El Mapais National Monument, New Mexico

Milan, NM

Following our stay in Holbrook, AZ our plan was to drive directly to Santa Fe, a distance of just under 300 miles.   While that is certainly a distance we have often driven in a day, we would rather keep a one day drive to 200 miles or less.  So we were pleased when Pam found a blog post from our friends, Jodee and Bill, (On the Road Abode) from last year where they stopped near Grants, NM to visit El Malpais National Monument.  Stopping there would cut the distance to Santa Fe in half, so we found an RV park in Milan, just a few miles from Grants, and made a reservation for two nights.

The name El Malpais is from the Spanish term Malpaís, meaning badlands, due to the extremely barren and dramatic volcanic field that covers much of the park’s area.  After setting up in the RV park, we headed to the visitor center in Grants to get information on El Malpais, then headed into the monument.  Our first stop was at the trailhead for the Narrows Rim Trail, located about 21 miles south of I-40 on NM-117.

The trail goes gradually up on to a cliff that provides views of the lava flow below.  The trail is four mile in length on way, but we decided to just hike up about two miles and return.

Our goal is in the distance

The trail is marked with cairns, some small and some large

The lava flow below

Another view of the lava flow

After hiking the two miles up the Narrows Rim Trail we returned to the Jeep and drove about ten miles south to the parking area for Lava Falls.

A one mile loop trail leads you right through the lava flow created by volcanic action 3,000 years ago.  The trail is marked by large cairns as the lava is very hard and, even though many people have hiked the trail, there are no marks from foot traffic.

Driving back to the north we were able to see the Narrows Rim Trail overlook (where we hiked earlier) in front of us.

As we continued north we rounded a bend and the La Ventana Arch came into view.

A quarter mile trail leads to the base of the arch, the largest accessible arch in New Mexico (the largest arch in NM is on reservation land and not accessible to the public).

Continuing our drive back to town we were treated to a number of outstanding vistas.

Tomorrow we’ll head out to explore another nearby national monument.  More on that later . . .

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16 Responses to El Mapais National Monument, New Mexico

  1. Jim and Barb says:

    That is a cool arch! We arrived in Moab today and are researching your old posts to see what hikes we should do. We are thinking Tower Arch for tomorrow!

  2. Jeff Pierce says:

    La Ventana (the Window) is a beautiful arch. My cousin’s wife is Navajo – grand-daughter of an original code talker – fingers crossed where you might be going next … 🙂

  3. Pam, you are once again in arch and rock heaven as seen from your big smile!

  4. Sue says:

    Yay! Another arch in another state! Pam’s heaven….

  5. geogypsy2u says:

    This one’s been on my list for a while. Love that lava.

  6. Sherry says:

    Looks like a great mid trip stop with two National Monuments. I too have found them such interesting places to visit. Really beautiful views from the hike and the drive. I think it must be amazing to walk on lava.

  7. Hikers can see the coolest stuff–I wish Mike liked to hike more. I’m not capable of doing what I used to hike but I could do 5-6 miles I bet.

  8. Yes indeed, 300 miles is way too much for one day! Looks like you found another lovely spot to explore! That was one heavy duty rock cairn!

  9. joannie6535 says:

    Loving reading about your adventures. I hope to get out to NM one day to do a little birding and wandering looking for old churches and gardens. Check us out at birdingboomers.com. We haven’t hit the road in an RV yet but are doing some meandering here and there as time permits. Keep up your roaming and enjoying this beautiful country.

  10. Ingrid says:

    As many times as we’ve driven I-40, we’ve never stopped here. Quite frankly didn’t know about it. Thanks for the share. It’ll be a great stop to break up the drive to Santa Fe considering I love Santa Fe!

  11. pmbweaver says:

    I have never heard of El Malpais National Monument. What a fabulous place!
    I never saw cairns that big…ever! The designs from the lava are lovely!
    I love the rock color that the La Ventana Arch is in.

  12. Laurel says:

    I agree, 300 miles is too much for one day! We’re getting to where we don’t like to drive more than 200 at the most. We’re getting lazy. :-)) We’ve never been to El Malpais but it looks like an interesting place to stop and explore. Beautiful arch to add to your collection.

  13. Gay says:

    Awesome stop…what a magnificent arch.

  14. Debbie L says:

    Oh wow!!! We sure enjoyed that trip from your camera lens!!!! NICE and our dream to make it there one day….I’m sure it is even more magnificent in person!!!

  15. LuAnn says:

    I am learning so much about New Mexico from your posts. Now to just plan a visit.

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