See The Tents Because It Just Makes Sense!

by Ben Matheson, University of New Mexico

It was the perfect day for a hike. The skies were crystal clear and the air was so fresh that when I inhaled, my throat instantly cooled. As I walked the trail, I immediately saw what appeared to be carvings of a castle on the cliff side. My eyes have never seen something so beautiful. As I got closer to the rock formations, I gazed upon giant towering cones with sharp tips, tall enough to cut into the blue sky. Flabbergasted by the sight of the geological formation, I wondered what could have possibly made the rocks look as they do. As my body was greeted by a sense of warmth, a fellow hiker passed and told me, “If you think this is incredible, just wait until you get to the top!” And I thought to myself, “How could it possibly get any better!?”

You too can experience the magic and astonishment I did when I visited the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument or otherwise know as “tent rock.” The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument will create a sense of wonder and mystery to all of those who get the opportunity to hike the trail. In the Pueblo language Kasha-Katuwe means “white cliffs,” but the color of the cliffs does create the mystery. Rather, it is the unique, towering, tent-shaped rocks that make any hiker ask, “How could anything look like that?”

The peculiar beauty of the tent-shaped rocks is a result of volcanic eruptions that occurred in the area over six million years ago. This specific type of volcanic rock is called pumice. Pumice has unique physical properties that allow it to be shaped easily because it is not very dense. In some cases, pumice can even float on water. Due to this type of volcanic rock, the tent rocks were able to form after many years of rain and wind traveling through the canyon. The magnificent structure of the rocks can reach a height of about 90 feet.

The rocks are not the only sight you will see along your hike. There is a variety of wildlife that live within the national monument due to its cool climate, opportunity for shelter, and water availability. As a hiker reaches higher elevations on the trail, he or she might see elk, deer, coyotes, chipmunks, rabbits and a variety of different birds. Although, if you are fortunate enough to see some wildlife, it is not a waste of your time. Come bring friends and family to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, where you and others can rediscover the pleasures of being outdoors.

Photography acknowledgment and additional information: K. Ingham, Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks and Slot Canyon hike in October 2001.

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