The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is the home of one of the most spectacular natural wonders in the west and this unique environment simply must be experienced at least once in a lifetime. The entire region surrounding Santa Fe is famous for being the home of many native heritage destinations, yet this area is equally renowned for once being one of the most volcanically active places on earth. The most famous local volcanic destination is Valles Caldera National Preserve, which is the home of a dormant super volcano that deposited towering mountains of volcanic ash in the Bandelier National Monument Area. The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks are composed of the same kind of volcanic tuff material, which is only as hard as plaster or soft concrete, so it erodes fairly easily. In places where mountains of tuff are exposed to the elements, the soft bedrock landscape is guaranteed to be carved into strange otherworldly shapes and the Tent Rocks definitely are a prime example!
Tent Rocks is located at Cochiti Pueblo and this National Monument is managed by the local Cochiti People. The local tribal regulations supersede all else and the Cochiti operate this park strictly as a day use area with a minimum of modern development, so this fragile environment remains intact. Access to this park does have limitations on busy days, because the amount of visitors is restricted to the number of available parking spaces at the trailhead. What this means is when the parking spots fill up, no more visitors are allowed to pass the entrance gate till a car exits the park. The wait for the first car in line is usually no longer than 20 minutes, but if you are a few dozen cars behind the leader, it can take a few hours to gain access. With this in mind, it is easy to see why showing up early in the morning before the gate officially opens is the best way to avoid a long wait.
There are only two hiking trails at Tent Rocks National Monument and they are interconnected, so there will be an option to take the long way back on either trail. Both trails are about a mile and a half long, so the entire foot path tour will only take a few hours. The most popular path is the Slot Canyon Trail, which weaves its way through the narrow gaps between the towering tent rock formations. The views looking up to the top of the odd looking sculpted volcanic tuff formations certainly are captivating, so be prepared for a stiff neck after doing this trek!
At the end of the Slot Canyon Trail there is an option to continue on the path uphill to the top of the volcanic tuff mountain. This section of the trail is a bit strenuous, especially since the elevation is over a mile high and the air is thin. By following this trail uphill, the full details of the ten rock formations can be seen and when high enough on the mountain, the overview will be guaranteed to be mesmerizing. The view looking down at the tops of the towering tent rocks is such a strange visual experience, that it can only be compared to scenes from a fantasyland movie. The views from the high vantage point also stretch out to the horizon and the lay of this land is remarkable to see.
The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument definitely is an experience like no other and the best part is this landscape is 100% real, which proves that anything is possible as far as Mother Nature goes! Much more can be learned about the majestic Tent Rocks and the people that have always called this place home by stopping by the Cochiti Pueblo Welcome Center, which is located on the park access road. Modern accommodations are a little bit sparse in this desolate region, but there are plenty of good camping opportunities nearby at the Tetilla Peak Recreation Area, which was mentioned in a previous article. All it takes is one look to see why Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks belongs at the top of the list and the memories of this otherworldly landscape will definitely last a lifetime!
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