Tent Rocks National Monument

After last week’s boring volcanoes, it was time to find an adventure among some spectacular scenery. The hoodoos at Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument provided awesome eye candy.  I had been there years earlier, and this visit was even better than I remembered.

The Monument is surrounded by private land, which is traversed by the access road. On the drive one can see signs of currently active ranches, as well as older, non-active ones.

Federal “stimulus” money had paid for repaving of the road into the monument.  This led to an increase in the number of visitors.  The parking lot at the trailhead was full, leading to a 20 minute delay before we were allowed to enter the park.  Entrance fee is $5 per vehicle.

While waiting for the gate to open, I talked with the couple driving this truck camper. They had traveled all the way from New York.

There are two well-groomed trails.  A man-made cave is the attraction on the Cave Loop, while the Canyon Trail goes through a gorgeous 1000-yard slot canyon on its way to the summit.

At the entrance to the trails is a sculpture of the tent rocks. Perhaps the real ones are not artistic enough.

There’s not much I can say about this adventure that can’t be better expressed by a photograph, so I’ll post a representative sample of photos taken along the way, without much commentary.  Click on any photo to see a larger version.

Kasha Katuwe means White Cliffs in the Keresan language of Cochiti Pueblo. The Tent Rocks are erosional features carved by water from soft volcanic deposits. The volcanic ash gives the rock its white color.


Each "tent rock" is capped by a boulder that protects the softer volcanic ash below from eroding. Should a tent rock lose its boulder, it will erode down to nothing.

The Canyon Trail takes one through a long slot canyon and then up to the top of the formation.

This shorter tent rock shows the boulder that protects the lower part from eroding.

The slot canyon is so narrow that a camera cannot capture the feeling one gets looking at the towering cliffs. I took several photos and stitched them into a panorama to give a simulated "fish eye lens" view of the canyon wall.


Looking up an eroded chimney in the wall of the slot canyon.

On the other side of the slot canyon, the trail takes a steep upward path.

The top of the formation is a good place for meditation.

The hoodoos look just as amazing from above as from below.

The return requires one to duck under this boulder to re-enter the slot canyon.

Though we did not see any snakes, the management saw fit to warn us of their presence on the Cave Loop Trail.

The cave was dug out by Native Americans from the soft volcanic tuff, probably using sticks.


Adventure Maps


Tent Rocks National Monument

EveryTrail – Find the best Hiking in New Mexico

You can see the gradual ascent through the slot canyon, then a steeper climb to the summit. The Cave Loop Trail is the little rise on the way back.

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