Very Unusual Pencil Shaped Hoodoos in New Mexico

American Southwest is plentiful of natural wonders and perhaps the most diverse place on Earth in geological features such as mountains, vo...

American Southwest is plentiful of natural wonders and perhaps the most diverse place on Earth in geological features such as mountains, volcanos, canyons, badlands, arches, mesas, butts and so forth. Last year's spontaneous trip to Colorado, New Mexico and Utah was my fourth trip to the area after Texas, Arizona and California, and I can tell you that you can make a hundred trips to the American Southwest and still find new and unusual places that will awe you. But you have to be careful while planning your itinerary there because it's easy to keep on visiting places that will look the same after a week or so. My approach is to always find the right balance between nature, urban areas, history and entertainment. The place I want to show you today is a natural phenomenon called hoodoo. And while you can find hoodoos in other places such as Alberta, these ones have a very unusual pencil-like shape.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, as this park is officially called, features white cliff rocks made of pumice, ash and tuff.
If you've heard of Yellowstone, you probably know what a supervolcano is. If you haven't, you should learn about it as once erupts, it will drastically change life in many corners of Planet Earth. Why am I saying this? Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks is a result of erosion of a 300 ft / 100 m thick layer of volcanic ash and rock deposited after the nearby Jemez supervolcano erupted about 6 or 7 million years ago.
As you can imagine, byproducts of volcanic ash such as pumice and tuff (unlike volcanic rocks like granite) are pretty soft and weather easily. Since erosion is continuing today, this place, not only of exceptional beauty but also sacred for the people of Pueblo de Cochiti, requires extra protection.
As a result, the park maintains very limited amenities to minimize the footprint. For instance, the park has no running water, no dogs are allowed on the trail, and there is no gift shop or a place to buy food. You can bring your own food though, there are enough picnic tables.
There is a 1.2 mile / 2 km Cave Loop trail that circles inside the valley surrounded by hoodoos.
For aerial views of the valley and nearby mountains, you can take a steep 1.5 mile /  2.4 km trail up a narrow canyon.

The 360-degree view is very rewarding.

When to go
Park is open year around except January 6, the Friday before Easter, Easter Sunday, the Monday after Easter, May 3, July 13-14, July 25, November 1, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day to allow for Pueblo de Cochiti cultural observances and routine park maintenance. In the summer months, the park is experiencing the highest volume of visitors, so it's not unusual that the gate can already be closed around 9 am. As cars leave the park, new visitors can be allowed.

From Albuquerque, head north on I-25 and take the exit for Santo Domingo/Cochiti Lake Recreation Area (Exit 259) off I-25 onto NM 22. Follow the signs on NM 22 to Cochiti Pueblo and Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.

From Santa Fe, head south on I-25 and take the Cochiti Pueblo Exit 264 off I-25 onto NM 16. Turn right off NM 16 onto NM 22, and follow the signs to Cochiti Pueblo and the National Monument. 

GPS coordinates 35.65842306 / -106.4230367.

Additional Information
For additional information visit Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument's official website.

My other posts about the trip to Colorado, New Mexico and Utah:

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