About an hour west of Santa Fe is the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, our hiking spot for today, another beautiful sunny day. Tent Rocks is a remarkable wonderland of cone-shaped rock formations, a consequence of local volcanic activity. Six to seven million years ago, the Jemez Volcanic Field produced a pyroclastic flow that left pumice, ash, and tuff deposits over 1,000 feet thick.
Erosion rates varied according to the density of the rocks. Tougher rocks endured better, creating the precariously perched boulder caps on many of the tapering hoodoos that protect the softer pumice and tuff below. Some tents have lost their hard, resistant cap rocks, and are disintegrating. While fairly uniform in shape, the tent rock formations vary in height from a few feet up to 90 feet.
Another fascinating geologic feature are the slot canyons, narrow, twisting passageways carved over time by rushing water. Ponderosa and piñon pines grow along with desert plants like Indian paintbrush and Apache plume.
We explored the 1.2-mile Cave Loop Trail, an easy trek that leads to an above-ground cave and the Canyon Trail (3 miles round-trip) that ascends a narrow canyon with a steep 630-foot elevation gain. We were turned back by snow and icy trail conditions near the top and were not able to reach the top of the mesa. From the top a breathtaking 360-degree view of the tent rocks below, the Rio Grande Valley and the Sangre de Cristo, Jémez and Sandia mountains looming rewards the hiker.