When you see the imposing 200-foot-high sandstone bluff that served as a rest stop for Indians, explorers, soldiers, and pioneers, you can understand how El Morro ("the Headland") got its name. The bluff is the famous Inscription Rock, where wayfarers stopped to partake of a waterhole at its base and left behind messages, signatures, and petroglyphs carved into the soft sandstone. The paved Inscription Trail makes a quick ½-mi round-trip from the visitor center and passes
that historic water source and numerous inscriptions. Although El Morro is justly renowned for Inscription Rock, try to allow an extra 90 minutes or so to venture along the spectacular, moderately strenuous 2-mi (round-trip) Headland Trail, which meanders past the excavated edge of an extensive field of late-13th-century pueblo ruins, cuts along the precarious rim of a deep box canyon, and affords panoramic views across the Zuni Mountains and El Malpais. The monument's compact museum chronicles 700 years of human history in this region.