III: Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks


Anyone who saw the last blog post from White Sands National Monument is aware that I was carless for the better half of March. So when I had some visitors in town, I seized the opportunity to drag them on a hike I had been wanting to do for quite some time: Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. It certainly wasn’t the greatest day to go hiking, as evidenced by the photos below, but we made it, through altitude sickness, sand in our eyes, common colds and no jackets.

The monument is in between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, about an hour off of I-25. There is a $5 entrance fee to enter the park, which seems reasonable because there are only three miles of trail to hike on and it is well maintained. Despite the fact that the weather wasn’t great when we visited, the park was very busy. Luckily, there is ample parking, a couple of hole-in-the-ground restrooms, and several picnic tables.

The sun peeked out right before we started our hike, and I decided to test my luck and not wear my jacket (because I didn’t want to tie it around my waist and look like I walked out of the 90’s if it got too warm). Well, that moment at the car was about the warmest part of the hike. From there on out, the temperature went from 60°F to 39°F by the time we got back into the car. Even if it had been warmer, one trail climbs up to an overlook and you’re completely exposed to wind. Short sleeves and no layers? BAD IDEA.

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There are two main trails in the park, the Cave Loop Trail (1.2 miles roundtrip) and the Slot Canyon Trail (1 mile one-way). The Slot Canyon Trail actually extends off the halfway point of the Cave Loop Trail, so it is easy enough to do both of them in one visit for a nice 3.2-mile hike. Be prepared for a moderate climb on the Slot Canyon Trail, especially if you don’t deal well with altitude. At the ranger booth when you enter the park, you are given a neat brochure that guides you through the stopping points along the trails, and provides information about the land formations and vegetation that you’re seeing.

While my initial attraction to this hike was the cheap and easy access to a slot canyon, the tent rocks themselves, formed from volcanic erosion and the occasional eruption 6-7 million years ago, were also amazing.

WARNING: It is incredibly dangerous to enter a slot canyon when there is any chance of rain, because flash floods are sudden and deadly. Although it was cloudy when we visited, we ensured that there were no predictions for rain.

Dogs are not allowed at the monument, yet we still saw several dogs (possibly from a nearby tribe) exploring the trail with everyone else. They obviously knew where to get snacks.

Funny story about the photo above: dogs are not allowed at this monument. On our hike up the Slot Canyon Trail, we saw two dogs, unleashed, walking down with a Boy Scout Troop. Apparently my mom and I both thought, but didn’t voice, “well that’s weird for a Boy Scout Troop to be breaking the rules so blatantly.” Later when we finished the hike, we saw the dogs with a different family, trying to figure out who they belonged to. Turns out, it was not the Boy Scout Troop. The dogs were obviously well-fed and tagged, so they likely belong to a reservation nearby and just knew how to get tasty snacks!

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1. Dress in layers, unlike me.

2. Bring sunglasses, because I also spent a half hour of the hike trying to get sand out of my eye (not enjoyable). Also note that sunglasses do not guarantee you won’t get sand in your eyes.

3. Bring water, obviously, and

4. Go early! The park was a madhouse while we were hiking and made for a less-enjoyable experience.

5. Don’t get sick. (This advice applies elsewhere too.)


Overall impressions? Awesome park. Too crowded for my liking, but it seems like a place that’s always crowded unless you arrive at 8am. And even if I knew about the crowds ahead of time, I would still pay the $5 entrance fee. Anyone in the area looking for a short hike should definitely consider a visit!

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