We loved Stopping at the Puerco Pueblo Ruins at Petrified Forest National Park because this roadside stop had a little bit of everything. Here you’ll find:
- Displays and information panels about the history of the ruins and trail entry building
- A short, relatively flat hiking trail
- The ruins on an ancient Puebloan village
- A collection of petroglyphs
- Incredible views of the surrounding desert landscape
The Puerco Pueblo Trail
The Puerco Pueblo Trail is an easy, paved, 0.3 mile loop trail highlighting the petroglyphs and ruins of Puerco Pueblo. The trailhead is located at the south end of the Puerco Pueblo parking area.
About Puerco Pueblo
Puerco Pueblo is the largest archaeological site in Petrified Forest National Park. It features the partially excavated ruins of an ancient Puebloan village built by the Anasazi over 600 years ago and over 800 petroglyphs incised on more than 100 boulders.
A series of droughts in the 1200s, led ancestral Puebloan people to come together and build large pueblo communities. Occupied from 1250-1380 CE, Puerco Pueblo, near the Puerco River, was once home to 200 Anasazi. They made baskets and pottery and used the waters and flood plain of the Puerco River to cultivate corn, beans, and squash. The river was also a natural travel corridor, which allowed the Anasazi to interact and trade with travelers.
Puerco Pueblo was a single story, rectangular, 100+ room village built from shaped sandstone blocks. The pueblo had no doors or windows and entry into the village was done by ladders over the walls. The rooms were living quarters, storage rooms, and spiritual Kivas, which meant that most of the village activity took place in the central plaza.
The site was first excavated by John Muir in 1905 and 1906. Excavations were done several times throughout the years and between 1988 and 1989, a group of archeologists from the Western Archeological and Conservation Center conducted excavations of the site. In addition to the ruins of the pueblo, they discovered petroglyphs, potsherds, flaked stone artifacts, stone tools, and more. The artifacts indicate that the Anasazi engaged in trade with the Hopi, Homol’ovi, Flagstaff, Zuni, and Gallup Native American settlements.
One of the petroglyphs discovered marks the summer equinox. The play of light and shadow on the spiral petroglyph changes as the sun rises and moves across the sky. For two weeks around the summer equinox, a shaft of light forms, moving down the side of the adjacent boulder, until it touches the center of the spiral within a few minutes of 9:00 am.
The Old Puerco Entrance Station
When Petrified Forest was expanded in 1930, Puerco Pueblo was included in the new boundary and was the north end of the park. A stone building was constructed in 1935 to accommodate the increasing number of visitors arriving by train through the nearby town of Adamana. The building was soon altered to be a fully enclosed visitor center, with the entrance station out front and a museum exhibit was added in the 1940s.
In the 1960s, the Puerco entrance station was closed and the building was turned into a rest area, and by the 1980s the whole building was converted to restrooms.
In 2005, new restrooms were built and the old entrance station was boarded up, but luckily, in 2014, park employees began restoring the building to it’s 1940s appearance. Today it is open to visitors and contains museum exhibits and historic information.
Know Before You Go
- Puerco Pueblo at Petrified Forest National Park is located on the main Park Road in Petrified Forest, Arizona 86028 in Apache County.
- Puerco Pueblo was added to the National Register Of Historic Places in 1976.
- Download the Petrified Forest National Park Map.
- Petrified Forest National Park actually closes! The park is open daily year-round from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. When staff permits, extended hours go into effect from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm — and they’re not kidding. The park gates actually close and rangers drive the main park road around 4:30 telling you to wrap it up and start heading out of the park.
- The Petrified Forest landscape is an extremely dry, high altitude desert so pack lots of water, even for short day hikes, to avoid heat exhaustion.
- Restrooms are located at the Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Center, Rainbow Forest Curio Shop, Painted Desert Visitor Center, Painted Desert Inn, Chinde Point, and the Puerco Pueblo.
- Petrified Forest is one of the most animal friendly national parks. You can bring your leashed pet any place you are allowed to go except into the buildings.
- Oils and acids from your hands can damage petroglyphs and desert varnish, so do not touch the petroglyphs or climb up or down to any of the petroglyphs sites. Altering, damaging, or defacing the petroglyphs is against the law.
- Removal of petrified wood or other materials is against the law. Do not collect or take home pieces of the wood from the National Park.