Monday, October 7, 2013

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument (New Mexico)

Hike: Cave Loop and Canyon Trail
Hike Difficulty: Cave Loop (easy) with Canyon Trail (moderate)
Hike Distance (Round Trip): 3.5 miles
Time (Round Trip): 2-3 hours
Elevation: 5,750 feet to 6,375 feet (ridge top on Canyon Trail)

This place is really cool and very different than all of the hikes I have blogged about to date. It is about an hour drive from Santa Fe or Albuquerque and definitely worth the short drive. It is pretty far out there in the middle of nowhere, so make sure you pack enough water and food in case you get a flat tire (like I did on my way back!)

After checking in at the entrance of the park (normally there is a $5 fee, but I somehow didn't have to pay it), I continued driving almost 5 miles to the parking/picnic area on the right-hand side of the road. Once I parked, I saw a large information board with the trail map and other information about flora and fauna in the area. I started down the path, and at the sign below I went right. I wanted to do the Canyon Trail while no one else was on it, because I had a feeling the slot canyon and vista would be the highlights of the hike. Signs for this hike were really clear and it is impossible to get lost. 

It was still pretty early in the morning (before 9am), so the lighting in the slot canyon made photography challenging. My favorite part of the hike was watching the sun rise over the slot canyon wall. There were plants at the top that were literally glowing!

The sunrise

Towards the end of the slot canyon, there are some sections that require hands and some light scrambling up rocks to continue the hike. Nothing too challenging. I saw little children doing it on my way back down. This is also when I started climbing in elevation. This section maybe took me a half hour or so (I wasn't keeping track so this is not precise), and I made sure to keep turning around because the views were better behind me.

Cochiti Lake in the distance from the vista point at the top of Canyon Trail

The trail continues past this vista point and then I met an intersection of trails where I could either turn left or right. I turned left to head out to the very end of this rock formation. From here, I could see people walking down below through the slot canyon and had 360 views for miles around. There is not a lot of room for error out here, so I wouldn't have come out here if others were out there. I just don't trust other people that much!

The trail ends here. I had to go back the same way I came up. However, with the sun up, everything looked different so I still enjoyed it! Plus, I ran into this creepy guy....I've only seen one other tarantula in the wild and that was on Mt. Diablo in the Bay Area when I first moved there in 1996. 

I took the Cave Loop the other way (turning right to continue the loop from where I left it earlier) to complete the loop. My advise to other people heading to Tent Rocks: do the slot canyon and the vista! The cave was cool and you can see the tent rocks all around you on the Cave Loop, but I definitely think the slot canyon is the main attraction here.

By the time I was done with this hike (around 11:30am), it would have been difficult to take pictures without people in them. This is a popular day trip for people from Albuquerque and Santa Fe. I highly recommend getting there early, so you can have the place to yourself like I did.

I didn't let the fact that I got a flat tire on Hwy 16 on the way home and waited 2 hours in the middle of nowhere for a AAA person to show up and change it for me ruin this pleasant Saturday excursion. It's a spiritual place, especially when you feel like you are the only one there.

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