For anyone exploring greater Santa Fe, New Mexico, Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is a fantastic option for a half- to full-day adventure. Forty miles from downtown Santa Fe (or 50 miles from Albuquerque in the direction of Santa Fe), a national park pass will grant you free admission to monument land maintained by the Bureau of Land Management.
We arrived at the park’s main gate mid-afternoon with just enough time to hike the Slot Canyon Trail, a 1.5 mile out-and-back hike with a 570-foot elevation gain, narrow passages, and loose (sandy and rocky) footing. The ranger emphasized the importance of carrying water and noted the trail closes one hour before the park gate. Read this “know before you go” page to be best prepared for success.
Shaped by wind and rain over the past six to seven million years, the cone-shaped tent rock formations are the products of volcanic eruptions across the Pajarito Plateau. Meaning “white cliffs” in Keresan, a language spoken by the Cochiti Tribe, the area was once inhabited by descendants of the people who inhabited Bandelier National Monument (we strongly recommend visiting this national monument if you have time).
On our hike, we used the Student Trail Guide brochure (pick one up near the trailhead) as an excellent point-by-point resource along the trail. The document answers questions ranging from “Which animals and reptiles are found and where?” to “How are teepees different from hoodoos?” Portions of the journey require squeezing and bending your body through tight passage ways (with often times traffic coming from the opposite direction).
An hour later (with a few breaks to drink water and catch our breath) we reached the summit and were rewarded with sweeping views of the Sangre de Cristo, Jemez, Sandia mountains, and the Rio Grande Valley. If you are hiking with younger kids, keep a close eye on everyone at this stage of the journey.
Also, you might want a sun hat like this one. I was glad I had mine – and the chin strap came in very handy.
An alternative (flat) option for, say, toddlers or seniors or anyone pressed for time is the Cave Loop Trail, a 1.2 mile trail leading hikers to a cavate, a hollow place carved into the soft volcanic rock by sticks or sharp stones. Also, the Veterans Memorial Trail, 1 mile long loop trail located at the end of a three mile long gravel surfaced road (past the parking lot for the Slot Canyon and Cave Loop trails) is wheel chair and stroller friendly.