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Tent Rocks National Monument Day Hike

In May we had the chance to spend a week in Santa Fe with family. We couldn’t wait to visit the desert again! Our itinerary included an excellent day hike in Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. At 3 miles roundtrip, the hike was short, but it included some fantastic geology.

The hike began with flat or gradual uphill sections beneath tall canyon walls. We were impressed that some large pine trees were able to grow despite the difficult conditions.

Family hike in Tent Rocks National Monument

Family hike in Tent Rocks National Monument

We found a kingcup cactus flaunting its bold red flowers near the trail.

Kingcup Cactus

Kingcup Cactus

As we continued, the walls around us narrowed. Rock strata were on display with varying white and pink tints. It felt like we were walking through a piece of abstract art.

Uncle Bernie walking through the canyon

Uncle Bernie walking through the canyon

The elements had carved beautiful shapes into the rock. Shadows painted the graceful curves.

Then the slot canyon narrowed even further. We had a sense of adventure, never knowing what we would find around the next bend.

Sometimes the walls surrounded us completely except for the narrow trail ahead and a small opening directly above us. Being enveloped so fully by rock was a really cool experience.

Small strip of sky visible from the canyon floor

Small strip of sky visible from the canyon floor

Continuing onward, the rock walls opened up. We felt the sun’s full heat since the canyon walls no longer shaded us.

Tent rocks next to trail

Tent rocks next to trail

Apache plume flowers were blooming along the trail. We weren’t the only creatures appreciating them.

Ladybug on Apache Plume

Ladybug on Apache Plume

At this point the older generation in our group turned back, because the trail began to climb more steeply. After a short ascent, we found ourselves at eye level with a collection of conical rock formations. The trail was named after this sort of “tent rock” formation. The clusters of tent rocks seemed whimsical, as if a child could have made them out of clay.

Tent Rocks

Tent Rocks

After some climbing, we reached a spot where we could see not only the top of the tent rocks, but the broader landscape for many miles around. Plus, we could look down to where we’d just been. Check out the hikers in the photo below for scale.

View from top of Tent Rock Canyon Trail

View from top of Tent Rock Canyon Trail

A bit more elevation gain and we were at the top. Here’s Chris and his sister Becky enjoying the view of the New Mexican desert:

Chris and Becky enjoying an expansive view of the New Mexican desert

Chris and Becky enjoying an expansive view of the New Mexican desert

After eating a little picnic at the top, we headed back down. We got a different perspective on the trail by walking it in reverse. In addition, the sun’s angle had changed since we’d arrived, casting a different pattern of light and shadow on the rock.

Becky looking at the canyon walls

Becky looking at the canyon walls

We took a took slightly longer path on our way back to see a cave where Native Americans had lived in the past. The cave was carved from the rock wall a few feet up. We weren’t permitted inside but could view it from the ground.

Near the cave, we found a gorgeous Collared Lizard sunning itself. Its colors were fantastic against the stark desert floor.

Collared Lizard

Collared Lizard

Overall, we thought this was an excellent hike for the entire family. It provided a surprising amount of variety in a short distance. The expansive view from up top is an additional treat for those eager to climb further.

All told, we spent a full week in the Santa Fe area. We posted photos to our social media accounts from other scenic places, such as the Rio Grande Gorge (see pic below). Subscribe to see more fun and beautiful stuff like biking the Santa Fe rail trail, Great Sand Dunes National Park, a bald eagle who is starting to frequent our neighborhood, and more. Follow us at Instagram (@WanderingTheWilderness), Facebook (WanderingTheWild), and Twitter (@WanderTheWild).

Rio Grande Gorge

Rio Grande Gorge

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8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Reblogged this on Concierge Librarian.

    August 13, 2015
  2. Jane Alexander #

    Just beautiful! What amazing rock formations!

    August 13, 2015
  3. Barb Banet #

    We loved being with you for the “easier” part of the hike (and for the rest of the week). Your photos are fabulous, as always.

    August 13, 2015
  4. Great seeing another inspiring spot and photos

    August 13, 2015
  5. Love the rock formations! Great pics.

    August 14, 2015
  6. Jan #

    It’s wonderful how you capture the entire experience so well. I love the ladybug on the flower! How do you manage to see such tiny little details! It’s just super.

    August 14, 2015
  7. margaret #

    Jane and John R and I were in this area the summer before John died, but of course we did no hiking. Plus forest fires were raging, so we had to alter some of our plans.

    The photos are stupendous (but of course! ).

    Have you already posted that list, above, e.g., biking the Santa Fe rail trail? If so, I missed it!

    August 16, 2015
  8. awesome place~

    July 17, 2017

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