El Malpaais National Monument


November 23rd 2005


El Malpais National Monument, south of Grants New Mexico


Just me and Fozzy

Links: http://www.nps.gov/elma/ ; Link to Full Album of Images

Cinder cones off in the distance

On my way to Arizona, I stopped and spent the day hiking around El Malpais National Monument. This is

a remote area of New Mexico south of the town of Grants. Not too many people see this gem of a national

monument due to the remote location and the rugged roads. I didn't see another car all day except for some

elk hunters early in the morning.


Here are some details about El Malpais National Monument from their webpage.


El Malpais National Monument and Conservation Area was established in 1987 and is a relative newcomer

to the National Park System. This monument preserves 114,277 acres of which 109,260 acres are federal

and 5,017 acres are private. El Malpais means "the badlands" but contrary to its name this unique area

holds many surprises, many of which researchers are now unraveling. Volcanic features such as lava flows,

cinder cones, pressure ridges and complex lava tube systems dominate the landscape. Closer inspection

reveals unique ecosystems with complex relationships. Sandstone bluffs and mesas border the eastern side,

providing access to vast wilderness.


The landscape is very rugged.




The first stop was the "Big Tubes" area of the Monument. The road out to Big Tubes was really rutted

from past rains, but was pretty dry. The hike out into the lava fields is only marked by rock cairns and

is hard to follow. The jagged edges of the lava is really hard on the feet too, even with high quality hiking

boots! It took about 4 hours to hike through the Big Tubes area and see all the sights.


The trails were hard to follow until you came to signs



Collapsed lava tube


In places the tubes were not collapsed leading to long caves, sometimes miles long


Partial collapse


Cool rippling from when the lava cooled


Cool upclose look at some of the jagged rocks


The roots don't go very deep due to the volcanic rock


After the Big Tubes I headed over to Braided Cave, an old lava tube that hasn't collapsed. There are over

17 miles of lava tubes to hike throughout the National Monument. During the summers, Braided Cave is home

to a large breeding colony of Townsend's Big eared bats.



This fir tree is somehow eeking out a living out of the rock at the mouth of Braided Cave



Setup the camera for a timer shot inside Braided Cave, Me n Fozz! I had to carry her most of the way

due to the jagged rocks on the trails


One of the side tubes leading into total darkness from Braided Cave





After Braided Cave I drove out a different route and came across this cool old car. I think it's a Chevy, but I don't know



I had enough daylight left to check out the Bandera Ice Cave near El Malpais. This is a private place that charges

8 bucks to get in. Their cave is known as the "ice cave" because it stays a constant 31 degrees year round. Also

on their property is one of the larger cinder cones. As the sun was setting I hiked up to the rim of the cinder

cone to get some pictures. Pretty cool place.


Green ice in the ice cave, sort of boring...



Views from the top of the cinder cone



I was really impressed with this place and I plan to go back and explore more next summer. There were several places

I didn't get to because of my limited time. One that sounds really cool is the "West Malpais Wilderness". It is described as

a ponderosa pine parkland surrounded by lava walls and the only way into this area is on foot! I'll see it next time!


Thanks for reading...



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