National park tips: This New Mexico monument has the best guest register in the West

El Morro National Monument, in the outback of New Mexico, is inscribed with names and messages from several centuries of desert travelers.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Here in wide-open New Mexico, you’re very close to the middle of nowhere – 56 miles south of Gallup, 44 miles west of Grants. But this is also the best guest ledger in the West.

Over more than five centuries, some 2,000 passers-through have carved their names and messages in the sandstone of El Morro National Monument.

It’s a 200-foot-high ridge, and it’s been a popular stop for centuries because it stands above the only water source for miles around. There’s no new etching allowed, of course. But you can climb to the top, where there are pre-Columbian ruins (from the 13th and 14th centuries). Also big views of the high desert.

In honor of this year’s National Park Service centennial, the Travel section is posting 100 park travel ideas and tips based on trips staff travel writer Christopher Reynolds has taken, along with photo-op advice from Times photographer Mark Boster. We’ll post one per day through Dec. 31.


Follow Reynolds on Twitter: @MrCSReynolds

See travel videos by Reynolds from around the world.


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