In a true testament to the ruggedness of New Mexico terrain, the distance from our campground at Bandelier National Monument to our next campsite at the Cochiti Lake Recreation Area is less than 10 miles as the crow flies, but our relocation drive was 75 miles long and involved backtracking through Santa Fe. We had two goals for our brief two-night stay: prepare for a long spell of dry camping in Albuquerque and visit the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. We accomplished both.
The Tent Rocks are made of multicolored layers of volcanic deposits that have been eroded by wind and water. Harder boulders situated atop the soft volcanic pumice and tuff have protected columns from erosion and yielded the unique conical shapes that give the area its name. In the course of our 3.7 mile hike we explored the relatively easy Cave Loop and the more strenuous Slot Canyon Trail. The hike up the canyon provides excellent views of the tent rocks and ends atop a mesa with panoramic views. My favorite part, however, was the slot canyon. The undulating walls of the canyon, scoured by water, were mesmerizing while the few sections involving boulder scrambling were fun and not scary. This location was reminiscent of all the interesting geological features we explored earlier in Death Valley and in southern Utah, and it just might be my favorite slot canyon yet.
Meanwhile, our enormous campsite with electricity and water provided nice views of the adjacent lake and the surrounding hills. We were even treated to a spectacular sunset one night.
Next: we head to Albuquerque to participate in the craziness that is the Balloon Fiesta.
6 thoughts on “Quick Stopover at Cochiti Lake, NM”
Tent Rocks looks like a great place. Very impressed with the slot canyons. Me and my son went skiing at Wolf Creek and Purgatory this past January. On the way back home to Texas we took a side trip and hit the slopes at Pajarito, just outside of Los Alamos… so we were in the same area as you are now. I can’t wait to get back. We will certainly shoot to visit in the fall and hope to get lucky with great weather. Enjoy the balloons!
We weren’t sure what to expect in this part of the country but Northern New Mexico has been a very pleasant surprise so far! I can see why so many RVers end up putting down roots here.
Oh, I’m so glad you went to Kasha-Katuwe! It’s one of my favorite slot canyons, too. Short and sweet, and so beautiful. The tent rock formations are so unique, too. I don’t think we’ve seen those anywhere else in our travels.
I can’t wait to hear about your Balloon Fiesta adventure. We’ve been a couple of times, but years ago…and only for a day visit from Santa Fe. I’ve always wanted to go and stay overnight.
We liked everything about Kasha-Katuwe except the surprisingly big crowds. It’s in the middle of nowhere yet it was packed! I assume it was Balloon Fiesta related crowds — those 900,000 attendees are doing other activities in addition to watching balloons.
Unbelievably, we’ve not yet been to this New Mexico location. Now we know when *not* to go! That slot canyon looks positively mesmerizing!
It’s a relatively short but fantastic hike. Visiting with few other people on the trail would make it even better!