Tent Rocks: A Moonscape in New Mexico
Archeaological digs have revealed that the Tent Rocks area was continuously inhabited for a period of 4,000 years. During the 1300-1400s, there were several large pueblos in the area. In the Keresan language of the nearby Cochiti Pueblo people, the Tent Rocks are called Kasha-Katuwe or “white cliffs.” Visitors have described the landscape as “moon like,” “have an Oz feeling,” or even “smurfesque.” Iʼll add “meringue topping” to the list.
- You can ﬁnd cholla, the spiky thin cactus which can be found in 35 varieties in the Southwest.
- Prickly pear is another cactus which has culinary value. Try a “prickly pear” Margarita while youʼre in the Southwest (this lurid pink drink is on the menu at Thunderbird Bar and Grill, located on Santa Feʼs Plaza).
- Gooseberry bushes can be found — just know what youʼre eating before you pop it in your mouth.
- Manzanita is a bushy plant with red bark and green leaves. It was valued by the native tribes for its medicinal properties.
- There are several varieties of evergreen tree including juniper (which smells amazing when tossed on a campﬁre) and Ponderosa pine which can grow up to 235 foot tall — though the climate in New Mexico stunts its growth. Thereʼs also the Pinon pine, which produces a great little nut. You can ﬁnd roasted pinons all over New Mexico in season. Try them in coffee.
Things To Know:
- Tent Rocks is between Santa Fe and Albuquerque off I-25. Turn off at Hwy 22 and follow the road towards the Cochiti Pueblo. Itʼs readily marked and the road is paved so thereʼs no need for a 4×4.
- There are two trails. The lower valley trail (Cave Loop Trail) is an easy 1.2 miles hike. However, the three-mile (round trip) upper mesa trail (Canyon Trail) is more strenuous. It gains 630 foot in elevation. Hiking shoes are recommended for either trail. The trail is part of the National Recreation Trail program.
- There are bathroom and picnic facilities.
- Dogs and bikes are banned.
- The nearest place to get gas or a few groceries is at the Cochiti Pueblo. Note that, within the Pueblo, recorded imagery — including photography, sketches and painting — is forbidden.
- The land surrounding the monument is privately owned.
- You can visit any time of the year. Be aware of ﬂash ﬂooding within the slot canyons, particularly in the summer months.
- The monument, though operated by the Bureau of Land Management, can be closed by the Cochiti Pueblo Tribal Council.
Small cave at the end of the trail
Lane & Juliet
The writing and photography team behind Southwest Compass, the travel blog for the American Southwest.