What Is Tent Rocks National Monument

Tent Rocks is a great opportunity to see the geological conclusion from mother nature whittling away at the landscape over time. A collection of cone-shaped rocks, called hoodoos are scattered throughout this area, which gives rise to an out of this world hike. The incredible views you will encounter are well worth it. 

Established as a national monument in 2001, the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks is a gem located on the Pajarito Plateau in the north-central part of New Mexico. Make sure to go explore this unique landscape. 

So here is your guide to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rock National Monument!


How Were They Formed

In a land before human time, about 6 to 7 million years ago, the Jemez Volcano erupted. This eruption, spewed a flow of pyroclast deposits around the area, which consisted of ash, rocks, tuff and pumice. Next, came the weather beating against the rocks and causing erosion to take place.

The final outcome resulted in the creation of hoodoos with layered deposits within its structured. On top of some of the hoodoos (cone-shaped rock formations), you will see boulder caps. These help protect the underlaying tuff and pumice from harsh erosions that would otherwise destroy it faster over time. 

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Quick Facts On Tent Rocks Monument

  • Coordinates: 35 36’52.0″N  106 21’33.2″W
  • Monument Size: 4,645 acres
  • Fees: The fee can range from $5 for groups under 8 people to $100 for groups over 25 people. For $80 you can also purchase a pass that fits your need, like the Lifetime Senior Pass, Annual Pass, or the America the Beautiful Pass. (We highly recommend buying this pass if you plan on seeing a few other national parks or monuments)
  • Dog Friendly: No dogs allowed, except service animals. 
  • Directions:
    • From Santa Fe: Head south on I-25 towards Cochiti Pueblo Exit 264. Next take NM Route (SR) 16 till you come across SR 22 and turn right. Drive along SR 22 until you see signs to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. Make sure you are following Tribal Route 92, which will connect to BLM Road 1011/FS 266. 
    • From Albuquerque: Only 52 miles north of the city is Tent Rocks. Take I-25 towards northwest and get off on exit for the Santo Domingo/Cochiti Lake Recreational Area, which is exit 259. From here follow the signs to SR 22 and continue towards fee station. 
  • Bathrooms: Located in the designated Tent Rocks Monument parking area. Trash cans are next to each bathroom and is the only ones before you start the hikes. 
Make sure to use the bathrooms located in the parking lot before your hike.

Cave Loop Trail

The Cave Loop Trail is only 1.2 miles long, with minimal elevation gain. It should take you less than 45 minutes to walk this path. As you hike along, try to identity which plants and animals are occupying the area. Want to know more about what organisms inhabit this area or other cool guides then check out the New Mexico Forest and Watershed Restoration Institute.

 Halfway up the trail, you will come across a small cave, located higher in the rocks. Wonder how people were able to access it, if its so high? Well erosion has sadly deteriorated some of the rock, so the part they would of used to climbed up, is no longer present.

The black spot you will see on the caves ceiling, was due from the use of fires. In addition, the cave being higher up meant they were protected from animals and the weather. It is a small piece of history still intact for you to view and the trail is a beautiful trek, so don’t miss it.

This is the beginning of the Cave Loops Trail once you turn left at the fork where the two hikes separate.
When coming to the cave, make sure to read the informative signs about what it was used for and how.
The black marks were made from the use of fires over time.
This is the view you will have as you walk this easier path.


Slot Canyon Trail

The Slot Canyon Trail is the real reason you stopped by Tent Rocks National Monument. If you are going to hike both, then do this one first. Hike the first 0.5 miles of the trailhead, which takes you to an area for the two hikes to begin.

Going right at the fork will take you on the 1.5 miles trek up the canyon to the end, where an overlook is present. Here you will be able to view the hoodoos, the Rio Grande Valley, and a few mountains like the Jemez or Sangre de Cristo. Hiking this trail will show you some of the lands amazing scenery, with the cone-shaped rock formations and winding slot canyons. 

Plan on a hike where you will have to climb over some rocks and up a steeper incline, towards the end. The first part you will need to hike is a mostly flat dirt path, that will lead you into narrow canyons. A few places will have small boulders you will need to climb over.

Once you exit the more narrow slot canyons, you will start the 630 feet climb up. This is the more difficult part, but can be done by most people. As we were hiking it, we noticed a few younger kids and older people who were going slow, but made it all the way up. Hiking the trail in and out should take 2 to 3 hours. 

Almost right away you will enter into the slot canyons when hiking.
As you walk along, take a look at the layered volcanic deposits that are present due to erosion.
Keep a lookout for the plants, trees, and animals that call this place home.
The Ponderosa Pine can be seen with its roots stretching to hang on, but sadly some don’t survive the harsh weather.
Tent Rock National Monument is a gem in New Mexico with gorgeous views. As you hike, you will come across hoodoos (cone-shaped rock formations of tuff).


Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit is when the weather is great and the crowds are limit. The parking lot can get filled up at the more popular times. Many decide to visit during the summer months. Bring extra water if you plan on this time since temperatures can be high and it can be very dry. Like it was mentioned prior, with good weather comes larger crowds. 

The fall and spring months are perfect for hiking since the temperatures drop, so dress with layers and bring that water. Winter can bring snow, which can be fun for some to hike in, but can make spots more slippery. So be careful, I almost slipped on an area of ice on a shaded portion of the trail.

Lastly, you are visiting a desert and with it comes weather that can produce flash floods or lighting. Always check weather conditions beforehand. If a flash flood happens, there is very few spots to seek cover. 

Other Suggestions Close By

  1. Bandelier National Monument: This national monument has a bit of everything to ofter you. With over 70 miles of hiking trails and historical sites. Try the more popular Main Loop Trail or the Alcove House Trail to some of the Ancestral Pueblo Sites. Another one to check out is the Falls Trail if you want to see a waterfall. They offer permits for overnight stays, boating, tours, and cross country skiing. 
  2. Soda Dam Historical MarkerA perfect spot to stop off of Highway 4 and see the Jemez Hot Springs. Grab a few pictures of the mineral buildup on the rocks in the spring. You can enjoy the water on the other side of the dam. 
  3. Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa: One of the best, if not consider the best hot springs in the state of New Mexico. The drive is under 2 hours, but very worth making the trip. They have 11 mineral pools to use from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. with the day pass only being $30 to $45, depending on the day of the week. 
  4. Meow Wolf: An amazing art installation in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Only 35 miles away, this is the place to go if you want to immerse yourself into a interactive art exhibit. It was created with the help of many artists and features sounds, music, tactile stimulation, visual effects and more. This all comes together to create an experience where you are coming out of a refrigerators door or finding that one book in that bookcase to open another room. Follow the clues if you can, most get sidetracked by everything present. 

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Have you visited the Tent Rocks National Monument? Did you enjoy yourself and is there anything you would recommend?  Have any other activities or places we should see, let us know in the comments section. From Phoenix? Hi neighbor! Thanks for taking a look at our site and don’t forget to subscribe for future articles and tips. 

The information on this website has come from research and by experiencing it ourselves. Opening hours, closures, prices, etc. are always subject to change. We try to keep up to date on any new information, or tips to help make your adventure more enjoyable. 

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