Alta Vista Petroglyphs on the Riviera Nayarit

I led a group on this hike recently to the Alta Vista Petroglyphs on the Riviera Nayarit  in Mexico, and it struck me again how differently each visit to this ancient and special place effects me.  The seasons change the feeling of this sacred place:  winter’s riot of color and gurgling stream give way to early summer’s semi-arid browns and greens and drying pools.  Every hike in is different because of temperature changes and cyclical rain patterns.  Each visit is different because the ancients knew what they were doing – this is a special place!  There is a serene power at work here, as you enter the area you begin to feel its pull, the deeper in you hike the stronger it becomes, until you stand in the amphitheater surrounded by dozens and dozens of petroglyphs.  Until you stand humbly next to an ancient peoples holy site, a simple ring of stones, a primitive altar still used today by the Huichol Indians, and bow your head, and give thanks to your Maker.

Located on protected land, the Alta Vista petroglyphs are clustered along a stretch of the Las Piletas creek,  south of Chacala.  Covering an area of 80 hectares (200 acres); archeologists have discovered over 2000 petroglyphs there, making the Alta Vista Petroglyphs one of the largest known concentrations of stone carvings anywhere.  The trail meanders along Las Piletas creek leading visitors to various groups of petroglyphs, signs in Spanish and English explain various historical facts about the region, what the different Alta Vista Petroglyphs are believed to have meant, and some of the religious and cultural beliefs of the Indians that originally  carved the Alta Vista Petroglyphs.
But the glory of the Alta Vista Petroglyphs is the amphitheater.  Located in a bend of La Piletas creek, the rock creek bed descends in a series of steps, seemingly hand cared and lovingly placed to shape this one sacred venue.  An elevated finger of land juts out into the creek bed above the turn, and there under a tree, is the small altar – surrounded by dozens and dozens of different petroglyphs – most of them symbolizing requests for fertility, and an ample harvest.  You feel at one with the Tecoxquines Indians who carved these Alta Vista Petroglyphs in order to communicate with their god, as you sit quietly and communicate with yours. For more information on Alta Vista Petroglyphs tours, please contact Cat Morgan at

Discover the amazing Alta Vista Petroglyphs on your Riviera Nayarit vacation in Mexico!



The Journey to the Petroglyphs

Owen and I started our on our journey, not having a lot of directions other than knowing that the petroglyphs were in Alta Vista on the Riviera Nayarit in beautiful Mexico.  If you are heading north, the Alta Vista town sign is just past kilometer 82 on the Mexico Hwy 200. You will want to turn right there. After that you will want to make the first left, which takes you to Senior Gonzales place, where the trail head starts. He charges 20 pesos (about 2 bucks) per person.

The Town of Alta Vista

The dirt road was very well taken care of and seemed to be well traveled. We stayed on the main road and went all of the way into the small town of Alta Vista, which is literally carved out of the hillside, thinking that it was where the trail head to the petroglyphs were located, but it was not.

The town was very small, with only a couple of roads carved off of the main street. Chickens were running around, as I comically like to refer to the chickens of Mexico “free range chickens” and the roosters were hanging out together loving their free range lives as well, eating the bugs and whatever else free range chickens and roosters eat, leaving me to wonder where all of the eggs are laid, and how they find them.

Alta Vista is a huge farming community that grows mangoes, bananas, papayas and guanavano’s down below the village.  Guanavano’s are a really cool looking fruit with thick green skin with soft spikes all over it. I had not had the chance to see one yet, or taste one until that day. The flesh of a guanavano is white and fleshy and a little bit viscous, but it tastes incredibly delicious! The natives say that it has properties that cure cancer, but I have not checked that information out for myself yet.

It did not take long to discover the town, but we did not see any signs about petroglyphs. So we turned around. As we were turning around, a four wheeler was coming by, so we asked about the petroglyphs. He knew what we were talking about, and told us to follow him. And so we did. He went to find another man to help us and his name was Oscar. Oscar owns a lot of the farm land below. He spoke some English, which was good for us, (as we are still learning Spanish) so Oscar hopped into the jeep and off we went back down the road out of the town.

Finally on the Path to the Petroglyhps

Oscar directed us to turn where there was a gate leading into the orchards. We ended up going through 4 gates. All along the way there was an abundance of mango’s and papayas. It was incredibly beautiful. The dirt road was muddy in spots, and it was good that we had the 4 wheel drive jeep. We stopped and got out and walked about 10 minutes to the river, under a fence, across the river and onto the trail where the petroglyphs were located. The scenic tour indeed!

The Petroglyphs

All I can say is wow! I have seen many petroglyphs, and these are some of the most amazing petroglyphs I that have seen, as well as there were so many of them. There were spirals, which I believe were the sun, people, aboriginal dots and there were also two flat large beds that seemed to be where they had sacrificial killings for the gods.  The trail was well worn and  easy to hike, and it was fun with the river flowing down on the right. We were hiking in the middle of the jungle! We took about 130 pictures. It was truly amazing. It took about 45 minutes to walk the trail and check out the petroglyphs, ending at a large pool and a small waterfall where the native Indians held their ceremonies, and still do to this day. This picture to the left looks like rain coming down on a person to me.

Finding a Guide

It was really great to have Oscar as our guide, but you won’t need one. Here is Oscar and I reading one of the many posted informational signs, which by the way are in English and Spanish. But, if you do, just about any tour guide outfitter will be able to help you, and there are many tour guide companies to choose from that will be happy to bring you to the petroglyphs.

Or if you have a car and are looking for more adventure,  you may choose to go on up to Alta Vista after 2:00 pm and look for the first big white house on the left as you come into the town. Or, just ask around for Oscar and you can get the same scenic tour like we did…but you better have a 4 wheel drive for that excursion!

Another really great thing about visiting the petroglyphs is the fact that it doesn’t have to take up your entire day. Plan for about three to four hours for the trip. And, you will still have plenty of time to get in some snorkeling, or get a massage in the afternoon. And, its great for the entire family!

So, when you come to the Riviera Nayarit, remember to visit the petroglyphs, which are only about 15 minutes away from Chacala.


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