Take a Hike in New Mexico

Some places resonate with me much more than others. I’m not always sure why or what the deciding factor might be, but when I stumble upon a unique landscape that gives me goose bumps, I know I’m some place special.

Kasha Katuwe

The blogosphere is one of my favorite venues to search and find exciting travel ideas. The moment I saw a photograph of these cone-shaped tent rock formations, I knew this was a must see.

A visit was in the plans last year, but when our daughter decided to move from Denver to Phoenix, all those plans went out the window.

This year was different, and since we didn’t have any firm commitments after mid August, I knew the timing was perfect to lay eyes on this unusual landscape.

National Monuments35 miles south of Santa Fe, New Mexico, is a complex and unique geological landscape called Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. This relatively new monument was designated as such in 2001.

The sculpted cliffs and peaked hoodoos were formed from volcanic eruptions that occurred more than six million years ago.

There is a somewhat uniform layering of volcanic material causing bands of white, grey, beige, and pink colored rock.  It’s a fascinating and perplexing sight.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

Over time, wind and water sculpt these rocks creating canyons, scooping holes, and contouring hoodoos. Mother Nature’s artistic and creative hand had me awed and smiling during the entire two-plus hour hike.  I found myself hiking this fun trail several times during our two-week stay in the Santa Fe area, and trust me when I say, once is not enough.  I already look forward to returning.

Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

Without further adieu, let’s take a hike…..

As we approached the fee booth station, we were greeted by a ranger. There’s a $5.00 daily fee (as of Aug 2016) or free with your Annual National Park Pass (this is a Federal park after all).  From the fee station, we continued for five miles down a paved road that crosses private property owned by the Pueblo de Cochiti.

We are asked to respect the Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monumenttraditions and privacy of the local Indians and thus, no stopping along the way, no photography/video, and no drawing/painting.  Also, no commercial photography within the park is allowed without a permit.

Once we neared the trailhead, there were three different gravel parking lots that can accommodate just about any size vehicle (including RV’s).  There’s a couple of vault toilets, but no water….. so be sure and bring plenty of drinking water.  You’ll need it.

Awed beyond words!
Awed beyond words!

Unlike most national parks and monuments, there are no scenic overlooks near a parking lot around here.  The only way to view the tent rocks and observe this stunning landscape is by foot; hiking via a dirt, sometimes sandy trail.  And by the way, no dogs allowed.  You won’t even be allowed through the fee station with a dog in the vehicle.

Kasha-Katuwe

The 1.2 mile Cave Loop Trail is rated easy and partly handicap accessible.  There are some unique rock formations and a hand dug cave along this trail, but the real gem of the park is the Slot Canyon Trail …… definitely not to be missed.

Kasha-Katuwe Cave TrailKasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

The Slot Canyon Trail is a 3 mile out and back hike with a 630-foot elevation gain and connects with the Cave Loop Trail.

We hiked the combination of both trails making for a wonderful 4.2-mile hike. For my level of hiking ability, this trail offered me the perfect amount of challenge and visual stimulation.

Cave Loop Trail as we hike toward the Slot Canyon trail
Cave Loop Trail as we hike toward the Slot Canyon trail
the beginning of the Slot Canyon Trail
the beginning of the Slot Canyon Trail

Although from Al’s point of view, there may have been way too much visual stimulation (if there is such a thing) which resulted in an excessive amount of photo-op stops, much to his chagrin.  Perhaps that’s why my subsequent hiking visits to Kasha-Katuwe were tackled as a solo hiker 😁

The moment we connected with the Slot Canyon Trail, the cliff walls rose on both sides and I felt like I had entered a secret garden of sorts. I believe, oh my gosh, was uttered by me around every bend.   As the canyon walls continued to narrow, we were greeted with obstacles along the trail.

Slot canyon hiking

Nothing we couldn’t handle … however, those that are vertically challenged or suffer from short leg syndrome, like moi, may find themselves stretching out those leg muscles just a tad.

Easy peasy!
Easy peasy!

In some spots, the slot canyon became very narrow, so narrow that there was only room for one foot at a time.

one foot at a time!
one foot at a time!
one hiker at a time!
one hiker at a time!
How cool is this?
How cool is this?
Fits like a glove!
Fits like a glove!
Loved it!
Awesome!

Once we exited the slot canyon, we were welcomed by those teepee shaped hoodoos …. each uniquely sculpted by the elements and each equally as impressive.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

cairns

hiking

It didn’t take long and we could feel the trail climbing and instead of looking up at the amazing tent rocks, we were now looking down upon them.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

We continued up the trail and stopped frequently to look back.

New Mexico hikingKasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

As we reached the top of the trail, we had temporarily hiked away from the tent rocks. The trail continued out onto a narrow mesa which provided a bird’s eye view of Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.

trail - drop offs on both sides. Birds eye view in all directions. The lake in the background is where we camped to be near Kasha-Katuwe; Cochiti Lake
The trail drops off on both sides. Bird’s eye view in all directions. The lake in the background is where we camped to be as near as possible to Kasha-Katuwe; Cochiti Lake Campground

And of course, a few more “Oh…. my…. gosh’es were uttered as I stood on the edge gazing down.

Standing on the edge gazing in awe!
Standing on the edge gazing in awe!
Sitting on the edge as I admire the view below - hey look, there's the trail
Sitting on the edge as I admire the view below – hey look, there’s the trail
We can see hikers on the trail. Since this is a out and back hike, we'll be down there shortly!
We can see hikers on the trail. Since this is an out and back hike, we’ll be down there shortly!
Heading back down the trail.
Heading back down the trail.
Easy for someone 6'3".... entertaining watching the 5'4" short legged gal
Easy for someone 6’3″…. entertaining watching the 5’4″ short-legged gal
I steady myself
I steady myself
Not an obstacle I couldn't handle on my own!
Not an obstacle I couldn’t handle on my own!
This is where being short works in my favor ;-)
This is where being short works in my favor 😉

The return hike to the trailhead was every bit as amazing as it was entering.

We returned back to the trailhead via the Cave Loop Trail
We returned back to the trailhead via the Cave Loop Trail

The Pueblo de Cochiti people view Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks as a very special place and justifiably so.  After Al and I made this first hike, I returned three more times to tackle this perfect (in my book) hike.  Perfect – even when considering all the obstacles one might bump into.

Oh no, someone wasn't paying attention!
Oh no, someone wasn’t paying attention! At least I managed to stop the blood from running down my leg.  I did attract a little attention from fellow hikers…. You know, those “Are you ok?” looks and comments.

One morning, I hit the trail at 8:15 and encountered only one couple on the trail for that first hour.  It was awesome having this amazing place to myself and hiking in solitude.  All of my senses were alert.

Kasha-Katuwe

The visual delight of the sun peeking from behind a rock was a reminder of a new day unfolding.   I listened to the light sound of a lizard moving, and the loud squawking of birds soaring overhead.  I breathed in the crisp clean air scented of pine.  There was the random sound of tiny rocks tumbling, acting as a reminder that this land is in a constant state of change.

Kasha-Katuwe

There was the occasional touch of admiration and respect for this special and sacred place.

sitting on the edge!
sitting on the edge!

Yes indeed, some places touch my soul more than others and Kasha-Katuwe touched mine more than I ever expected.  I know I’ll return!

My church!
My church!

Kasha-Katuwe

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Columbia Watertight Cap
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