Posted by on Jan 10, 2016 in Gallery, New Mexico, Travel | 28 comments

I must admit that our expectations for Kasha-Ketuwe Tent Rocks National Monument weren’t high. We’ve hiked in Arches, Bryce, Canyonlands, Cedar Mesa, Zion—all locations renowned for spectacular canyon hiking and rock formations. When we’re visiting Santa Fe, our focus is more on art and culture than hiking. But this time, we decided to make the 35-mile drive to the monument, figuring at the least we would get in a nice walk.

We are so glad we made the effort to pry ourselves away from Santa Fe. Kasha-Ketuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is nothing short of spectacular.

Although small in comparison to the National Parks, the monument contains a fascinating concentration of hoodoos uniquely formed as tent rocks, as well as a beautiful slot canyon. The Canyon Trail, although relatively short at 3-miles round trip, is one of the most interesting we’ve hiked anywhere.

The slot canyon is very narrow—at some points perhaps two feet across, with towering rock walls hundreds of feet high. In many places, the footing isn’t even boot-wide. It’s a fun and somewhat rigorous trail, with just enough challenge to keep it interesting. Be sure to go all the way to the peak—the panoramic views of the surrounding landscape are breathtaking.

Definitely wear good hiking shoes—as far as hiking poles, one is helpful, but two would be a hindrance because of the narrow, rocky path and the necessity of climbing, hoisting oneself, and sliding down boulders along the trail.

Kasha-Ketuwe means “white cliffs” in the traditional language of the pueblo tribes of northern New Mexico. The teepee-like formations are unique in the Southwest—a violent volcanic explosion 6 to 7 million years ago left behind layers of pumice, ash, and tuff (rock made from ash). Over the millennia, rains and winds eroded the terrain, leaving behind tent-like formations—some capped by sandstone, which protects the formations. It’s an ever-changing landscape, at least in geologic time.

If you’re not up for hiking the steep and strenuous Canyon Trail, you can see beautiful tent formations along the one-mile Cave Trail, a nice wide path with almost no elevation gain. The Cave Trail also offers a close-up view of a fascinating ancient cave that was hollowed out by humans—the black scorch marks on the ceiling tell the story of fires that kept people warm 4,000 years ago.

Kasha-Ketuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is off the beaten path, even though it lies between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Avoid weekends and holidays if you can, and you’ll likely have solitude on the trail.

Next Up: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks Nat'l Monument

Entrance To The Monument

Beginning The Canyon Trail

Things Start To Get Interesting

Heading Into The Slot Canyon

A Little Adventure

In The Depths Of The Slot Canyon

The Last Vestiges Of Fall Color

Emerging To A Great View

Yep, This Is The Trail

Tent Rocks Against The New Mexico Sky

Such Cool Formations

The End Of The Canyon Trail

Looking Down On The Tent Rocks

Panoramic View From The Top

Heading Down The Narrow Pathway

Tight Squeeze

It's The Only Way Down

Tent Rocks On The Cave Trail

An Ancient Home

A Unique Landscape

Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks Nat'l Monument
Entrance To The Monument
Beginning The Canyon Trail
Things Start To Get Interesting
Heading Into The Slot Canyon
A Little Adventure
In The Depths Of The Slot Canyon
The Last Vestiges Of Fall Color
Emerging To A Great View
Yep, This Is The Trail
Tent Rocks Against The New Mexico Sky
Such Cool Formations
The End Of The Canyon Trail
Looking Down On The Tent Rocks
Panoramic View From The Top
Heading Down The Narrow Pathway
Tight Squeeze
It's The Only Way Down
Tent Rocks On The Cave Trail
An Ancient Home
A Unique Landscape
Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks Nat'l Monument thumbnail
Entrance To The Monument thumbnail
Beginning The Canyon Trail thumbnail
Things Start To Get Interesting thumbnail
Heading Into The Slot Canyon thumbnail
A Little Adventure thumbnail
In The Depths Of The Slot Canyon thumbnail
The Last Vestiges Of Fall Color thumbnail
Emerging To A Great View thumbnail
Yep, This Is The Trail thumbnail
Tent Rocks Against The New Mexico Sky thumbnail
Such Cool Formations thumbnail
The End Of The Canyon Trail thumbnail
Looking Down On The Tent Rocks thumbnail
Panoramic View From The Top thumbnail
Heading Down The Narrow Pathway thumbnail
Tight Squeeze thumbnail
It's The Only Way Down thumbnail
Tent Rocks On The Cave Trail thumbnail
An Ancient Home thumbnail
A Unique Landscape thumbnail