Hiking at Tent Rocks National Monument

Long weekends are the perfect excuse to get outdoors and hit the trail, and over this past 4th of July holiday weekend I celebrated America’s 239th birthday with a hike at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.

Located in north-central New Mexico on the Cochiti Pueblo, Tent Rocks is about an hour north of Albuquerque (and even less west of Santa Fe) and provides a pretty spectacular setting for a half-day outing.  Its name refers to the tent-shaped formations that are the result of volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. The layers of pumice, ash and other volcanic material have been shaped by wind and water over time, carving out slender canyons and further revealing bands of gray, brown and pink-colored rock fragments.

Tent Rocks is suitable for all ages and fitness levels as you have 3 different choices of trails – the relatively flat Cave Loop Trail (1.2 miles), the steeper and dramatically scenic Slot Canyon Trail (1.5 miles one-way) and the nearby Loop Trail (1.0 miles) at the Veterans’ Memorial Scenic Overlook a short drive away.  My recommendation would be to tackle Slot Canyon first (trust me, this is why you came) and then continue on to the other trails if desired.

It took us about 45 minutes to reach the top of the Slot Canyon Trail at a moderate pace with several photo stops along the way.  In some places the landscape is almost otherworldly, easily doubling as a location for a sci-fi movie.  Other sections on the trail become very narrow and steep at times.  Tent Rocks is truly amazing and shares its unique characteristics with only a handful of other sites around the world such as Cappadocia in Turkey.

Check out some of my photos in the gallery below as well as some fun facts about the site.  Happy hiking.  :)

TENT ROCKS BY THE NUMBERS

  • Established as a national monument in 2001 by President Bill Clinton
  • Site covers an area of 7.3 square miles
  • Result of a volcanic eruption 6 to 7 million years ago
  • Formations range in height from 3 to 90 feet
  • Some deposits are more than 1,000 feet thick
  • Elevation spans 5,570 to 6,760 feet above sea level
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