The monument's sandstone bluff sits along a busy trail, and for centuries explorers and passersby carved inscriptions into its walls. You can trace the history of New Mexico through these carvings, which include Native American petroglyphs, ornate writings by early-17th-century Spanish explorers, and the signatures of 19th-century American soldiers. The mesa top is notable for its geologic formations and Indian ruins.
WHERE: From Gallup, drive 56 miles southeast via State 602 and State 53.
WHEN: Open year-round.
COST: $4 per vehicle.
SERVICES: There is a nine-site first-come, first-served campground ($5 May-Oct, otherwise free). The best choice for lodging and restaurants is the town of Gallup (800/242-4282 or www.gallupnm.org).
ACTIVITIES: The visitor center has exhibits and shows a 15-minute video. The paved 1/2-mile Inscription Rock Trail heads along the cliff base and offers good views of the historic scrawlings. The 2-mile Mesa Top Trail climbs steeply to the top of El Morro, where it passes two ruins sites.
CONTACT: (505) 783-4226 or www.nps.gov/elmo.