AAA Editor Notes
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is roughly midway between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. From Albuquerque, take I-25 n. to exit 259, then SR 22 w. to Cochiti Pueblo and follow signs to the national monument. From Santa Fe, take I-25 s. to exit 264, then SR 16 w. about 8 mi. to SR 22 and follow signs. Located on north-central New Mexico's Pajarito Plateau, Tent Rocks is a remarkable wonderland of cone-shaped rock formations, the product of volcanic eruptions that occurred millions of years ago. The pumice, ash and tuff deposits left behind were subsequently shaped by wind, water and erosion.
Boulder caps perch precariously atop many of these tapering formations—which range in height from a few to more than 90 feet—protecting the softer rock below. Another fascinating geologic feature are the slot canyons, narrow, twisting passageways carved over time by wind and rushing water. Ponderosa and piñon pines grow along with desert plants like Indian paintbrush and Apache plume.
The area's austere beauty can be explored on two hikes. The 1.2-mile Cave Loop Trail is an easy trek that leads to an above-ground cave. The more strenuous Canyon Trail (3 miles round-trip) ascends a narrow canyon with a steep 630-foot elevation gain. The trail ends atop a mesa that offers breathtaking 360-degree views of the tent rocks below, the Rio Grande Valley and the Sangre de Cristo, Jémez and Sandia mountains looming in the distance.
Note: The trailhead is 5 miles from the monument entrance gate via a bumpy dirt-gravel road. Some hands-free climbing is required on the Canyon Trail; steps built into the trail in a couple of places help facilitate the ascent. Wear hiking boots or nonslip athletic shoes and a hat, and bring drinking water. Stay on the designated trail; climbing on the tent rocks is prohibited. There are parking areas and restrooms at the trailhead. Dogs and drones are not permitted.
Picnicking is permitted. Time: Allow 2 hours, 30 minutes minimum.