Three National Parks, Two Great States, One Amazing Road Trip: Pt 1 New Mexico

We set out early on a Thursday morning in June.  I enjoyed the first day’s twelve hour drive overall, mostly in anticipation of the trip ahead and the fact that I always love a good road trip.  There are plenty of places in Texas I would like to visit and share with you, but this time I am skipping straight to our first stop, Santa Fe, NM.  If you have ever driven through West Texas, you’ll understand my omission here.  There are some interesting places to see in West Texas, but none of them are along the main roads and our goal was to make Santa Fe by early evening.

We chose Santa Fe as our first stop not only for it’s funky charm or that the city itself breathes art and history, but also for it’s close proximity to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.  I read about this hike on The Blonde Coyote. If you are planning a road trip, I highly recommend her blog.   After reading her post on Tent Rocks, we made this stop a priority on our way to Colorado.  As it turns out, this side note excursion was one of the highlights of our trip.  With it’s narrow slot canyon trail, unique rock formations and then final ascent to the mesa top for a seemingly endless view which includes the Sangre de Cristo, Jemez, and Sandia Mountains, the Rio Grande Valley, as well as a bird’s eye view of the canyon trail and tent rock formations, there is little left to be desired.

View of the mesa top from the trailhead.

 We didn’t tell the girls we would end up at the top.  There are times when you know ignorance is bliss.  In the end, they were proud of what they accomplished and impressed by the spectacular view, but I think we all agreed, the best part of the hike was through the narrow slot canyon.

Entrance to Slot Canyon Trail

That’s a doorway to enchantment if I’ve ever seen one.  Even now, I see a world ahead of mystery and adventure.  The only thing I would have changed is the amount of time we spent here.  There are a few more hikes in the area we would have liked to explore, one of which leads to a hand carved ancestral cave dwelling, but the Million Dollar Highway was calling from up ahead and reminding us we needed daylight to enjoy the famous scenic drive.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks was designated a national monument in January, 2001.  The hoodoos (or cone shaped tent rocks) and the adjacent meandering slot canyon are products of tremendous volcanic explosions that left behind layers of pumice, ash and tuff over 1,000 feet thick. Over time, wind and water have patiently sculpted the work of art existing here today.

During the 14th and 15th centuries, the area was inhabited by ancestors of The Pueblo de Cochiti who still live in the surrounding area.  Tent Rocks National Monument is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in partnership with the Pueblo de Cochiti, The University of New Mexico, and Sandoval County.

Almost there!

We made it to the top!

We took a break on the mesa top and enjoyed the view for a while.  Then we hiked back down the way we came, through the slot canyon to the trailhead for a picnic lunch.  The canyon was a cool relief from the midday sun.  Soon we were on the road to Colorado knowing we would come back to Tent Rocks someday and that next time, we’d stay a little longer.

Next stop: Ouray, Colorado!


16 thoughts on “Three National Parks, Two Great States, One Amazing Road Trip: Pt 1 New Mexico”

    1. Thank you, Kyle! And thanks for stopping by! I am really enjoying your blog right now! We haven’t been backpacking as a family yet, but we are going for a short 2 night backpacking trip in November, just to get our feet wet. I love reading posts about backpacking trips others have taken. Someday, I hope to go on a longer trip in the back country! There is so much to learn, it seems, but I’m looking forward to it!

  1. So wise to not tell the girls ahead of time how far you want to go…I have a suspicion that my husband uses the same strategy on me! Looking forward to hearing about Ouray.

  2. What an amazing trip!! Reading the blog brought back some great memories and sparked my desire to go back! You always capture the essence of our trips in your blogs. Great job!!

  3. Wow! Incredible photos, as usual! 🙂

    I was fascinated to learn that the area had once been covered with 1000 feet of volcanic ash. It looks so peaceful now. Who would have guessed the nature of its violent past?

    Thanks for sharing the beauty, the adventure, and the history. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much! It’s really incredible to think about, isn’t it? Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment! Great to hear from you! 🙂 I have to say this is one of the best hikes I’ve ever been on.

  4. Hi Linda!
    How did I miss this??!
    I’ve been watching for notices of your posts, and haven’t seen one in a while… so I thought I’d come a knockin’…and sure enough!

    That slot canyon looks like a lot of fun!
    That’s kind of how the Narrows are in Zion, except you’re wading through a river.
    I really like the pix of the hoodoos too!
    I bet the tent rocks were quite the site, live.

    What did the kids think of all that?
    I remember my nephew was pretty impressed with Yosemite.

    How hot was it?

    I have made the drive through west Texas (I-10) too many times… nothing but road kill and 80MPH speed limit signs!

    Congrats on getting everyone to the top of that canyon!

    I’m looking forward to hearing about the rest of the trip; sounds like you guys are having a great time with this camping and hiking stuff!

    1. Hey, Joe! I’m glad you stopped by! I don’t know why that happens sometimes, but it happens to me, too. I have checked your blog also when I haven’t seen a post in a while. Most of the time, I find one I didn’t know about!

      We LOVED the slot canyon! I have always wanted to go to Utah, and I felt like we stumbled upon a little dose of that here. Wow, what a treat that hike was! It was actually pretty short, but steep at the end (for us newbies!). My youngest has asthma and she had a bit of a hard time as we got closer to the top, but did ok after a rest and her inhaler. I think she hadn’t had enough time to get used to the elevation since we had only been in the area less than 24hrs, but she was so proud of herself. Everyone loved it! The view was amazing and everyone felt great having reached the top, but the best part of the hike was that slot canyon. So very cool.

      A river at the bottom of the narrows!? I’ll bet that’s beautiful!

      You know, the temps weren’t that high compared with summer in Texas. I think it reached the high 80s that day, but it felt much hotter than that! I think it’s the dry heat we aren’t accustomed to. It was very cool and pleasant in the shade, though, which made the slot a nice respite from the heat.

      Yes, nothing in West Texas along I10, that’s for sure! I think we saw a tumbleweed! lol

      Thank you so much for dropping by! I’m glad you did! We are having a great time getting out there. I think I would live outside if I could. Sometimes, I really think I could!

      I’ve been a little slow on the campout from a few weeks back. Hopefully I’ll finish that this weekend!

      1. I still have to go back and do the Narrows hike. The first part is about a mile or so on a paved path…then you cross the Virgin river to get back there…and once you are, it’s all pretty much hiking through knee to waist deep water for a few miles. The pictures I’ve seen of the Narrows are just awesome. Here’s a great pic from Joseph Rossbach showing the Narrows:
        He’s one of my favorite photographers. (you should surf his site)

        The colors are a bit different in Utah, but the slot canyon hike looks similar in setup.

        The hoodoos at Bryce are pinkish-orange, depending on the time of day and the way the sun hits them, and that was one of the most spectacular sights I have ever seen…ever. Even compared to Yosemite!

        It’s funny, usually, the first time I visit a place, it’s almost like a recon of the area. I’ll do as much as I have time for, noting the places I would like to come back and explore a little more in depth. Then I’ll try to plan another trip specifically for those noted locations and sites. There always seems to be way too much to cover in one trip!

        I checked out The Blond Coyote…and glad I did! Thanks for that tip!

        Looking forward to the rest of the story…and I think you’ve just inspired me to get my hind end in gear on that Bryce Canyon blog post. Thank you!

        Happy trailing!

      2. That sounds like an incredibly beautiful hike. I love the sound of water flowing, I can only imagine how that must sound in the Narrows. I checked out Joseph Rossbach’s site. Wow!

        I’m sure the colors in Utah are spectacular. I can’t wait to read your Bryce post, I’m sure the photos are jaw-dropping as usual! Bryce and Zion have been on my list for many years. I have so many places I want to see. It’s hard to choose where to go next!

        I feel the same way. Every new place we visit, we spend most of our time just getting a feel for the area and almost always have a return trip planned. Do you feel that way about your longer backpacking trips, too?

        I’m glad you liked The Blonde Coyote! I can’t remember how I found her blog, I think just typing in different topics. She really makes you want to drop everything and hit the road for a year, or longer!

        Looking forward to your post on Bryce!

    1. Thank you so much! We felt appreciative to have found such a unique place to visit. Visiting this slot canyon inspired me to move our visit to Utah a little further up on the list! Thank you for stopping by!

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