Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks and Slot Canyon

View of the trail and tent rocks from the slot canyon
This hike gives you a chance to see the unique geologic formation known as tent rocks. If you do this hike, you also go through a slot canyon and up onto the mesa, leading to great views of the Sangre de Cristo and Jemez mountains.

Hike data:

Controlling agency: Bureau of Land Management; Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
Official URL:BLM Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
Region: North-central; Jemez Mountains.
start: 5731ft; 1747m end: 6299ft; 1920m
min: 5731ft; 1747m max: 6299ft; 1920m
elevation gain/loss: 570ft; 174m.
Length: 2.49mi; 4.00km.
surface: mixed sand/gravel
condition: Excellent through the canyon, somewhat eroded and slick (due to loose gravel) for the climb to the mesa.
ease of following: Easy through the canyon. The trail to the mesa-top is less well-marked.
obstacles: You have to climb over a couple of rocks in the canyon.
Fee: $5.00. per vehicle.
Season: All year. Occasionally snow might be a problem in winter, but it is rarely a problem. Summer can be hot, and thunderstorms are especially dangerous if you are on the mesa top. Flash floods from storms are also a hazard for being in the canyon. Check the weather before going.
Dogs: No. Dogs are prohibited (other than service animals) due to a number of dog attacks on other visitors. There are no kennels nearby, so please leave your dog at home.
Bikes: No.
Handicapped accessible: No.
Trailhead facilities: picnic area. There was one picnic table when we last visited. trash can(s), vault toilet(s).
Hike attractions: geology, history, scenery.

When we hiked it:

Date: 2001-10-07
Time it took us: 2:15.
Usage (people/hour): 0.00. Usage not recorded. In general, usage is heavy.
Cleanliness: 9.


Waypoint Type Description
TRNMCVCave entranceShelter cave at Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks and Slot Canyon hike
TRNMTrailheadKasha Katuwe Tent Rocks and Slot Canyon trailhead
TRNMXTrail pointEnd of trail on mesa top at Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks and Slot Canyon
TRNMY1Trail junctionTrail junction at Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks and Slot Canyon


Paper maps:
Map name Cartographer Year Scale Topo map? Online access Notes
Albuquerque New Mexico USGS 1983 1:100000 Y from sar.lanl.gov (free)
Guide to Indian Country of Arizona Colorado New Mexico Utah Automobile Club of Southern California 1998 1:0 N from Amazon (purchase) Good overview road map for northwest NM. No scale is given on the map. The corner coordinates are approximate.
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument Kirt Kempter and Dick Huelster 2009 1:3598 Y from Amazon (purchase) This map is full of additional information about the geology of the area, including a geologic map.
Los Alamos BLM 2003 1:100000 Y from Amazon (purchase)
Santa Fe National Forest US Forest Service 2004 1:126720 N from Amazon (purchase) West half
Wildernesses of New Mexico US Forest Service 1981 1:1000000 N No online copies. Base map with national forests, wilderness areas and highways.

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Getting to the trailhead:

Exit I-25 at the NM 22 exit (Cochiti Lake), and head northwest. 0.75 mi after you cross the Rio Grande, turn left (southwest) on NM 22 toward Cochiti Pueblo. Go 1.7 miles and turn right on Tribal Route 92 (connects to Forest Service Road 266). The turn is easy to see, because of the large water tank painted like a drum.

The road is (or turns to) dirt, and you go 4.8 miles (but you see the monument entrance sign after only 0.5 mile). The parking area and trailhead are on the right.

No short text

About the hike:

Michael Wester at the trailhead

Heading out from the trailhead, the wide, sandy trail forks almost immediately. We took the canyon trail first, and returned through the tent rocks and cave loop.

Our friend Michael Wester is the person in the photo looking at the trailhead information sign.

We hiked past this unique ponderosa long before this area was a national monument. You go past it as you head uphill toward the cliff base.

A little past the Y-branched ponderosa you meet the tent rocks and cave loop again (GPS TRNMY1).

Ponderosa with a branched trunk
Michael Wester at the entrance to the canyon
Just past TRNMY1 is the canyon entrance. In the photo, Michael Wester is walking out of the canyon.
As you walk through the canyon, it varies from being just shoulder-width to being a bit wider.
Michael Wester in the canyon
Tent rocks

When you get out of the narrow part of the canyon, look up and to your left to the mesa top. This is where the trail will end, and you will be looking down on where you are now in a few minutes.

When you get to the back of the canyon, the trail heads up the side of the canyon. You can see some of the tent rocks for which this area was named.

As you climb up the back of the canyon, you can look down on the tent rocks, and see the layers.
Tent rocks and the strata
View from the mesa top with Cochiti Lake in the background
The views from up on the mesa top are great. Notice Cochiti Lake in the distance.
When you get to the mesa top, a trail leads down to the tip of the mesa. Along the way, you can look down into the canyon.
View from the mesa top into the canyon
View from the mesa top of the beginning of the trail
At the end, you can see the trail that you took to get to the canyon.
Along the way, we saw this guy (gal? I don't know how to sex spiders :-) hiking also. No need to be afraid. It would not bother you unless you bothered it.
Tarantula on the trail
Lizard on the trail
Another critter we shared the trail with was this lizard.
Return the way you got here to the cave loop (GPS TRNMY1). This time, take the loop, which goes past this shelter cave, and takes you close to some of the tent rocks. before returning to near the trailhead.
A small shelter cave on the cave loop

Plants we saw along the trail:

Reader comments about this hike:

On Mon Aug 30 09:11:03 2004 Tracy from Albuquerque said:
The trailhead now has plenty of covered picnic tables and very clean bathrooms. The whole area is fabulous!

The hike is very easy and children shouldnt have a problem leading the way or keeping up. We had two four year old boys who hiked both trails without any problems.

I recommend this hike to anyone and everyone who wants to get out of the city and have fun.

On Sun Apr 24 18:09:27 2005 nilck and lynda from abq nm and SoCalif. said:
Incredible and unique!! Been around much of the USA and Canada and never seen any formations like these. Outstanding and very easy to do.

On Sun Jun 5 06:20:55 2005 Karen from PA said:
I hiked this two years ago; it remains a favortie of my coast to coast hiking sites. While on the rim, a thunderstorm threatened. We had metal trekking poles and ran til our hearts felt like bursting to get down into the canyon. Catching our breath under a rock lodged in the slot, we fumbled for our raingear. Looking around the corner, I saw a flash flood rising. Again, we ran, the water rushing high above our boots. It was awesome and frightening. When the canyon finally widened, the water spread out, and we laughed crazily that we had made it out ALIVE. We were soaked, covered with rock particles--looking like cement people--blending into the bizzare geology quite nicely!

On Mon Oct 10 08:22:12 2005 Stacey from Somewhere said:
Just Beautiful! The hike was just challenging enough. We took a picnic to the top enjoyed views of the Jemez and Sangre de Cristo mountains. The scenery made me realize why I moved to New Mexico.

On Tue Oct 11 09:17:17 2005 Jessica Simpson from Somewhere said:
It was so dirty there it wasnt even funny! the tent rocks are ok but damn its dirty.

On Tue Oct 11 11:31:48 2005 the ExploreNM Webmaster from Albuquerque replied:
I checked with a friend who hiked this trail on September 18, 2005, and he did not notice any cleanliness issues at that time. I will try to get out there to check on this.

On Mon Oct 24 08:56:59 2005 kris from kristen_pedro2009yahoo.com said:
tent rocks was the best hike I've been too! because i maybe the exercise... it was hard going to the top. but i would like to go again with my class

On Mon Oct 24 15:07:08 2005 Marjorie Leekya from somewhere said:
i just wanted to know what the geological name for the tent rocks is because i am having a hard time finding that in your website

Later, the webmaster replied:
I asked a geologist, and she said: "these don't have a specific geological name. They are like hoodoos, but not quite. They are erosional features."

On Tue Oct 25 19:10:03 2005 Michael Sattell from somewhere said:
This is one of our favorite family hikes. I will be returning this weekend. Very easy yet beautiful trails. The tent rocks are amazing sturctures; I noticed less eroded forms at Bandelier afterwards (Bandelier is in the same vicinity).

On Mon Feb 13 11:36:34 2006 Anonymous from ABQ,NM said:
We have hiked this trail many times and it is a favorite, especially with our kids. On one of the more memorable hikes we reached the top and saw thunderclouds coming straight at us. We tried to hurry down, but about halfway back the storm hit. There wasn't any lightning, but there was a tremendous amount of hail. It was incredibly cool watching "waterfalls" of hail coming down into the canyon. By the end of the storm the entire canyon bottom was covered with hail, and the bottoms of these "waterfalls" had a foot or more of accumulated ice pellets. We were soaked, and a bit nervous, but it was an incredible experience.

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