Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, NM

Santa Fe, NM

On Monday morning we left Milan, NM and drove about 130 miles to Santa Fe.  We had been out hiking and exploring a number of days in a row so Pam told John he could have the afternoon off after we arrived in Santa Fe.  He had visions of spending some time in a nearby chain coffee house completing the daily crossword puzzle.  But after setting up at the RV park, Pam looked at the weather forecast and found rain predicted for the next two days.  Cancel that afternoon of rest, we’re off to check out Tent Rocks National Monument!

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, located 40 miles southwest of Santa Fe, is a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) managed site that was established as a U.S. National Monument in 2001.  Kasha-Katuwe means “white cliffs” in the Pueblo language Keresan.  The area owes its remarkable geology to layers of volcanic rock and ash deposited from a volcanic explosion 6 to 7 million years ago.  Over time, weathering and erosion of these layers has created canyons and tent rocks. The tent rocks themselves are cones of soft pumice and tuff beneath harder caprocks, and vary in height from a few feet to 90 feet.

A sculpture marks the beginning of the trails

There are two trails in the monument, both begin from the main parking area.  The Cave Loop Trail is 1.2 miles long and is rated as easy.  A half mile up the Cave Loop Trail the more difficult Canyon Trail branches off.  It is 1.2 miles long and goes through a slot canyon before heading steeply up 630 feet to the top of a mesa where the tent rocks may be viewed from above.

White cliffs along the beginning of the trail

Heading into the Canyon Trail

Erosion from the wash

Entering the slot canyon

Heading steeply up to the mesa

As we made our way around a switchback someone asked Pam, “Are you the nimble hiker?”  Turns out the couple we were passing were Pat and Sheldon, who we met on a hike in the Chiricahua Mountains in southeast Arizona last year.  They live in Buffalo, NY but spend time traveling much of the year.  What are the chances of meeting on trails in these two fairly remote areas?

Sheldon, Pam, and Pat

After chatting with Sheldon and Pat, we continued our climb to the top of the mesa, where we enjoyed the great views of the surrounding landscape.

The hike back down from the mesa gave us different views of the colorful rock formations.

The steps seemed easier on the way down!

Back through the slot

Returning to the junction with the Cave Loop Trail, we turned right and continued around the loop, stopping at the large hole in the cliff.   Archaeologists call a small human formed cave a caveate (cave-ate).

As we approached the trailhead we turned and could see the high spot in the mesa above were we had been at the end of the Canyon Trail.

Approaching the parking area we passed through an area of tent rocks that looked like a village.

The main road into the park continues from the parking area for 3.5 miles to a scenic overlook.  We returned to the Jeep from our hike and headed that way. but it was late in the afternoon and the road was closed.

This hike through the monument was one of the prettiest we have done lately.  Don’t miss it if you are in the Albuquerque / Santa Fe area.  Bad weather is predicted for the next couple of days so we will not do much exploring.  But next up is a visit to Bandelier National Monument.  More on that later . . .

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19 Responses to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, NM

  1. Sue says:

    I’d seen the signs for the tent rocks, seen notations on maps but until Ingrid did her wonderful post I’d never even given them a second thought. I’m so glad we visited them, that slot canyon done in white was just lovely. Thanks Ingrid, for telling me about them, and thanks Pam and John for taking me there again!

  2. Gerri & Mike says:

    What an amazing hike!! Chances are pretty slim to run into friends on that trail…fun!!

  3. Jeff Pierce says:

    Altho lacking the colors of Page, AZ the sandstone is just as captivating, it looks fascinating. We plan to be in Bandelier in June – hope we can fit Tent Rocks in too.

  4. Laurel says:

    So glad you made it to Kasha-Katuwe! We really enjoyed our hike there a couple of years ago. It’s such a uniquely beautiful landscape. Have fun in Santa Fe! We love it there, as you know. 🙂

  5. Julie and Mike says:

    We love that hike thanks for the reminder with your great pictures – makes me want to return to the area soon.

  6. Jodee Gravel says:

    What a unique and beautiful place. How fun to run into people you know on the trail! Hope the rainy days gave John his promised break 🙂

  7. geogypsy2u says:

    WOW! Love the varied stratigraphy, and the slot, and the tents. Another one to add to the list. Keep it up.

  8. exploRVistas says:

    Looks like a fun hike! As Gaelyn said, gotta add it to the list!

  9. rommel says:

    Sorry for the comparison, but that’s like white version of Arizona canyons. 🙂 But since the ones in Arizona are most popular, this one’s more unique!

  10. Poor John! That is a coincidence to run into people you’ve met–out on a trail essentially in the middle of nowhere!

  11. girlonahike says:

    I hiked there a realllly long time ago, probably when I was in middle school before they put up the fancy BLM sign. My brother lived in Santa Fe for a few years and took us there. Fun place to explore! I wish I was able to explore more of NM while I lived there!

    Alicia @ http://www.GirlonaHike.com

  12. We will there for sure, thank you once again for giving us a great background story and preview of the hikes to be taken.
    Sorry John, your break comes in a few days 🙂 just get the nimble hiker her trails and you will have time to finish your crossword puzzle.

  13. pmbweaver says:

    Oh poor John. That Pam is a slave driver!

    I love Tent Rocks National Monument. How different and beautiful. I love the erosion photo of the tree. Really all the photos are fantastic. The view from the top is breathtaking! The tent rock are so unique. What a great find!

    We love slot hiking. This one looks lie a super one for sure.

    I laughed out loud when I read the question about Pam being “nimble hiker.” You are so famous, Pam. What a hoot meeting high in the sky.

  14. What a cool place! Isn’t it a trip to be recognized on the trail?!?!?!

  15. Ingrid says:

    Thanks for taking me back. It was one of my favorite hikes last summer. Although timing had a lot to do in my case after a very hectic August which included a flight back to Chicago. Camping at Cochita Lake CG, hiking Kasha-Katuwe a few times, and visits to the Santa Fe Farmers market (Sat and Tue morn – Tue is super small) was the perfect way to chill and unwind. Our hiking at Bandelier was cut short due to storms. I look forward to your post so I can follow in your footsteps.

  16. Gay says:

    Like Sue, I first read about Tent Rocks from Ingrid’s post and have wanted to visit there ever since. I remember her saying it was “her church” . Thanks for taking me on another visit…its beautiful!

  17. Jacky Bowen says:

    This is a very interesting and beautiful place. Thank you for all the information and great pictures!

  18. Debbie L says:

    This has to be one of the most beautiful hikes! The pics were amazing but I’m sure in person even more so!
    My husband can relate to John….poor guys! But we have to go when the weather is good! Did it ever rain? We do take the day off in bad weather, but amazingly, we never seem to get that bad weather! We’re always on the go! Thus Bill’s desire to have a nice, quiet time with his sudoku book!

  19. LuAnn says:

    I definitely have to move this one up our list. Love the topography from your photos. And having Santa Fe nearby is an added bonus. I did girlfriend trips to Santa Fe several years ago which never included hiking.

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