Saturday, June 29, 2013

Canyon Trail in Tent Rocks National Monument

If you’re spending more than a day or two anywhere in the Santa Fe or Albuquerque area, be sure to visit the somewhat unknown and out-of-the-way Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. This is truly a remarkable place - located about 40 miles southwest of Santa Fe.

The odd cone-shaped formations that give the area its name are the products of volcanic eruptions that occurred 6 to 7 million years ago which left pumice, ash and volcanic tuff deposits over 1,000 feet thick. Over time, wind and water slowly eroded the tuff, which formed the canyons and tent rocks we see today. Some of these hoodoos, or tent rocks, reach up to 90 feet in height.
The only other place in the world where you can find these unusual rock formations is in the Cappadocia region of Turkey.
The monument includes two trails that provide up-close views of the tent rocks, as well as the opportunity to pass through a narrow slot canyon. In some places the canyon walls narrow to just-beyond shoulder width. The two trails combined are known as the Tent Rocks National Recreation Trail.
Our hike combined both trails - the Cave Loop and the Slot Canyon Trail - for a total hike of 3.7 miles. The more difficult Slot Canyon Trail is a one-way trek through the winding and narrow canyon, before making a steep 630-foot climb to the top of the mesa. From the top you'll have a birds-eye view of the tent rocks below. You’ll also have excellent views of the Sangre de Cristo, Jemez and Sandia mountains, and the Rio Grande Valley.
Along either trail you may see a variety of wildlife, including coyotes, rabbits, lizards, rattlesnakes, ravens, hawks, kestrels, swallows, swifts and maybe even an eagle. Plant life along the trails include ponderosa pine, cottonwoods, shrub oak, hop trees, pinon, juniper, yucca and even manzanita.
As you might guess, “Kasha-Katuwe” means “white cliffs” in the traditional Keresan language of the Pueblo. During the 14th and 15th centuries several large ancestral pueblos were established at Tent Rocks. Their descendants, the Pueblo de Cochiti, still inhabit the surrounding area.
After returning back to our "base camp" in Santa Fe later that afternoon, we paid a visit to an excellent brewpub in town known as the Blue Corn Café. With two locations in town, I would recommend going to the downtown location. If you’re lucky enough, grab a table on the balcony. Both the beer and the New Mexican style food are outstanding.

Trail: Cave Loop / Slot Canyon Trail
RT Distance: 3.7 Miles
Elevation Gain: 650 feet
Max Elevation: 6300 feet
TH Location: Off I-25, between Albuquerque and Santa Fe
Map: Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

Santa Fe - Taos Hiking Guide: - The Santa Fe­ - Taos area contains a wide selection of easily accessible trails throughout its mountains and high desert places - where outdoor enthusiasts can explore the diverse topography and ecosystems of northern New Mexico year-round. Now for the first time in one convenient volume, veteran local guidebook author Bob D'Antonio introduces you to 52 great hikes within an hour of these two towns. From alpine peaks to sage-covered mesas, northern New Mexico offers incredible hiking opportunities - and this guide leads you to the best.

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