The Bureau of Land Management manages wilderness lands at the Prehistoric Trackways National Monument, situated just west of Las Cruces, New Mexico. The Prehistoric Trackways National Monument was created in 2009 to preserve the natural habitat, paleontological finds, scenic terrain, and recreational resources at the site in the Robledo Mountains of southern New Mexico. Set at 4500 feet above sea level, this desert region contains canyons and steep mountain terrain. The climate in this desert area is extremely hot and dry, although occasional thunderstorms occur between July to September, providing some precipitation.
The site is the location of Paleozoic Era fossilized mega trackways, on about 5280 acres of unique geological territory. The fossilized trackway preserves the footprints of numerous animals, and the remains of plants dating back 280 million years, and a scientifically significant track site from the early Permian Period. The monument and park are open year-round, and there are no fees for visitors. Recreational opportunities in the area include hiking, horseback riding, off-highway vehicle driving, and limited fossil interpretation.
There are no campgrounds with amenities at prehistoric Trackways National Monument. However, campgrounds with amenities are available at Leasburg Dam State Park, 11.5 miles north of the monument site. Carlsbad Caverns National Park is a three-hour drive to the east and well worth a visit while staying in the New Mexico area. Need an RV to stay in the area, and do some natural exploration? Check out Leasburg Dam State Park RV Rentals.
The Prehistoric Trackways National Monument is located off of Rocky Acres Trail, on a dirt road access, that requires visitors to cross a cattle gate. The dirt road is appropriate for high clearance, 4WD vehicles only. Traveling to this location with your RV is not advised as they generally do not have adequate clearance, and contents of holiday trailers and RVs will become severely jostled on the uneven terrain.
The Bureau of Land Management areas are not well signed, with the only sign being at the end of a dead-end road and not visible until you reach the end of the roadway. The nearest fossil trackways are only reachable by hiking on foot, about a mile and a half to the right of the second parking area. The area is scorching. Ensure your vehicle is well maintained and topped up on fluid levels and pack lots of water for traveling in the area on foot.
Most visitors to the Bureau of Land Management Prehistoric Trackways National Monument Area will opt to leave RVs at a nearby campground. The Leasburg Dam State Park is accessible for RVs and tow vehicles and is under a half-hour drive north of the BLM site, and the town of Las Cruces, about one mile west of Interstate 25. There are sites suitable for larger units in the campground. However, the interior roads are unpaved, gravel, or sand-covered roads. The signage in the park is also somewhat vague and may be difficult to follow. There are several areas for camping and picnicking and a visitor center. When traveling to the state park, be aware that the campground gate is closed from sunset until 7 AM each day, so you should plan your arrival accordingly.
Visitors to the Prehistoric Trackways National Monument and state park can access amenities, services, and facilities at Las Cruces, New Mexico.
This park is located along the Rio Grande and has plenty of scenic wilderness beauty and a dam with a reservoir that provides recreational opportunities. There are three campground areas, the Cactus Patch Campground area, Greasewood Campground area, and Cholla Loop Campground area. There are 12 reservable sites, and additional first-come, first-serve sites distributed at the three campground areas. Sites have electric and water hookups that can accommodate RVs and tow trailers up to 40 feet in length. There are back in and pull-through sites, with picnic tables, fire rings, and grills. Amenities at the campground include an amphitheater, shower house, firewood supply, playground, swimming areas, drinking water, RV dump sites, restrooms, and a visitor center. Several hiking trails in the park area and a cactus garden at the campground entrance provide excellent sightseeing opportunities. An observatory and night sky programs provide unique educational and recreational opportunities for visitors to the campground. Swimming, fishing, and canoeing at the dam area are also popular activities for visitors camping in the state park.
Equestrian stables in the Las Cruces region provide services to horseback riders looking to discover the beautiful natural terrain and geological features of the Bureau of Land Management property in the region. Horseback riders should stick to designated areas so as not to disturb sensitive wildlife and fossil sites.
Riding in the offseason is cooler and less stressful for equestrian activities. Ensure your horse is acclimatized and fit for desert conditions, rugged terrain, and temperature extremes. Watch out for rattlesnakes which have been spotted in the area.
Multiple hiking trails exist in the BLM Prehistoric Trackways lands, and exploring the native flora and fauna, canyons, mountains, desert terrain, and prehistoric trackways is best done on foot. Be prepared for extreme weather. During the day, extreme heat requires hikers to pack plenty of water, and the area cools down rapidly at night.
During the off-season, temperatures may be somewhat more moderate, and you can avoid severe thunderstorms which pose a hazard to hikers during the summer months. Hikers should also watch for rattlesnakes in the area, which are occasionally spotted in some of the canyons and may lurk under rocks or vegetation.
Wilderness areas in New Mexico are noted for the reduced “light noise” which makes for excellent night sky viewing and astronomical discoveries. The BLM lands at Prehistoric Trackways National Monument are a great place to do some informal night sky discovery.
Do not rely on night sky apps on your phone, as cellular data in the area is not reliable. There are organized night sky programs at Leasburg Dam State Park, which has its own observatory, which is open once a month, and educational programs are held regularly. Check the schedule of events before camping at the state park to coordinate with the programs you would like to attend.
There are some designated areas in the Bureau of Land Management’s over 5000 acres of natural terrain that allow off-road vehicles for recreational purposes. These areas are separate from the sensitive fossilized trackways. Motorized vehicle travel is only permitted on designated trails and roads.
Be sure to use safety gear such as helmets on rough terrain. Off-roaders should pack plenty of water for their trip in case they are required to walk and ensure that someone off-site is aware of their plans and their estimated time of return.
The 280 million-year-old fossilized trackways at Prehistoric Trackways National Monument contain the footprints and traces of numerous animals, plants, and petrified wood. Discovery of these fossils on-site is somewhat limited, and interpretive information and guided tours on site are not available.
Many of the fossilized artifacts have been removed to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque, a three-hour drive to the north. You can arrange to see the trackways collection by reservation. The Las Cruces Museum of Nature and Science also has a 30 foot, and a 15 foot preserved section of the trackway on display and is located nearby.
Desert wildflowers grow in the canyons and along the base of the mountains in the area, creating a beautiful display in this natural setting. Desert wildlife may prove elusive, but if you know what to look for and where to look for it, you can find an abundance of life in the area, which includes reptiles, birds, and small mammals.
Take a field guide and a camera to help discover local flora and fauna, and record your discoveries. During the summer, when thunderstorms provide the little precipitation the area receives, vegetation is more prevalent, and wildlife may be more active after storms when water becomes available.