Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is a land of spectacular and bizarre rock shapes in the southwestern foothills of New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains, near Cochiti Pueblo. Furthermore, it is a National Monument since 2001, managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks Hike is a fantastic adventure. It allows you to see the unique geologic formation known as Tent Rocks.This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks Hike – Introduction
The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks Hike is a great idea for a day trip from Albuquerque or Santa Fe. It is one of the best hikes in New Mexico. It’s only about a 3-mile one-way moderate loop trail through a slot canyon with hoodoos and striated rock formations that seem like cones or teepees. Kasha-Katuwe means “white cliffs.” Furthermore, it is a religious site of the Cochiti Pueblo. So, in this article, we give you all details to help prepare for this fantastic experience, which is Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks Hike.
Trip Tip: Before going to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, check the official park website to see if it’s open. Due to COVID-19 Pandemic, it was closed to the public. The last update from May 26, 2023, said: Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument remains closed to the public. Access along NM22 is currently limited to tribal members only to reduce COVID-19 exposure to the gateway community of Pueblo de Cochiti.
Alternatively, we recommend hiking in the Bandelier National Monument, hiking Bisti Badlands/De-Na-Zi Wilderness, or exploring Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness Study Area (like Valley of Dreams or King of Wings hoodoo). Those are amazing places in New Mexico.
What is Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument?
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is located on the Pajarito Plateau in north-central New Mexico, between 5570 and 6760 feet above sea level. The cone-shaped tent rock formations are the products of volcanic eruptions that occurred 6 to 7 million years ago and left pumice, ash, and tuff deposits over 1,000 feet thick. Tremendous explosions from the Jemez volcanic field spewed rock fragments while searing hot gases blasted down slopes in an incandescent avalanche called a pyroclastic flow. Furthermore, the Tent Rocks vary in height from a few feet to 90 feet. As a result of the uniform layering of volcanic material, bands of grey are interspersed with beige and pink-colored rock along the cliff face. Over the years, wind and water cut into these deposits, creating distinctive pointy hoodoos and the sinuous slot canyon. Finally, it was contouring inward ravines into smooth semicircles.
TRAVEL TIP: Before going, check the official website if Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is open. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was closed for many months.
President Bill Clinton established the place as a U.S. National Monument in January 2001. It is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The Kasha-Katuwe provides hiking, birdwatching, geologic observation, and plant identification opportunities. Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is a popular hiking destination from Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Hiking trails are for foot travel only. If you do a Tent Rocks hike, you also go through a slot canyon and onto the mesa, leading to great views of the Sangre de Cristo and Jemez Mountains. So, if you are looking for the best hikes in New Mexico, take the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks hike or Bandelier National Monument hikes.
Where is Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument?
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is located around 40 miles southwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico, near Cochiti Pueblo. Albuquerque is about 54 miles north. So, it is perfect for a day trip from Santa Fe or Albuquerque.
Directions To Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks
Directions from Santa Fe
From Santa Fe, you should head south on I-25. Take the Cochiti Pueblo Exit 264 off I-25 onto NM 16. Then turn right off NM 16 onto NM 22, and follow the signs to Cochiti Pueblo and the National Monument. It’s about 50 minutes of driving. Check accommodation in Santa Fe on the map below to get the best deals.
Directions from Albuquerque
From Albuquerque, you must head north on I-25. Take the exit for Santo Domingo/Cochiti Lake Recreation Area (Exit 259) off I-25 onto NM 22. Then follow the signs on NM 22 to Cochiti Pueblo and Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. It’s about one hour drive from Albuquerque. Check accommodation in Albuquerque below to get the best deals.
Our favorite maps and books about New Mexico:
|Map: Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks
|Moon New Mexico Travel Guide
|Explorer's Guide New Mexico
|Scenic Driving New Mexico Most Spectacular Back Roads
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument – Hours of Operation
Before you go to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks Hike, you must know that it has short opening hours. So, plan your time properly. Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is open from 8 am to 4 pm. Closing procedures begin at 3:30 pm, so visitors must be out of the fee booth gated area by closing time. It is a day-use-only area. The park has no campground, and primitive camping is not allowed. The Monument is closed to dogs. Check the official website for any updates.
Furthermore, The place is closed several days a year to allow Pueblo de Cochiti cultural observances. Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is closed on:
- New Year’s Day
- January 6
- Friday before Easter
- Easter Sunday
- Monday after Easter
- May 3
- July 13-14
- July 25
- November 1
- Thanksgiving Day
- Christmas Day
Are you interested in Pueblos & the Native American community in New Mexico? Check out our post about the famous Taos Pueblo.
Entrance Fee to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
Private Vehicles – $5
Groups: up to 25 individuals – $25
Groups: 25-100 individuals – $100
It can get crowded on the weekend, so getting a parking spot is worth being earlier. Be patient with the gate guards. They won’t let you in until a space is available for you to park. There are restrooms and picnic tables in the parking area.
Our favorite hiking guides:
|Hiking New Mexico Greatest Hiking
|Hiking New Mexico
|50 Hikes in Northern New Mexico
|60 Hikes Within 60 Miles New Mexico
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks Hike
The Kasha-Katuwe National Monument includes two short trails.
- The Cave Loop Trail is 1.2 miles long and it’s easy. The second and one of the best hikes in New Mexico is Slot Canyon Trail. It is called Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks Hike.
- There is only one trailhead to Slot Canyon Trail and Cave Loop Trail. So, go straight to the Slot Canyon. And in the end, on your return, add Cave Loop Trail, if you will have time. If you put them together in this way, it’s only 3.1 miles one way.
Slot Canyon Trail is around a 2.8-mile, one-way trek into a narrow canyon with a steep (630-feet) climb to the mesa top. Furthermore, it offers excellent views of the Sangre de Cristo, Jemez, Sandia mountains, and the Rio Grande Valley. However, during heavy rain, there is a risk of flooding in the canyon. So, check the weather before you go. Do not hike if there is any danger of flash floods in the slot canyon, especially in monsoon season (mid-June to mid-September).
How Long Does It Take To Hike Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks?
Depending on your physical condition and how often you stop to take photos or enjoy the view, the primary hike, which goes to the top, can be done in 60 to 90 minutes.
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks Hike Description
The first half of the trail is winds through a shady slot canyon. The slot has beautiful examples of rock strata, hoodoos, the effects of wind and water. It is so narrow you can touch the walls on either side. Moreover, you might have to walk sideways. You can feel the cold and damp walls, their smooth surfaces. When you lift your head, you will see Tent Rocks looks like a rocket. The forces of water and wind continue to carve hoodoos from the cliffs. As the trail continues beyond the slot canyon, the hoodoos become larger and more varied in shape. There are a few obstructions along the way, so you’ll have some scrambles over some rocks blocking the path. The trail is the bottom of the wash, and looks like a tunnel. So be careful in case of heavy rain.
Climbing To The Mesa Top
Trail switchbacks 640 feet up to the plateau. After 1.1 miles, the trail turns to the left to pass beneath some of the best formations. The canyon opens up beneath the 90-foot conical hoodoos that give this National Monument its name. It begins to climb steeply on a crumbly, eroding trail, with occasional scrambling required. There is a viewpoint just before mile 2. The trail continues to climb higher, out of the canyon. There is the second viewpoint at mile 2.1. It is a great view of the canyon and the surrounding formations. There’s also a little balancing rock close by this vista. The path continues up and then down on the canyon rim. It’s about 0.3 miles to the final viewpoint. It’s worth it to go to the top. White cliffs are spectacular from the plateau.
From the top of the mesa, you overlook the slot canyon and Tent Rocks, as well as sweeping views of the Rio Grande River Valley to the east and the Jemez Mountains to the west.
Return via The Cave Loop Trail
Return the way you came, but continue right at the junction with the Cave Loop Trail. It intersects with the Slot Canyon Trail. It’s an easy and short trail on your return walk. The Cave Loop Trail is relatively flat, with lovely views. It is well marked, with numerous warnings about snakes, the importance of staying on the trail, and the ban on rock collecting.
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks Hike – Check the Weather
When is the best time to visit Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument? We did the Tent Rocks hike in December 2019. It was cold but sunny and perfect weather for a walk. If you are going in the summer, take a plentiful water supply. There is shade in the slot canyon, so take a warm jacket. The monsoon season is from mid-June to mid-September. So, always check the weather/check the forecast before you go – it is a slot canyon, so it is susceptible to flash flooding. Below we have prepared charts with average temperatures and precipitation in Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.
What To Bring For Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks Hike?
Whether the trail is short or long, easy or demanding, you must always be prepared for your hike. Accidents happen, or the weather can change dramatically in a few minutes. That’s why we pack carefully, even for shorts and leisurely walks.
First of all, take proper hiking shoes. Do not attempt this hike in flip-flops or even flimsy shoes. You need sturdy shoes with a good grip and tread.
It is a rattlesnake land, so be cautious. Protect your legs with pants. Make lots of noise with your feet, and don’t reach down near any stumps or logs. Hiking poles will be useful during this hike also.
Watch your body while hiking. Even experienced hikers have weaker days. If you start to feel dizzy, disoriented, or nauseated, take a rest. Drink water, eat a salty and high-proteins snack, and rest as long as you feel better. If you are cold, put on extra layers and eat. If you are hot, drink more water and rest in the shade. Protect your body from the sun, so take a hat & sunscreen.
Below is a list of our essentials, the most necessary things you must have on the trail. So we pack the essentials even on day hikes.
|Water is most important even during short hikes, so bring a sufficient amount of water, and extra water in case of emergency. Always carry a water treatment method, f.e.tablets. Check before the hike if there any water sources on the trail. The best idea is to take a light water reservoir.
|Take a salty snack, as high energy protein bars and beef jerky or other high - calorie meals, as nuts and sandwiches. Always take extra portions.
|Always take a
|GPS watch or GPS device allows you to find your location on a digital map accurately. They are waterproof and robust. Another option is to use a smartphone with a GPS app, but often there is no connection on the trails. If you have a phone, remember not to use its battery. Finally, monitor your battery power.
|First aid kit with blister care, duct tape. It will help you handle unexpected moments (includes CPR Mask, Bandaids, Blanket, Tourniquet and more)
|Headlap or flashlight with spare batteries. Yes, we take it with us even if the hike is lasting only a few hours during the day. A long time ago we lost during the day and then we had to come back through the wilderness at night. You never know what will happen, that's why we always have headlamp with us.
|Extra Clothes. Even for short hikes, we dress in layers. We always have high trekking shoes with reliable traction, and we use trekking poles, too. But we always put it in the backpack extra clothes beyond those required for the trip. We add a warm hoodie, raincoat, gloves, a hat, and socks,in case of weather breakdown.
|Emergency sleeping bag, which serves as your emergency blanket, survival shelter, and emergency bivy sack all-in-one.
|Fire Starter, because in case of an emergency, you need to have reliable supplies with you for starting and maintaining a fire.
|Emergency Whistles is must-have, too. Battery in the cellphone will run down, or there will be no coverage on the trail, and this is the only way you can call for help.
|Sun protection. Always pack with you and wear sunglasses, sun-protection hat and sunscreen.
|Always carry some type of emergency shelter to protect you from wind and rain in case you get stranded or injured on the trail.