Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

New Mexico > Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

The Tent Rocks were a little known BLM site before their elevation to national monument status in January 2001, but now the area has improved access and facilities, and sees a steady stream of visitors. Kasha-Katuwe is a Keresan phrase meaning 'white cliffs', Keres being the traditional language of the pueblo tribes of northern New Mexico. The teepee-like formations cover a small area but are quite remarkable, unique in the Southwest - hundreds of white, pinkish or grey spires, sharply conical in shape, lacking any covering vegetation, that occur in several groups on the east side of Peralta Canyon, on the Pajarito Plateau 40 miles west of Santa Fe.

The rocks were formed by erosion of thick layers of pumice and tuff, and since the overlying sandstone strata are more resistant to erosion, residual pieces form caprocks over the ash, which, being so soft, erodes rapidly downwards, creating the tall spires. If a cap rock is dislodged, the spire quickly (in geological timescales) weathers away, though new ones gradually form further up the hillside. The tuff is a remnant of explosive volcanic eruptions of between 6 and 7 million years ago, as are pieces of obsidian, a translucent, brown/black volcanic glass known locally as Apache Tears, which can be found scattered over the washes and cliffs of the monument and especially around the river in the main valley, though collecting samples is not allowed.

Approach Route

Map of Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
The national monument is somewhat isolated but well signposted, starting from exits 259 (NM 22) or 264 (NM 16) of interstate 25 between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Both roads are relatively busy, and converge at Pena Blanca after which NM 22 is narrower, passing through several sleepy settlements. The highway turns north in front of the 4.5 mile wide, 250 feet high Cochiti Dam across the Rio Grande - a rather incongruous sight in the otherwise natural, unspoilt valley, this was completed in 1975 and now contains the 7 mile long Cochiti Lake, popular for fishing and boating. The main road bends back to the southwest into Pueblo de Cochiti, the main village in the 53,779 acre Cochiti Indian Reservation.

Road from Cochiti Pueblo

The pueblo has a few facilities including a store and gas station, and is a welcoming place, with opportunities to view the life and history of the native peoples. The one main regulation is a ban on photography and all forms of recording, even drawing and painting. The last 5 miles of the route to the tent rocks is along BIA 92 (later FR 266) - once a bumpy gravel track, this was paved in 2010 as far as the rocks. Although the track continues through large areas of public BLM land in the Santa Fe National Forest and the Jemez Mountains, the country surrounding the national monument is privately owned, so various signs warn of no trespassing and other land use regulations. In the monument, the main activity is hiking along one of the two maintained trails. As of 2009, dogs are not permitted.


The nearest towns with hotels close to the Tent Rocks are Albuquerque (50 miles), Bernalillo (37 miles) and Santa Fe (35 miles).

Highlights: Amazing volcanic formations - tall, pinkish white cones made of pumice and tuff, lining the edge of a remote valley (Peralta Canyon). Narrow ravines wind between the pinnacles, and the ground is scattered with shiny pieces of obsidian
Nearest city with hotels: Santa Fe, 35 miles
Management: BLM
Location: 35.656, -106.411
Seasons: All year

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks - Hiking

Tent Rocks Hiking
The 1.2 mile Cave Loop Trail around a side valley and the 1.5 mile (one-way) Canyon Trail, through a slot canyon and up to the plateau

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks - Photographs

  • 11 views of Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
  • photograph
    Above the rocks
    Stripy formations

    Start of the slot canyon
    Nearby places Similar places

    Bandelier National Monument (90 miles) - ancient dwellings in a volcanic canyon

    Petroglyph National Monument (55 miles) - thousands of petroglyphs carved on volcanic boulders

    Santa Fe (45 miles) - the historic state capitol of New Mexico
    Nearby places Similar places

    Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada - eroded rock formations and slot canyons
    Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks is part of the New Mexico Highlights itinerary

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