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.
We found a kingcup cactus flaunting its bold red flowers near the trail.
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.
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.
Continuing onward, the rock walls opened up. We felt the sun’s full heat since the canyon walls no longer shaded us.
Apache plume flowers were blooming along the trail. We weren’t the only creatures appreciating them.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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).
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