Park Stop #1 - Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument - Cochiti, NM
The Tent Rocks were a little-known BLM site before their elevation to national monument status in January 2001 by President Clinton. Kasha-Katuwe is a Keresan phrase meaning ‘white cliffs’, Keres being the traditional language of the pueblo tribes of northern New Mexico. The teepee-like formations cover a small area but are amazingly unique in the Southwest – hundreds of white, pinkish or gray spires conical in shape that are found in several groups on the east side of Peralta Canyon, a short drive about 40 miles west of Santa Fe.
The BLM reports the rocks were formed by erosion of thick layers of pumice and tuff, and since the overlying sandstone strata are more resistant to erosion, residual pieces form caprocks over the ash, which, being so soft, erodes rapidly downwards, creating the tall spires. If a cap rock is dislodged, the spire quickly (in geological timescales) weathers away, though new ones gradually form further up the hillside. The tuff is a remnant of explosive volcanic eruptions of between 6 and 7 million years ago.
There are pieces of obsidian, a translucent, brown/black volcanic glass known locally as Apache Tears, which can be found scattered over the washes and cliffs of the monument and especially around the river in the main valley, though collecting samples is discouraged.
Operating Hours - General Info
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks is open 8 a.m.–5 p.m., November 1–March 31, and 7 a.m.–7 p.m., April 1–October 31.
Please respect the traditions and privacy of Pueblo de Cochiti residents – observe the posted speed limit to reduce dust and noise at the Pueblo. Note that photography, drawings, and recordings are not permitted within the Pueblo.
A $5 per vehicle day-use fee is charged. An annual day-use pass is available. If you plan to visit many parks with a year the America the Beautiful pass will provide a return on the investment. Motorized vehicles and mountain bikes are permitted only on the access road and in designated parking areas. No pets are allowed at the Monument. Camping, fires, shooting, and climbing on the tent rocks are prohibited.
Location coordinates 35°36’52.0″N 106°21’33.2″W
Map credit – Bureau of Land Management
Things To Do
Hiking, birdwatching, wildlife and plant viewing, picnicking and geologic sightseeing.
Depending on the season, you may have the opportunity to see a variety of birds: Red-tailed hawks, American kestrels, violet-green swallows, western bluebirds, owls, and an occasional golden eagle soars above the area. They often nest in the hollows and crags of the cliff faces. The area also big-game and non-game animals such as elk, mule deer, and wild turkeys frequent the higher elevations with adequate ground cover and food while coyotes, rabbits, chipmunks, and ground squirrels can be found almost everywhere.
I spotted a burrowing owl high above in a tree.
There are facilities at the trailhead. Make sure you bring your own drinking water – running water is not available onsite.
A 2-mile national recreation trail within the monument contains two segments. The Cave Loop Trail, 1.2 miles long, is rated as easy. The more difficult Slot Canyon Trail is a 1.5-mile, one-way trek into a narrow canyon starting on the floor going past the tent rocks, and up a steep, 630-foot hill to a lookout point on the mesa top for outstanding views of the Sangre de Cristo, Jemez, and the Sandia Mountains and the Rio Grande Valley. It is much more scenic than the Cave Loop Trail – the view is worth every bit of the narrow passages and climb up! Go early to avoid the crowds of tourists and give yourself a couple of hours.
Note the rangers start patrolling the trails around 6:00 PM asking people to head back to their cars and they close the entrance gate at 6:00 PM as well. There are different hours in the winter so be sure to check.
Camping & Lodging
The monument is a day-use area only. Camping, boating facilities, and RV hookups are available at the Cochiti Lake Recreation Area, located 7 miles east of the monument on SR 22.
Food & Gas
Snacks, water, soda, sandwiches, and gas can be obtained at the convenience store located near the town of Cochiti Lake, approximately 8 miles east of the monument on SR 22.
Best Time To Visit
Spring and Fall.
During rainy weather and thunderstorms, flash-floods may occur in the canyon and lightning may strike the ridges. During periods of inclement weather, the access road may wash out or become impassable. Contact BLM or the Pueblo de Cochiti, (505) 465-2244, for current road conditions.
Drives & Scenic Overlooks
There is a short drive through the monument with two scenic overlooks. The Veteran’s Memorial overlook is about 9 miles on a gravel road with views of the Jemez mountains and Dome Wilderness and vistas of Camada and Peralta canyons.
In addition to the photographs of the tent rocks from the slot canyon trail, I would plan to photograph any sunset photos in the surrounding area since the rangers close the area down an hour prior to the park closing. This sunset photo was taken on the road outside the entrance gate. Also nearby is the Cochiti Dam that may provide some interesting compositions.
My Trip Report
I can’t believe I’ve been in the Sante Fe area so many times and was not aware of this beautiful spot! The drive from town is really nice seeing the open vistas along the way. The hike is definitely worth it! Loved this stop.
Have you been to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument? Did I leave any must-dos or must-see sights off the list? Let me know in the comments below.
By The Numbers
We Are The Parks - Get Involved!
We all have the responsibility to help protect and preserve this important legacy. Here are five things you can do to minimize your impact and help protect the parks for future generations:
- Follow the Rules. A new story about bad behavior in our national parks comes out almost every day. With people regularly doing things like walking on geothermal features, getting far too close to wildlife, illegally using drones, and vandalizing priceless natural and cultural treasures, NPS resources are stretched. We can all help the NPS and protect valuable natural resources by following established rules.
- Practice Leave No Trace principles. With visitation to NPS sites at an all-time high, it is even more important for all of us to be good stewards of the places we visit. An easy way to reduce your personal impact in learning about and practicing Leave No Trace principles.
- Petition & Vote. In addition to supporting petitions and sending letters to your congresspeople. Consider the preservation, protection, and adequate funding of public lands when voting for local, state and federal officials consider. If these things are a priority for you as well, check in with your local and national conservation organizations to see how politicians in your community view the protection of public lands before you cast your votes.
- Get Involved. There are many ways to volunteer including artists-in-residence and citizen science programs.
- Support. Consider making a donation to the National Park Foundation. The NPF is the official charitable partner to the National Park System.