El Malpais NM--El Calderon

About this Location

The El Calderon Area in El Malpais National Monument offers 4.8 miles of easy to moderate difficulty hiking trails over ancient lava flows to the top of an extinct cinder cone volcano. The trail can be shortened to a 3-mile hike by following the dirt road back to the main parking area. If you are feeling adventurous, pack some caving gear and pick up a caving permit to visit Junction Cave or Xenolith Cave, two of El Malpais’s many lava tube caves to explore, both of which are accessible from the main trail. In the summer, stop by Bat Cave at dusk to see bats flying out to feed.

About El Malpais National Monument

See all hotspots at El Malpais National Monument

Nick-named “the badlands” by Spanish explorers as they detoured around forbidding and unrelenting flows of basalt, El Malpais National Monument is home to one of the most complete sequences of lava flows in the country. Preserved within this harsh yet starkly beautiful landscape are many lava tube cave systems, cinder cones, spatter cones, and other intriguing volcanic features. Exploring this surreal region can be done via scenic drives, overlooks, and short trails. For a more immersive experience in the volcanic mysteries of El Malpais, rugged backcountry and lava tube caves are yours to explore.

Great birdwatching sites along NM-117 include Sandstone Bluffs, La Ventana Natural Arch, and Narrows Picnic Areas. NM-53 on the west side of the monument offers access to the El Calderon area, Zuni-Acoma Trail, and County Road 42. Summer monsoons create vernal, or seasonal, ponds along roadsides that attract visitors such as great blue herons. Always be aware of your surroundings while bird watching.

Content from El Malpais National Monument Official Website