Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, New Mexico…it Rocks!

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Canyon Trail at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument—C.Helbig

If you find yourself between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, I highly recommend turning off I-25 for a little hike at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. With its brilliant white cliffs and unique cone-shaped tent formations we felt like we were walking into a fairytale. The name Kasha-Katuwe means “white cliffs” in the traditional language of the Pueblo de Conchiti. We’ve been lucky to visit many of the geological wonders of the US Southwest, but this small, little-known place holds its own among the big names. Tent Rock’s two short hiking trails are loaded with amazing rock formations, mesa-top views, and a beautiful slot canyon.

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Heading up the Canyon Trail at Tent Rocks—C.Helbig

Canyon Trail

Since I’m usually drawn to hikes that “go up to the top”, we set out first on the Canyon Trail. It’s a 3 mile (4.8 km) out and back trail that winds its way through a narrow slot canyon and rises about 630 ft (192 m) to a mesa top with wonderful views down to the tent formations and across to the Sangre de Cristo and Jemez mountains. It’s a well-trodden trail, although not busy on a midweek morning in September. If you’re in moderate shape, it’s not difficult and barely long to work off a burrito, which we consumed in abundance while staying in Santa Fe.

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Passing through great scenery on the Canyon Trail—C.Helbig

The scenery along the route is stunning with the added bonus that the trail travels through a slot canyon. We don’t have slot canyons in the Pacific Northwest, and being able to scramble through one these narrow, smoothly-curved beauties always fills me with child-like glee. The photo below is coming down the canyon on the return journey and gives the illusion that it’s quite  precipitous. Don’t let it scare you.

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Amazing slot canyon at Tent Rocks—C.Helbig

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The trail continues uphill beyond the slot canyon—C.Helbig

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Nearing the top of the Canyon Trail—C.Helbig

As we continued uphill beyond the slot canyon, we got a completely different perspective being among the “tents”, and eventually looking down on them. The tent rocks range in height from a few feet to 90 ft, and are the result of volcanic eruptions 6-7 million years ago.

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Up close to the tent rocks—C.Helbig

The expansive views to the surrounding high desert are magnificent, and we enjoyed a little rest on a perfect rocky perch before heading down.

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Great views from the top of Canyon Trail—C.Helbig

Cave Loop Trail

The 1.2 mile (2 km) Cave Loop Trail is great on its own if you’re looking for an easier hike with little elevation gain. It intersects the Canyon Trail about half a mile from the parking area, so it also makes a nice add on. It’s name comes from a small human-formed cave carved into the volcanic rock, but for me the highlight was the “village” of perfectly formed tent rocks and walking along the edge of the white cliffs. The dark clouds of an approaching thunderstorm made the white cliffs look particularly dramatic.

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Walking beside the white cliffs on the Cave Loop Trail—C.Helbig

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The cave along the Cave Loop Trail—C.Helbig

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Up close to the tents on the Cave Loop Trail—C.Helbig

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The “village” of tents on the Cave Loop Trail—C.Helbig

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is located about 40 miles south west of Santa Fe, off I-25 and makes an outstanding half day excursion. Although the trails are easy, they offer little shade and can get very hot. Bring water, a hat, and enjoy the remarkable geology of Tent Rocks!

Categories: Activities, Hiking, Places, United States | Tags: , , , | 29 Comments

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29 thoughts on “Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, New Mexico…it Rocks!

  1. What a great feature on a lesser known NP. Love the several different hiking trail options laid out.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gorgeous place. Love to visit one day.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. good effing lowered ! I thought I sorta was familiar with most of northern N.M. –> but had never heard of this marvelous place! maybe drop by this winter … (thanks !)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Such beautiful photos of the cliffs and rock formations against the deep blue sky and storm clouds. The tent rocks are astounding. It’s been years since I’ve visited New Mexico but you have me thinking that this area would be a terrific place to take a road trip with our grandson (who lives in Denver) when we’re in the US next. Gorgeous!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely! This was our first time in New Mexico and our decision to go to Santa Fe was made just a few days before our departure. There was little time for my usual research and it was nice to have the easy logistics of a home base in Santa Fe for a week. This little “teaser” of a trip has me very excited about a future road trip in this interesting state. I’d love to see more of the pueblos, Chaco Canyon, White Sands National Monument, and do more hiking north of Taos (just to name a few). I hope you make it there with your grandson (lucky guy)!

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  5. Slot canyons always fill me with glee too! I loved Kasha-Katuwe as well for its unique geologic formations and views. Definitely a fun hike on the canyon trail. Definitely not enough to earn a burrito though. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I would have been happy with a trail twice, three times…as long going through that scenery, but it made for a nice little hike with lots of time left in the day. I’m already looking forward to the next time I get to do a hike with a slot canyon!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. It looks pleasantly deserted unlike some of the other more famous parks in the southwest. Is that right or were there many other hikers?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It definitely wasn’t deserted, but there weren’t too many hikers when we were there (it was a Monday or Tuesday mid-morning in the 2nd week of September). I read some reviews on Trip Advisor that it gets very busy on weekends with locals.

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  7. Fantastic pictures, what a wonderland! I love the slots and the views. I hadn’t heard of this place but like a lot of the places you’ve highlighted, it’s going on the list!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What a fabulous place. Great photos Caroline!
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Absolutely fascinating…I am inking it in too as the rest of your recommendations. Those conical formations make me think that they are part of some fantastical movie set. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  10. These tent rocks are quite incredible and I love the photo of the slot canyon. Very dramatic and the pastel colors are quite beautiful.
    Peta

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Brian Foster

    You sure know how and where to find amazing natural vistas. Maybe you should consider becoming a US Park Ranger.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. this rocks are really stunning

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Mike Hohmann

    I’ve never known of Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks NP and I’ve driven that stretch of I-25 more times than I care to remember. Next trip, I’ll be sure to stop and visit! Thanks, Caroline.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Mike, It’s easy to miss as I’m pretty sure it is not marked on the highway. Our hosts at the Airb&b we stayed at in Santa Fe told us about it. Definitely make a stop there next time. I think it would look really cool in winter too…seen some photos with snow.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I am not kidding you when I say I might have to head out there soon to do these hikes! I have driven that stretch of road and cluelessly knew nothing about these rocks. We have a friend in Albuquerque who keeps asking us to visit, and I think I may have just found the final motivation to do that!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Take your friend up on the offer. We realized that there is so much to see and do in this area. We just scratched the surface with some short hikes not too far from Santa Fe. Tent Rocks is definetly worth a visit. I’d love to return to the area and get out on some longer hikes. The high desert scenery really speaks to me. Cheers!

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