We changed our schedule so that we could get to Colorado earlier, which meant that we only had two days in the Albuqueque area. We both have lived in New Mexico, so we have spent plenty of time in the area and it wasn’t that big of a deal for us to cut this part of the trip short. But, there was one place that I definitely wanted to go to while we were there.
When I told our fellow RV friends Brenda and Wally (our38ftlife.com) that we were going to be in the area, Brenda said that we had to hike at Kasha-Katuwe. We never heard of it, so I immediately googled it and agreed that this was something we had to see!
The geological formations at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument are extraordinary. They aren’t like the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park or any other rock formations we have ever seen. The formations are cone shaped and occurred when there were volcanic eruptions 6-7 million years ago. The eruptions left ash, pumice and tuff deposits over 1,000 feet thick. The explosions from the Jemez volcanic area sprayed pyroclasts and created a pyroclastic flow. The most interesting part of these unusual hoodoos are the boulder caps on the top that protect the soft pumice and tuff underneath. Some of the tents have lost their caps and have started to disintegrate. The tent rock formation are fairly similar in shape to each other but vary in height up to nearly 100 feet.
This area isn’t unique to visitors. Surveyors have recorded many archaeological sites indicating human occupation for 4,000 years. During the 14th and 15th centuries, ancestral pueblos were established and their descendants, the Pueblo de Cochiti still inhabit the surrounding area. Also, there is a 1540 record from Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado where he mentioned the Pueblo de Cochiti in his diary.
The area is supposedly known for its bird watching. We don’t recall seeing any birds, but we were so interested in the rock formations that we weren’t really looking for birds. The only wildlife we saw were a few chipmunks and ground squirrels.
There are a couple hikes that you can do, but Brenda recommended that we take the hike to the top, so we did.
Both parts of the trail begin at the designated parking area for the monument. The Cave Loop Trail is really easy at about 1.25 miles long. The more difficult Canyon Trail is 1.5 miles into a narrow canyon (sort of like a slot canyon) with an elevation gain of around 650 feet, which brings you to the top of the mesa. At the top you will have amazing views of the Rio Grande Valley, as well as the Sangre de Cristo, Sandia and Jemez Mountains.
The trails are well maintained, but the guide warns that if it storms the area is prone to flash floods and lightning may strike the ridges. As a matter of fact, in early August 2019 the trail had to be closed because of a storm. When we got to the top of the mesa, the clouds started rolling in, so we started our trek back down. We were about a .5 miles from the parking lot when it started to rain. It was a bit cold, but we were back to the truck quickly so it wasn’t too bad. A good tip is to bring something light and waterproof, just in case.
The Bureau of Land Management manages the monument. There is no drinking water available so make sure to bring your own. Fortunately, there are restroom facilities. The entrance fee is only $5, but if you have a National Parks pass like us, admission is free. The hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the rangers begin closing procedures at 3:30 p.m.
When we were headed down we passed the rangers climbing to the top to start clearing people. I’m sure they were all soaked by the time they got down.
Below is a slide show of the photos from the hike.
This was a great outing and we are so glad we went. This hike is the first one added to our list of favorite hikes for our Summer 2019 trip. There will be a page on our blog where we will keep a list of our favorite hikes.
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