Day Trips: Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

A geological wonderland in the desert

Photos by Gerald E. McLeod

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument looks like a fantasyland of conically topped sentries standing guard over the desert between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico. The unusual rock formations are the remains of layers of rock and ash deposited by ancient volcanic eruptions.

On the edge of the Rio Grande Valley, centuries of erosion cut towers and narrow canyons in the soft pumice and tuff. It is a unique and colorful landscape, with the walls painted in layers and cavities left in the mountainside where harder stones were dislodged.

The tent-shaped formations are hoodoos shaped by a constant battering of wind and rain. Some have rock caps while others have been worn to a point. The columns vary from just a few feet tall to more than 90-foot towers.

Two main trails take visitors back to the most spectacular formations and the best views of the surrounding country. Although portions of the hike are ADA accessible, the 1.5-mile Slot Canyon Trail traverses a slot canyon and climbs almost 1,000 feet to a scenic overlook.

President Bill Clinton set aside the rugged, 5,402-acre national monument in 2001. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the preserve has many of the same rules of a national park.

The Pueblo de Cochiti surrounds much of the park, and the community operates a visitor center near the entrance. The tribe is descendant from the Pueblo people who once occupied the nearby Bandelier National Monument.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is about 40 miles southwest of Santa Fe off I-25. Admission is $5 per vehicle from 8am to 4pm. The best time to visit is in the morning; weekends can get very crowded.

1,462nd in a series. Follow “Day Trips & Beyond,” a travel blog, at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle