On a recent road trip to Arizona over spring break we had the pleasure of spending a night in enchanting Santa Fe, New Mexico. We had planned on hiking the Tent Rocks National Monument just 40 miles east of Santa Fe but on the day we arrived the weather wasn’t too great, it was rainy, cold, and windy. So with two little kids we didn’t think it would be a great idea to hike that day. We almost missed out on this incredible hike but we woke up early the next day and it was beautiful weather so we decided to go for it and hit up the rocks and we are soooooo glad we did! This was one of the most incredibly unique hikes I have ever done!
The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks is located on a Native American Indian Reservation and President Bill Clinton established it as a National Monument in 2001. It is known for it’s cone shaped towers of volcanic ash and pumice from over 6 million years ago that has eroded due to wind and weather, leaving behind these beautiful towering spires that look like something straight out of a Dr. Seuss book.
It is open year round with the exception of major holidays but check their website for operational hours. You will also need to have cash, at the time we went it was a $5 entry fee but they only accepted cash and it’s a long ways away from an ATM. As the weather warms up this place is a very popular spot and has limited parking so your wait time to get into the entry can be upwards of an hour, it is advised to arrive early so you don’t have to wait.
Once you arrive at the parking area there are restrooms and some picnic tables located nearby. There are two trails to choose from, the cave trail is an easy 1.2 mile hike easily accessible for wheelchairs. The second trail, and by far the more popular and more difficult, is the canyon trail at 3 miles long. We opted for the canyon trail and had our two kids along for the ride (10 month old and 4 year old).
This is such a unique hike with incredible topography. The canyon trail hike starts on a beige sandy trail that gradually gets narrower. You will pass through a mixture of forrest and desert landscapes. The canyons begin enveloping you in their majesty as you meander through the slots and disappear into the trail.
Some areas get very narrow and you literally have to put one foot in front of the other in order to fit through. Side stepping and backing up to reverse your way out is to be expected in some areas as to allow other hikers through.
It’s a really cool experience as you make your way through the slot canyons and traverse over and under boulders, seeing the striations of millions of years etched into the side walls. Once you make your way out of the narrow canyons there is a clearing where you start your incline, the scenery here is beautiful and unique.
As you continue up be careful and take your time as the ground is loose rock and sandy and it’s easy to lose traction. I saw many hikers take a dive on their descent, or having to scoot down on their bottoms. There are a few tricky spots you really have to maneuver through safely so take caution.
The top of the mountains are at about a 6,000ft elevation so it’s pretty strenuous as you make your way to the top, especially if you’re not used to hiking at those elevations.
My husband was a champ with our little boy strapped in a backpack on him and my daughter did a great job keeping her footing. Once at the top take in the sweeping views of the tent rock formations and the miles of scenery that goes on and give thanks for being able to take in such a beautiful sight! It reminded me of little knome homes, so cute and amazing at the same time.
If you go during the hot summer make sure to bring plenty of water!!!! It was perfect weather for us during spring break but you must remember that this is the desert and the temperatures can get dangerously hot!
Don’t leave home without list: Good hiking shoes, water, camera, a sense of adventure and wonderment!