Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument was near the top of our list of places we wanted to visit while in New Mexico. On a sunny Saturday morning in late March, our friends Dale and Ingi joined us as we hiked through the slot canyon.
The monument is located on the Pajarito Plateau, with elevation ranges from 5,570 to 6,760 feet above sea level. It is about an hour north of where we were staying in Rio Rancho. We arrived at the fee station around 10:30 am. The entrance fee is based on the number of adults in your car. After paying $5.00 for the four of us to enter the park, we drove an additional five miles to the parking lots at the trailhead. We were glad we got an early start. The parking lots were filling up fast. During peak times, the monument will close until parking spaces become available.
We decided to take the 1.5 miles out and back Slot Canyon Trail first. It is the more difficult of the two trails. The Trail Guide brochure we picked up in the parking lot describes it as “a trek up a narrow canyon with a steep (630-ft) climb to the mesa top for excellent views of the Sangre de Cristo, Jemez and Sandia mountains and the Rio Grande Valley.” (National Conservation Lands Trail Guide Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, Bureau of Land Management, Albuquerque District)
Before we get started on the trail, I want to give you a short definition of a slot canyon. It is a narrow canyon, formed by the wear of water rushing through rock. Slot canyons are significantly deeper than wide. Some slot canyons can measure less than 3 ft across at the top but drop more than 100 ft to the floor of the canyon. Now you know more than I did when we started our hike. The above picture was taken after we walked the half-mile portion of the trail that is shared with the Cave Loop Trail, and headed into the canyon.
We are now almost into the slot canyon passageway. If you are claustrophobic, you may not like this. Last chance to turn around!
When walking through the trail, be prepared to step to the side when encountering hikers heading in the opposite direction.
Parts of the trail require you to turn sideways to pass through.
Looking up from the bottom of the canyon. It was beautiful!
We have walked through the narrow passage and are resting while Andy takes a few more pictures.
We are now hiking up the trail, towards the top. The scalloped edges on the hoodoos are so beautiful.
We have started our ascent towards the top. The view gets better from here.
The cone-shaped tent rock formations are the result of volcanic eruptions occurring over 6 million years ago. The eruptions left pumice, ash and tuff deposits over 1,000 feet thick. The tent rock formations vary in height from a few feet to 90 feet.
Performing an amazing balancing act on many of the hoodoos are boulder caps. These caps are protecting the softer pumice and tuff below. The tents that have lost their caprocks are slowly disintegrating.
The nearly 360-degree view from the top of the mesa made the hike through the narrow passages and the steep climb worth every step.
Click a circle to see the full-sized picture. Enjoy the view from the top!
After seeing as much as we could and resting a bit, we began our descent down the trail. When we started our hike that morning, the trail wasn’t crowded. On the way down, there were many hikers on the way up and we often stepped to the side and rested while the crowd went by.
We were soon walking past the hoodoos again. They reminded us a bit of very tall hobbit houses.
Once again, we entered the slot canyon.
After completing the Slot Canyon Trail, we decided to take the Cave Loop Trail back to the parking lot. Along with the cave, this trail provides a different view of the Hoodoos.
The Shelter Cave along the Cave Loop Trail
View of the mesa from the Cave Loop Trail. In the distance, are hoodoos with boulder caps.
In this area, there are smaller formations that long ago lost their protective caps.
When we arrived at the parking lot, we saw cars were now parking in the overflow areas. This is a popular attraction in north-central New Mexico. In March, the weather was comfortable and crowds were not as large as in the late spring and summer months. If you are planning a visit, late March is a good time.
Click this link for more information: Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks