I’ll let the photos tell most of the story, but first, some background.
In November, I went to Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was a quick girls’ getaway for me and two of my good friends. The destination choice wasn’t too deliberate–we had in fact wanted to go to Banff, but the flights were too full (as airline employees, we fly standby only). Also it had snowed there the previous weekend, which none of us felt like dealing with. So we ended up in New Mexico. None of us had been there before so we figured, why not? And when you travel with certain people, you just know it’s going to be awesome no matter where you end up.
I’m not much of a hiker. I once stormed up one of the Mt. Rainier trails for two hours without talking to anyone, because my friends made me start hiking without any real food in my stomach (we’d had breakfast early, too early for me to eat substantially, then had to drive a couple hours to the trailhead). And when it came to it, the view at the end of the difficult trail was no better than the beginning! I’m not one of those people who just hikes for the fun of it. I need to see something worth the effort.
So it was shocking that this hike at the Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument was my idea. But I’d done some quick research (the Bureau of Land Management’s site is quite helpful), and the photos looked amazing. It didn’t seem impossible either: 1.5 miles each way with a 630-foot climb.
I’ll let you judge for yourself whether this hike is something you can do. But I will tell you that it was absolutely stunning. And that my friend Jessica is afraid of heights, but she made it through just fine. This was a moderately difficult hike with some big payoffs. We ran into kids and some older people, and even a dad carrying a baby!
Which brings me to an important note: if you are going to do it, go early! We started up the trail at about 9:30 AM, and made it back down two hours later, with plenty of photo stops and a quick snack break at the top. On our way down, we ran into large groups of people. So if you want a little solitude especially at the peak, definitely start no later than 10.
The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is about an hour west of New Mexico. This is sacred native land. You have to pay $5 per vehicle to enter. The trailhead is easy to spot: it’s to the right of the road next to a parking lot. There’s also a restroom here at the beginning. Take advantage! Besides the usual water and power bars, I also recommend some sunglasses. It can get bright up there.
After the first 15 minutes, the trail quickly got more challenging. But also more beautiful.
The slot canyon was my absolute favorite part of it all. However, wonders were not yet over. We exited the canyon into a more mountainous area. We were now about to begin the steepest part of the climb.
A little over an hour after we started, we reached the top! And it was well worth it.
We spent a few minutes taking in the view, taking a ton of photos, and making friends with fellow hikers. We also fueled up for the way down.
This part was easier, because we already knew what we had to face. Also, it was downward. Gravity was on our side! We took our time and even more photos, and got silly.
I hope my photos and story have done justice to this beautiful canyon. If you’re in the Santa Fe or Albuquerque area, I strongly recommend that you save a morning to do this hike. It’s challenging without being ridiculous, and the views were absolutely amazing.
I think slot canyons are a must-see for me now…
Do you have a favorite hike, or a similar unexpected awesome experience during your travels? Share it in the comments below!