May 2017 – While casting about for beautiful places to visit in New Mexico, I came across some images from Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument near Santa Fe. Unusual looking, perfectly conical rock peaks stood side by side against the sky. We just had to go check it out!
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is a small park between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was a 230 mile drive to take our RV there from Aztec Ruins National Monument.
This is an extremely popular National Monument with loads of visitors coming out on weekends from nearby Santa Fe to hike the fun trail that goes through a slot canyon and emerges on a plateau with a great view. So, we were told that arriving at the tiny parking area before 9:00 am during the peak seasons of spring and fall is a really good idea or they won’t let you in!
The hike is an out-and-back trail that starts easily enough by wandering in and around the bases of many unusual and towering rock peaks. But it is the slot canyon that is the most fun!
Slot canyons can look a little claustrophobia inducing in photos where hikers are slithering between towering rock walls.
But they are loads of fun, and you don’t feel particularly confined because the walls often spread apart as they rise up on either side, or they open up completely, and there’s a clear view of the sky up above.
Sharing a narrow slot canyon with crowds of weekend hikers can be a crazy experience. Lots of families were out on the trail with us that beautiful May morning, even though we had started early. It was Mother’s Day weekend, and it seemed that everyone had decided to take Mom out for a hike to celebrate!
In some places the slot canyon got really skinny and it was one-foot-in-front-of-the-other type of hiking. But in other places it widened a little and we made our way between large rocks that were strewn in the trail.
The undulating walls of the slot canyon made beautiful shapes.
Once we got through the slot, the hike started to head dramatically uphill. Family after family came down past us, and all of them said the view up top was well worth the climb.
As we ascended the trail, the “tent rocks” filled the view alongside us.
The trail was a bit of a scramble here and there, and as we got higher the tent rocks got a little lower.
Finally we were near the top of the trail looking down at the unique conically shaped tent rocks.
I don’t recall seeing a collection of stone cones like this before. What cool rock formations these are!
The trail goes out on a long “peninsula” that offers a view back towards the tents.
It was a perfect place to grab a quick selfie.
Spring was busy springing all around us. We saw Indian paintbrush flowers at our feet and lots of cacti had big vibrant flowers on display.
Some folks came prepared to enjoy the view for a while. Tucked behind one tree we saw a fellow uncorking a bottle of wine, and moments later his wife — the Mom and guest of honor — was sipping a glass of wine in the shade, enjoying the spectacular surroundings!
Heading back down the way we came, the tent rocks slowly began to rise up around us.
Mark got a kick out of playing Atlas under a huge tree that had fallen across the trail, pretending to hold it up for folks that passed by.
And then we were back in the very cool slot.
By now it was midday and the trail was getting very crowded. Logjams formed in the trail as people took turns traversing the skinniest parts. It made me think of the traffic jams that were going on up on Mt. Everest at about the same time as hikers from around the world converged on the mountain in valiant efforts to make it to the summit.
But if we hung back and waited for the crowds to pass, we were still able to find quiet times where we had certain curves in this beautiful slot canyon all to ourselves.
Near the end of the trail we passed the most fabulous ponderosa pine that was perched high above its very cool exposed roots.
The next day we returned to do the other hike that forks off the Tent Rocks trail and goes to a cave. This was a short and easy hike, although the cave was surprisingly small and not nearly as exciting as the tent rocks and slot canyon!
The tent rocks, however, were very cool and well worth seeing. Just be sure to get there early because the tiny parking lot fills up fast. Also, only the shortest truck campers, Class C’s and vans fit in the lot.
Nearby Cochiti Campground is a nice place to stay.
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More info about Tent Rocks National Monument:
- Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument – Official Website
- RV Parks near Tent Rocks National Monument – RV Park Reviews
- Location of Tent Rocks National Monument – Interactive Google Maps
Other slot canyons we’ve hiked:
Other Stories from our RV Travels in New Mexico
- Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, New Mexico – A Dog’s Eye View!
- Valles Caldera National Preserve & a Spring Blizzard in New Mexico!
- Bandelier National Monument – Fun Pueblo Cliff Dwellings in New Mexico!
- Aztec Ruins National Monument – Whispers from the Ancients in New Mexico!
- Eggs & Aliens in Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness (Bisti Badlands)
- City of Rocks State Park, NM – RV Camping in the Hoodoos!
- It IS Rocket Science at White Sands Missile Park in NM
- Tatum, New Mexico – Metal Art Magic
- Roswell, New Mexico – Aliens, UFO’s, Spaceships and more!
- White Sands National Monument – New Mexico’s Desert Dunes!
- Bisti Badlands NM – Mysterious rocks and an alien egg factory!
- New Mexico – Just Started and In a Hurry!
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Thank you so much for your beautiful pictures and well written posts. I’m sure you know how fortunate you are to live the life you do and be able to share your experiences. I enjoy every posting. Thank you.
Thank YOU for reading, Susan. We pinch ourselves everyday with wonder and joy that we have been given this priceless opportunity in our lives. We never know what each day will bring. This morning, camped deep in the National Forest, we were woken up by cows mooing all around us. I opened the door to find a huge cow face staring at me, just steps away. We chatted for a while and then I ran to get my camera, but when I got back she’d wandered off. Precious moments like that are fleeting yet indelible. From breathtaking vistas to mooing visitors at daybreak, this life is rich beyond measure, and it means even more to live in an age where we can easily share our experiences with the world.
Hopefully I get there someday too!! I just joined Escapees yesterday through your website…. There’s just too many places I want to go that a 2 week vacation every year just isn’t going to work….. Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂
Thank you for remembering us when you joined Escapees, Deborah. It’s a great club and a super magazine! We’ve found there are too many places to visit even when there are no limits on our time. We can’t even imagine being limited to just 2 weeks of vacation any more (even though in my past life there were plenty of vacations where I stayed home and worked on the house!!). Enjoy your travels and thanks for reading!
What a great finale…that vibrant sunset 🙂 Will google those tent shapes to learn what natural (or un-natural) phenomena created them. Guessing the colorful flowers are Mark’s pics….
That sunset was unbelievable. We weren’t sure at first if it would develop, and then it just exploded!! The tent rocks formed (and keep forming) primarily from water erosion and a little from wind erosion too. The beautiful flower pics are Mark’s except for the yellow cactus flower which was mine! 🙂
Beautiful…again! What was the temperature when you hiked in Tent Rocks? It always looks so warm wher you go!
It was in the 70’s when we hiked Tent Rocks. But it’s funny you mention how it always looks warm where we go, because my next travel post will be about the unexpected blizzard that his us just days after that! Then, last week, as the southwest baked in off the charts heat, we ran our blue flame heater to stay warm and piled on the arm and leg warmers and jackets to ride our bikes in South Dakota!
What a cool place to see! Are there spots nearby you could park a Class A and drive in with a Jeep?
Yes! There’s a link for nearby RV parks and campgrounds in the references section just above these comments.
My family hiked here a few years ago in the springtime. It was a beautiful hike. We remember the scenery well, but we also remember it for another reason. It was really windy that day and the gusts blowing through the slot canyon were full of sand. We all felt like our faces were being sandblasted as we walked forward into the wind!
Ouch! I can imagine it was very uncomfortable going through that slot with sand blowing on you, Heather. It’s a neat slot, though, and might be worth another try on a day without wind!!