Hike Tent Rocks National Monument – New Mexico

We have been more focused on seeing National Monuments along with the National Parks recently. They have the same benefits as the national parks when it comes to the America the Beautiful pass. In all honesty, if we are close we should definitely experience them, because who knows what might happen to them.

It’s official name is Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. We had never heard of it until a fellow nomad suggested it to us. I didn’t think we were going to make it to the Santa Fe area or northern New Mexico. So this suggestion just got added to the list, but when we high tailed it back west from Knoxville, TN this area ended up being our first stop.

Established: January 2001 ♦ President: Bill Clinton ♦ Dogs: Not allowed ♦ Elevation: 6,000′ ♦ Size: 4,645 Acres

Getting to Tent Rocks National Monument

Tent Rocks National Monument is located north west of Albuquerque and south west of Santa Fe. Surrounded by Pueblo De Cochiti land, it is officially run by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), but the Cochiti Tribal Governor may close it at will.

From Hwy 25 turn onto NM 22 or NM 16. If you exit on NM 16 coming from Santa Fe, it turns into NM 22. Continue to follow the signs until you get to the entrance. For private vehicles it is $5/vehicle unless you have the America the Beautiful Pass (then free). After the entrance gate it is about another mile until you get to the parking lot for the hike. This park has only day use, no overnight parking, camping or hiking at night.

There is parking for larger vans and small buses, otherwise the parking lot for cars is small. We squeezed in with our Chevy 1500. There is some over flow parking on the left before you get to the main parking are on your right, but if you have a large truck I would just park in the lot for vans and buses. There are picnic tables and vault toilets in the parking area.

Hike 14/52 in our challenge!

Hiking Tent Rocks National Monument

Miles: 3.5 ♦ Elevation: 938′ ♦ Trail Type: Loop ♦ Trail Difficulty: First part easy, second part moderate/hard 

There are two trails to choose from here. It is easy enough to do both while you are there. Cave Loop Trail is rated easy and only just over a mile. Slot Canyon Trail is the popular trail and the one that we were focused on. I would definitely suggest doing the Slot Canyon Trail and then if you have time and energy to take the Cave Loop Trail back to the parking area.

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Slot Canyon Trail and Cave Loop Trail start at the same point. If you want to do Slot Canyon Trail first stay to the right.

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This trail starts out flat with a smooth gravel/sandy trail and no shade. The trail is well marked, maintained and easy to find.

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This flat trail ends when the Slot Canyon Trail splits off to the right. This is where the fun begins! Shortly after the split you are welcomed by some crazy trees with their enormous roots and a beautiful view before you hit a short slot canyon!

Slot canyons are our absolute favorite. We love the colors, the high walls and the paths that are created. It makes you feel like you are in another world. We will drive out of our way for a hike through a slot canyon. This summer we will be hitting a lot of them throughout Utah! So this was a fun reintroduction from last year and reminded us of how much we love them.

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The entrance is fun! It feels like you are walking into nothing, but you could spend an hour in this short slot looking around.

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Have some fun and cool down. If you need a break, there are a couple spots here to people watch and enjoy your surroundings. You are mostly shaded since the high walls of the canyon block the sun.

Shortly after this is where the real climb begins, but not before you hike through some tent rocks, rock formations and fallen trees.

You may feel out of breath, but you are so close to the top and the views of the tents and the surrounding area are definitely worth it. The park is around 6,000′ in elevation, so no joke if you are not used to elevation. Mix that with a hot day, the hike could feel harder or take a harder toll on you than you might think a short hike would.

Take a break, get a drink of water and start the climb to the top.

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When you initially get to the top, that’s not where it ends. If it’s not crowded, stop and check out the views of the tents while you can.

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Then head another .2 to the very end with views for miles of the area.

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I was a fan of the cute fuzzy flowers at the top.

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There are a couple places to sit and relax before you head down. There isn’t a lot of room and with steep drop offs, we decided to head back. Considering that the hike wasn’t long and it was a beautiful day we took the split to the right after the slot canyon to Cave Loop Trail.

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You will see a man made cave (do not climb into it), beautiful flowers and you can get a little closer to some of the tents! They do ask that you do not climb or play around them in hopes of continuing to preserve them. It seems obvious to not do some of the things requested, yet they still need to remind some.

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We really enjoyed this hike and exploring what you could of this national monument. We highly suggest it and if we were in the area we would probably do it again.

There are other national monuments in the Santa Fe and Albuquerque area. Petroglyphs National Monument, Bandelier National Monument and Mountain National Monument. The latter are closer to Santa Fe and Tents National Monument and Petroglyphs is in Albuquerque.

We decided to check out Petoglyphs National Monument.


Petroglyphs National Monument

Petroglyphs National Monument is 17 miles along the west side of Albuquerque. Across the street are homes, so it’s very accessible and right in town. Some might like how accessible it was, but a negative to us was that it felt more like a city park than a preserved area. It is definitely worth checking out, especially if you have never seen petroglyphs before, however, I wouldn’t drive out of your way for it.

While Tent Rocks National Monument isn’t dog friendly, Petroglyphs National Monument has a couple trails that are! Be careful in the warmer months as the sand is hot for their pads and there isn’t any water. One of those dog friendly hikes is Rinconada Canyon Trail.

Hike 15/52 in our challenge!

Hike Rinconada Canyon Trail

Miles: 2 ♦ Elevation: 0′ ♦ Trail Type: Loop ♦ Trail Difficulty: Easy ♦ Dog Friendly

The best dog friendly trail was Rinconada Canyon Trail. Coming from the south as you head to the visitor center you will see signs for the trail head. Just off of Unser Blvd. NW at the St. Joseph Ave. intersection. You do not need to go to the visitor’s center first if you just want to head out on this trail. There is a small parking lot with picnic benches and vault toilets.

You will see approximately 200-300 petroglyphs on the volcanic basalt escarpment. The majority date back to AD 1300, until the end of the 1600s. The dark rock was beautiful along the hills. When we were first walking through we did feel like some of the rocks were vandalized and so we felt it was hard to tell between the real and potentially fake at first glance. Further research validated our thoughts about the vandalism. The city and the NPS have a cooperative agreement, but the city will not allow the NPS to patrol or enforce these lands because the national monument lies on mostly city property. Due to the fact that they are not patrolled or monitored, vandalism is a problem. These are sacred lands to some and respecting and appreciating the history is what we should be doing. The fight over just patrolling land seems very silly to me.

The trail is gravel and better maintained than I had thought it would be, so good for the dogs and an easy stroll. Watch out for snakes! It is prime real estate for them. We ran across one that was right along the path. Not poisonous, but definitely made us jump!

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If you do have your dogs, even though it is a short path, do bring water and please pick up after them. It’s a very easy hike but it does get hot. Check how hot the trail feels before deciding to go in. We were there in the beginning of May and we felt like it was close to too hot. The dogs still enjoyed it with plenty of water and it took us less than an hour.


We hope that you can enjoy at least one of these national monuments. New Mexico has a lot to offer. Much more than we thought! If you are coming from the east or heading east we would highly suggest checking out Carlsbad Caverns National park and another national monument, White Sands National Monument.

Read about our time at each here:

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

White Sands National Monument

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10 thoughts on “Hike Tent Rocks National Monument – New Mexico

  1. Oh my, this is such a beautiful park. The tents look like little fairy tale castles, so incredible. Love the part of the canyon with the high walls. You captured the hike very well in your photos but you also gave enough details for others to follow in your footsteps. Very nice article.

    Like

  2. The rock formations are really lovely and colours and play of light looks so mesmerizing. The landscape is intriguing and walking among the huge rock faces must be an exhilarating adventure. hope to get there some day.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Loved the pictures so much, they gave us the wanderlust. I am so going to add this to my bucket list. So glad I found your post. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is incredible! I’ve been wanting to go hiking back out West for some time now, and this place looks so awesome! You provide great details–thanks! I’ve pinned your post for future reference!

    Liked by 1 person

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