Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is one of the most unique geological formations in the United States. Located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, visitors of all ages will enjoy viewing the tent rocks and hiking one of the three available trails.
Protected and managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the grounds were established as a United States National Monument by President Bill Clinton in 2001. The name means “white cliff” in the indigenous Pueblo language (Keresan). It has been the background of many different television shows and movie, like the Sci Fi television series Earth 2. The area encompassed by Kasha-Katuwe is just over seven miles. It is still used as a ceremonial site for the local Native American tribe, and grounds are occasionally closed for celebrations and holidays.
The geology and scenery at Kasha-Katuwe are the main attraction. The site is for day use only, so no camping or viewing after sunset is allowed. There is a small fee for entrance, which is assessed per vehicle. The grounds will close for Native American celebrations on the order of the Governor of the Cochiti Tribe.
When visiting the national monument, make sure to check out the amazing natural formations. The must-see formations are what the park was named after, the naturally occurring cone shaped tent rocks. The rocks are the end result of volcanic eruptions in the area between six and seven million years ago.
These eruptions left behind deposits of tuff, ash, and pumice that were more than 1000 feet thick. Explosions related to those eruptions spewed rock fragments called pyroclasts on top of those deposits, and the heat from hot gases flowing down the slopes in a pyroclastic flow cemented them into the unique structures found there in modern times. The tent rocks vary from just a few feet in height to 90 feet at their tallest.
Another unique feature at Kasha-Katuwe are the boulder caps, perched on top of some of the nearby tapering hoodoos (weathered rock formations). These caps act to protect the softer tuff and pumice below them, as the tent rocks would disintegrate without them (this can be seen on a variety of tent rocks on-site).
There is a recreational trail that is also part of the monument. This hiking trail is for foot traffic only and is separated into three segments. All trail segments provide guests with excellent opportunities to see the best the monument has to offer in terms of birdwatching, plant life, geology, and general scenery.
- Cave Loop Trail - Just over a mile long and rated as “easy.”
- Canyon Trail - One and a half miles long through a narrow canyon with a very steep climb (about 600 feet) to a mesa top. Showcases the beauty of three different mountain ranges - Sandia, Sangre de Cristo, and Jemez - as well as the famous Rio Grande Valley.
- Veterans Memorial Trail - The easiest of the three trails at a mile long, it is also the only trail considered wheelchair accessible.
When visiting, be aware that the majority of visitors come during the summer months. This makes Kasha-Katuwe extremely busy, which can impede hiking plans. Try to come during the off-season to avoid over congestion.
There is a downloadable and printable Junior Ranger guide available on the Kasha-Katuwe website. This 27-page pamphlet helps young visitors learn all about the site with interactive activities and educational facts. The guide starts with a list of things for children to know and do prior to visiting, like sunscreen, water, and proper clothing. There is a printable oath for them to sign as well, having children promise to treat the site and the earth with respect, learn about the importance of the area, and share what they’ve learned with others. It teaches them about the original inhabitants of the area and what tools they may have used to survive, which includes a matching game.
There are also puzzles, word searches, mazes, and more. It also includes sensing activities, allowing them to use hearing, smell, touch, and sight to learn about Kasha-Katuwe while visiting and documenting their trip. The guide concludes with a printable certificate of completion to celebrate their accomplishment.
While there are no dining options available at the monument, picnic tables and shelters are available, and guests are encouraged to bring pre-cooked food items. No open fire or grills will be allowed on-site. Alcohol is also strictly prohibited. All trash must be discarded at the end of the visit to preserve the integrity and beauty of the park.
Rio Puerco Field Office, 100 Sun Avenue NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109, Phone: 505-331-6259