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El Malpais National Monument
El Malpais (Spanish for badlands) National Monument is located in Northwestern New Mexico. The badlands are volcanic lava flows, and they extend for miles. The badlands consist of volcanic spatter cones, mesas, lava flows, ice caves, an arch or two, petroglyphs, ruins, and lava tube caves. One such cave system is 17 miles long. Please note, the area known as El Malpais is a combination of private lands, wilderness, BLM, and National Monument. Admission is free. Please respect the private lands.

Highway 117 has the Sandstone Bluffs Overlook, the La Ventana Natural Arch, the Narrows, Lava Falls area, and the Zuni-Acoma Trail.

The Sandstone Bluffs are a viewpoint. An easy drive goes to the top and has impressive views of the area.

La Ventana Natural Arch is one of New Mexico's largest arches. A short trail goes under the sandstone arch. The Narrows is a location where lava flowed near 500 ft. cliffs.

The Lava Falls area is the youngest lava flow in the area.

The Zuni-Acoma trail is a 7.5-9 mile trail (each way) that crosses four lava flows. It lies between Highways 53 and Highway 117.

Highway 53 has the Bandera Crater Ice Caves (private) , the Big Tubes area, El Calderon area, and the Zuni Acoma trail. The Big Tubes area is in the back country.

The best advertised ice caves are on private property, and, while they sound exciting, they are primarily lava tubes with ice in them year-around.

The Big Tubes area is located in the back country and consists of approximately 17 miles of lava tubes. Some of these contain collapsed sections. Caution should be exercised while in this and other areas. There is a route between two caves, Big Skylight and Four Windows, which is marked by cairns. Please see the visitor's center for more information.

The El Calderon area is a unique area which is easily accessed. A trail leads to Junction Cave, Twin Craters, Lava Flow Double Sinks, the El Calderon cinder cave, and a cave with bats. Junction Cave has a small trail between 2 other caves. The area also contains some sink holes, a cave with bats (please do not enter).

The Zuni-Acoma trail is a 7.5-9 mile trail (each way) that crosses four lava flows. It lies between Highways 53 and Highway 117 .

Other items of interest in the area include the Dittert Site (Ruin), petroglyphs, hole in the wall, continental divide trail, chain of craters, and various volcanic cones that are scattered across the region.

The area has different types of lava flows. Rangers can teach you about these.

Please exercise caution while in the area. BE SAFE! Let others know where you are going and when you are expected back. People have disappeared from here (Big Tubes area). They have yet to be found.

If plans are made to hike in the caves, it is strongly recommended that ample food, water, clothing (they are cold), and light sources be carried. It is recommended that visitors carry a minimum of 3 light sources per individual. Please let others know where you are going. Some of these areas have collapsed. Caution should be taken while here.

Location: Northwestern New Mexico. South and east of Gallup, New Mexico. It is between Gallup and Albuquerque. It is bordered on the east by Acoma and on the west by Ramah (Navajo). The Cibola National Forest is on the north. Highway 53 is on the north. Highway 117 is on the east side. The National Park Service has a visitors center 23 miles south of I-40 on Highway 53. The BLM (Bureau of Land Management) has a visitors center 9 miles south of I-40 on Highway 117. Take appropriate cautions when necessary, i.e. never cross a flooded wash, watch for flash floods if it is raining anywhere in the region, watch for deer, cows, and horses, etc.

Weather: This is high altitude. Conditions can change rapidly. Please observe all warning signs. Thunderstorms with lightning can be extremely dangerous. With, inclement weather, roads and trails can become impassible.


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