Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is known for its odd cone-shaped formations, remnants of volcanic eruptions that occurred six to seven million years ago. It’s a fascinating place to spend a day hiking through the canyons and hoodoos.
On the road to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks
It’s a little more than a hour’s drive from my friend’s home in Albuquerque to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.
Soon we arrive in a wonderfully isolated place, a vast and empty-looking landscape with a few really weird rock formations.
What could be better?!
The drive to the Veterans Memorial Overlook
Since Susan has never done so before, we decide to start our visit with the four-mile drive to the Veterans Memorial Overlook.
Susan had asked the young man at the gate about the road to the overlook and we were told that, while we would need to judge for ourselves, he just took his own sedan out there a few days ago without any difficulty.
We get about 200 yards down the road before being confronted with a rapidly flowing stream.
Susan wonders if we can drive through it.
I get out and take a closer look.
The answer is no.
Our scenic drive has come to an end and it is time to head to the hiking trail.
On the Canyon Trail
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks is the result of volcanic eruptions that occurred six to seven million years ago. The cone-shaped rock formations are remnants of 1,000 foot deep pumice, ash and tuff deposits. Erosion continues to wear away softer material and wind and water expose bands of volcanic material and harder rock along the cliff faces, carve canyons and arroyos, and shape peaked “tents” below the hard caprock.
It’s a weird and wonderful landscape.
There are two trails through this part of the national monument. The Cave Loop Trail is 1.2 miles long and rated as easy. The Canyon Trail described as “more difficult,” is a 1.5-mile, one-way trail that goes through a slot canyon and includes a steep climb to the mesa top for excellent views of the surrounding mountains.
I’m skeptical, but Susan assures me that we want to do the canyon trail because it is the most interesting.
From the trail we can see a few people high up at the top of one of the mesas. She explains that the trail goes there, but we will turn around before we climb that high.
(There really are people up there.)
While the canyon trail only goes 1.5 miles from the parking lot to the top of the mesa 630 feet above us, the landscape changes dramatically over that short distance. It begins by dropping into a traditional canyon with a few junipers and pines, then through a series of narrow slots that end in a swirl of rock where the landscape opens out along the slope of the mesa before the trail winds up to the bluff top.
Susan thinks this is a good place to turn around, but I suspect we are near the top, so I slip through another slot to see how close we are.
We definitely need to keep going. (We’re almost at the top!)
It’s such an oddly beautiful place . . .
The trail loops along the top of the mesa, providing views of the mountains in all directions.
It is definitely worth the hike!
Susan says we must go all the way to the tree at the farthest point on the mesa.
The view is awesome. . . I can’t see it, but somewhere down there is the parking lot where we started.
After a short break up on top of the mesa, it is time to head back, reversing our trip back down to the hoodoos, through the slot canyon, and back to the car.
It takes much less time than I expect and, back at the parking lot, we meet a local resident offering cool, sweet water from the spring by his home.
The perfect end to a wonderful adventure.