El Malpais Hiking & Cave Tour | An In Depth Exploration of New Mexico Badlands

$225 per person + tax for party of two or $175 per person + tax for party of four or more

Every Sunday & Monday 7AM – 4PM | 2 pp min & 10 ppl max

Tour meets in the lobby at Hotel Chaco and includes gourmet pack lunch, head lamp and entry into Monument.

Join us in the badlands of New Mexico. On this tour you will explore two lava caves, witness breathtaking vistas, and get in touch with the wild side of this true wild west. Fortressed by looming sandstone bluffs, the badlands of El Malpais are a nearly 40-mile long rugged landscape of jagged, jumbled, and coal-black rock.

This unforgiving land, however, is far from barren. The Zuni and Acoma pueblos have been utilizing this land for hundreds of years by farming on the mesas and collecting seeds among the basalt. The Spanish settlers in the area established small townships along the edges of the badlands for lumber harvesting, and while most of these small villas became ghost towns, others still survive to this day.

Your venturesome journey begins at Hotel Chaco and heads due west towards the badlands. During the hour-long drive to your first stop,  La Ventana Arch and the Sandstone Bluffs overlook, you will have an opportunity to learn more about the rich geologic history of this area and the peoples who have inhabited it. From atop the bluffs high you will take in the vast expanse of lava flows on the desert floor below, before experiencing them from within.

Next, the El Calderon hiking trail will take you upon an otherworldly adventure into the depths of the Earth. You will see and explore 115,000+ year old lava formations, like lava caves, tubes and trenches, that show how volcanic events shaped this rugged landscape. Your first caving opportunity is at Junction Cave, in which you will climb within the walls of a lava tube that was formed hundreds of thousands of years ago. Up ahead and almost unexpectedly, the Double Sinks appear before us, which are two great collapsed lava tubes that dive 80 feet into the Earth.

Then, our next stop is the Xenolith and Bat caves, which allow you the opportunity once again to don a headlamp and helmet, climb into a lava tube, and explore the twisted and rocky world below the surface. This is a good point to enjoy your healthy gourmet pack lunch from Hotel Chaco while enjoying amazing views of these ancient magma lava flows.

This hike is relatively flat along the broad New Mexican landscape but does gain elevation as we climb towards the El Calderon crater and have the opportunity to enjoy breathtaking views of the American Southwest. This tour is not recommended for those who are unable to climb over large rocks, through small spaces, or walk distances up to 4 miles. We recommend you bring sunscreen, a wide brimmed hat and lots of water, while your guide will bring the caving helmets and headlamps.

We look forward to unveiling this example of why New Mexico is nicknamed the Volcano State. Book now if you’d like to ponder how long-ago volcanoes created the craggy colorful otherworldly basalt landscape found throughout New Mexico’s borders.