Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
Tucked away in the Rio Grande Valley just outside of Santa Fe is what the Bureau of Land Management dubbed a “remarkable outdoor laboratory.”
Tan spires with precariously perched rocks on top dot the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument and reveal a unique volcanic history of the Jemez Mountains from 6 million to 7 million years ago that visitors can explore on two trails.
The “tent rocks” formed as a result of differential erosion, which occurs when water and wind erosion preferentially eat away at the soft pumice below the harder caprocks. Eventually, when enough of the top of the cone is abraded, the caprock falls off.
Those still standing range from 2 to 90 feet high.
On the Slot Canyon Trail, hikers are taken on a moderate, 3-mile round-trip trail through a narrow canyon with the tent rocks projecting from the walls on either side.
The trail then ascends up a steep, 630-foot climb to the mesa top with views of the monument’s arrays of hoodoos as well as the meadows, waterways and mountains in every cardinal direction.
The Cave Loop Trail is 1.2 miles of easy walking by assemblages of tent rocks.
Trip Log: The Cave Loop Trail is 1.2 miles and flat. The Slot Canyon Trail is 3 miles with a steep, 630-foot climb at the end. Combine the two for a 3.2-mile tour of the monument.
Getting there: From Trinidad, drive south on Interstate 25 into New Mexico. Take exit 264, then turn right onto New Mexico 16 north. Drive 8 miles, then turn right onto New Mexico 22 north. After 2.7 miles, turn left to stay on New Mexico 22 north, then right onto Indian Service Route 92.
FYI: The monument has limited parking, and the lots can fill fast, especially in summer. Visitors will be held at the entrance station until spots open. Wait times can range from 30 to 90 minutes. For more information, go to blm.gov/visit/kktr.
Liz Forster, The Gazette