Explore the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
At the foothills of Jemez Mountains lie a myriad of remarkably shaped, scenic rock formations. The Tent Rocks are so named because their conical structures resemble tents, while Kasha-Katuwe means ‘the white cliffs’ in Keresan, the traditional language of Cochiti Pueblo. This enchanting landscape is easy to find and afford. It’s 40 miles south of Santa Fe, 55 miles north of Albuquerque, and it only costs $5 per private vehicle.
Tip: Follow the many signs that will lead you along the right path, and avoid relying on GPS because there are tribal lands that you won’t be able to travel through. Though you can enter the monument between 8 am and 4 pm, you want to get there before 9 am in the summer or you’ll have trouble finding a parking place.
How Did the Tent Rocks Form?
Each of the Tent Rocks are very similar in shape, but they vary greatly in height. Some are no more than a few feet, and others are as high as 90 feet tall. The area owes its extraordinary geology to a series of volcanic eruptions, over six million years ago, in the Jemez volcanic field. These eruptions left layers of volcanic rock and ash that were eroded over time to form the unique structures that we see today.
The Kasha-Katuwe Hiking Experience
Hiking through the Tent Rocks National Monument is a riveting experience. You can take the Canyon Trail, the Cave Loop Trail, or the Veterans Memorial Trail. All trails offer captivating views of the tent rocks and mountainous landscape with plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities.
Canyon Trail: The Canyon Trail is about 1.5 miles, one way, and is the most challenging of the three. Yet, it naturally offers the most magnificent view to make the effort well worth it. On this route, you will wander through the slot canyons and marvel at the contrast of light and shadow. You’ll enter a narrow canyon and climb to the top of a steep mesa to see the spectacular landscape of mountain ranges before you. You’ll also come across the extraordinary open root system of the ponderosa pine.
Cave Loop Trail: The Cave Loop Trail is easier and also well worth exploring. It will especially appeal to those who appreciate the history of Kasha-Katuwe. This 1.2-mile path takes you to a cave that was inhabited by ancestral Native Americans. High off the ground, it once kept its inhabitants dry during stormy weather, and you can see the ancient smoke stains on the ceiling.
Veterans Memorial Trail: The Veterans Memorial Trail is another looping path that is only one mile long and is wheel chair accessible. This also offers a breathtaking view of the Jemez Mountains and Peralta Canyon. Whichever trail you take, come prepared for a hike and a memorable day. It’s an experience that you’ll treasure for a lifetime.