We just returned from a week-long road-trip to New Mexico and one of the things we did was going hiking at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument in New Mexico. The park is about 45 minutes from Santa Fe and cost us only $5 to enter. I’d suggest going early before the school buses arrive because it can get a bit crowded on the narrow trail.
There are two trails from the main parking area – the Canyon Trail and the Cave Trail. We did both, first doing the Canyon Trail, then on the way back we split off to the Cave Trail. If you can only do one, I’d recommend the Canyon Trail. It took us about an hour and a half to complete the Canyon Trail, and add another 20 minutes or so for the Cave Trail.
The Canyon Trail is spectacular and you will find yourself walking between steep canyon walls, which quickly turns into a slot canyon. It’s reminiscent of Antelope Canyon, but I have to say that I prefer Kasha-Katuwe because the trail is so varied. Sometimes we were walking on gravel, other times sand, and other times over large boulders.
As I mentioned before, the trail can get very narrow and if there are people headed the other direction, you’ll have to wait a bit while they make their way through. We ran into a couple large groups of YMCA kids heading the other direction, but luckily we were headed down while they were headed up. Like I said, try to go early in the day!
As the name of the park implies there are rocks shaped like tents all over this part of the park. They looked really distinct and cool! It was so neat to see them from all different angles, with the trail weaving around them.
Besides the amazing rock formations, there are plenty of cool-looking gnarled trees and large boulders. We didn’t see any damage to the trail at all… it looked so natural and unspoiled.
After a while, the trail starts to get a bit more strenuous as it gains in elevation. There were a couple parts where you really had to climb a bit! But it was worth it because the views were amazing. We could watch as our viewpoint became level with the tent rocks that once were towering above us, and then soon we were looking down on them! (see the two photos above)
We eventually reached the plateau and the trail leveled off and continued on to the lookout. The view was spectacular. You could see all the way to the trail far below and I noticed that there were large groups of hikers on their way up. I’d estimate that there were only about 10 people ahead of us on the trail (we only saw about 4 cars in the lot when we arrived), but on the way back down we must have passed about 40, including two large groups of kids out on field trips. It’s understandably a popular trail!
After we finished the Canyon Trail, we picked up the short loop of the Cave Trail. The cave itself was pretty disappointing, but there is a really cool section of the trail that weaves through some small tent rocks. When we arrived back at the parking lot, there were many more cars and picnickers enjoying the park. If you are ever in the area, I’d say block off a few hours in your schedule and hike the Canyon Trail at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. It’s really awesome!