Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks (New Mexico) 23-May-2017

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

For our last day in the Southwest, we decided to visit Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. The Monument, which is administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), is located between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, a short distance off Interstate-5. It’s notable for the cone-shaped tent rock formations that are the products of volcanic eruptions that occurred 6 to 7 million years ago and left pumice, ash and tuff deposits over 1,000 feet thick. Also visible are numerous hoodoos of various sizes, most protected by a precariously perched boulder cap of harder, less erodable rock. A potentially apocryphal story suggests that Doctor Seuss was inspired by some of these formations.

We had been advised that this was a popular destination (which turned out to be true) but our usual early start kept us ahead of the crowds for our three-mile out-and-back hike along the Slot Canyon Trail.  This trail took us through a slot canyon and then up to the mesa above for big views in all directions.  The mouth of the slot canyon, which is 0.5 miles from the parking area, didn’t suggest a narrowing,

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

At the mouth of the slot canyon

but as soon as we turned the corner, the constricting began,

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

Early on in the slot canyon

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

Early on in the slot canyon

and just kept getting tighter and tighter.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

In the slot canyon

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

In the slot canyon

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

Gazing up from within the slot canyon

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

More of the slot canyon

But after a fairly short distance, the terrain started to open up again,

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

On our way out of the slot canyon

some of those unique cone-shaped tent rock formations began to appear,

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

One of the Monument’s signature tent rocks

and we were once again out in a wider canyon with hoodoos,

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

Hoodoos beyond the slot canyon

and starting our climb up to the viewpoint.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

Heading up to the viewpoint

It was here that we encountered the largest collection of those cone-shaped tent rock formations, which became more and more visible as we climbed. We could kind of see how these might have affected Doctor Seuss (if that story is true).

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

A set of tent rocks

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

Yet more tent rocks

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

Even more tent rocks

From the viewpoint, we had big views in all directions.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

The cloud-shrouded Sandia Mountain east of Albuquerque

All too soon however, shouting and screaming from the canyon below told us we were about to be joined by numerous others, so we headed back. The climb up to the viewpoint is somewhat steep and narrow, as is (of course) the slot canyon, so it seemed best if we could navigate them when they were relative free of lots of other people. A short hike (3 miles round-trip; 600 feet of elevation gain) but an easy way to experience a slot canyon, gaze at some wonderous rock formations, and take in some big views from up on the mesa.  A nice wrap-up for our Soutwestern hiking roadtrip!

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

The Slot Canyon and Cave Loop Trails (red lines)

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