to 27 feet can be accommodated at these dry campsites. Leashed pets are welcome throughout the monument and campground with the exception of buildings. The location of the monument is remote and as a result, cell phone service is limited. You’ll truly be getting away from it all as you explore this historical site.
El Morro National Monument is located in Ramah, New Mexico off of Highway 53. While driving down the highway you’ll see signs that lead to the monument.
While the drive should be hazard-free, it is advisable to check weather conditions. During the summer, severe thunderstorms may roll into the area. In the winter, snow and ice are common. Park trails will close during periods of severe weather. It is common for the Headland Trail to close due to snow and ice in the winter months. The Inscription Trail generally stays open.
Navigating the roads at El Morro National Monument should be smooth even for those in RVs or towing trailers. The campground at El Morro can accommodate RVs and trailers up to 27 feet. The parking pads are back-in.
El Morro National Monument maintains a small campground with 9 campsites. The campsites can accommodate RVs no longer than 27 feet. The campground does not have any hookups, so campers should come prepared with extra supplies for dry camping. The campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Each campsite has a picnic table and campfire ring. If planning to have a campfire, bring your own firewood. There are water spigots at the campground, however, if camping during the wintertime, water may be shut off at the park. Water is turned off for the season once freezing temperatures are reached. Vault toilets near the campground are open year-round.
Many different types of wildlife can be observed at El Morro National Monument. For birding enthusiasts, over 180 species of birds have been documented including raptors, woodpeckers, ravens, and warblers. Lizards and salamanders are also common to see. Both venomous and non-venomous snakes reside in the park and have been encountered on the trails or at campsites on occasion. If encountered, keep a safe distance from wildlife.
Taking an hour at most, this half-mile trail gives visitors plenty to see! This easy, loop trail is paved and is wheelchair accessible with assistance. Along the trail, take in the prehistoric petroglyphs.
While traveling this trail, you’ll also come to “the pool” which has been used as a water source for hundreds of years. Today, this pool is used as a water source for local wildlife.
Those who make the trek up The Headland Trail have the opportunity to see Atsinna, which translates to, “place of writings on rock.” It is believed that about 600 people once lived in this 355 room pueblo between 1275 to 1350 AD. Excavation began in the area in the 1950s and work is still being done to stabilize Atsinna.
Plan to have a picnic to refuel before or after you explore the hiking trails. The picnic area at El Morro National Monument is near the visitor center. There are four picnic tables and a grill making it the perfect spot for a group gathering, big or small. Enjoy views of the cliffs while you enjoy your meal and rest.
The Headland Trail begins at the Inscription Trail and continues to the top of the bluff. The full trail is a two-mile loop. The hike may be strenuous for some in certain sections. There is a 250-foot elevation gain and uneven surfaces along the trail. Hikers will be rewarded once they reach the top of the bluff. They’ll be greeted with beautiful views of the Zuni Mountains and the El Morro Valley. The Headland Trail may close due to snow and ice during the winter months.
Stop in at the El Morro Visitor Center upon arrival at the monument. Watch a 15-minute video that will introduce you to the history of El Morro. The visitor center also has many exhibits to view that cover the area's history dating back as far as 700 years ago. Here, you can also get park and trail information from the park rangers.