El Malpais National Monument is a beautiful area and home to impressive lava rock from ancient lava flows over the last million years. The El Calderon volcano hasn’t been active for approximately 115,000 years - but the rock evidence is stark, stunning, and beautiful. This strange landscape looks otherworldly and captivates visitors who can explore a variety of trails.


Key Attractions


  • Hiking - varied routes, from short walks to rugged backcountry and ascending elevation (visible trails often do not exist here, and cairns (stacks of rocks) are used instead every few hundred feet, as is popular over rock and lava flows)

    • Zuni-Acoma Trail Head (Hwy 53 to Hwy 117)- 7.5 miles of lava and a rugged trek

    • El Calderon Area (Hwy 53)- 3-mile loop that features the lava flows, the extinct volcano, etc.

    • Big Tubes Area (Hwy 53)- strenuous hiking around the lava bridges (the lava caves are closed)

    • Sandstone Bluffs (Hwy 117) - overlook featuring the varied lava flows of the El Malpais region

    • La Ventana Arch (BLM on Hwy 117) - one of the largest sandstone arches in NM - short trail

    • Lava Falls (Hwy 117) - explore the recent McCartys Lava Flow on a 1.5 mile hike - surreal moonscape

    • Joe Skeen Campground - primitive campsite

  • El Malpais Information Center

  • El Malpais Ranger Station (BLM)




72 miles east of Albuquerque, NM. Exit 89, east of Grants, NM, on I-40 leads you onto NM Hwy 117, which travels to the eastern boundary of the park. The BLM El Malpais Ranger Station (open daily) is located 9 miles south of that exit.


At exit 81, west of Grants, NM, NM Hwy 53 will lead you across the western and northern boundaries of the park. The NPS El Malpais Information Center is located 25 miles from that exit.


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