Thursday, September 29, 2022


Stay overnight on lava fields in Grants, New Mexico

By Nanci Dixon
A fun and informative stop on our recent travels was the lava fields in Grants, New Mexico. The huge rocks and slabs of lava that oozed out and blew out of volcanoes 3,000 – 5,000 years ago surround the interstate.

We stopped for the night at the local KOA and, although the campground was not much different than any small town overnight-only spot, they were situated on a lava field. The park had carved out an amazing trail through the lava. Informative signs dotted the trail and we thoroughly enjoyed our hike and learning more about the volcanoes that formed the area.

The area’s history

The Spanish called the land El Malpais, which means “the Badlands.” When the Spanish came through more than 500 years ago, the lava was too rough for their horses and wagons and they had to go around. El Malpais has five major lava flows.

El Calderon lava flow was 115,000 years ago and originated from the El Calderon volcano. The lava flowed out more than 25 miles and is up to 25 ft deep! Amazing.

Bandera Crater is nearby and there are ice caves there that stay frozen all year. Tours are available.

Photo Credit: Nanci Dixon

When a lava tube gets plugged up it causes the molten lava to form a big bubble or done. When it gets unplugged the lava suddenly empties out.

Photo Credit: Nanci Dixon

The ground around the lava flow and parts of the path consist of silt and clay that blew in to fill areas around the lava. It hardens like concrete but instantly turns to sticky mud in the rain.

Photo Credit: Nanci Dixon

In the distance is Mount Taylor, the highest mountain peak in New Mexico at 11,300 feet. It didn’t have a lava flow – it just blew its top off!

We could also see Burro Hill. It was higher than the lava flow and legend has it that the burros in the area fled up the hill to escape the Spanish and lived there for years.

Photo Credit: Nanci Dixon
Photo Credit: Nanci Dixon

If you’re in the area, it’s worth an overnight.



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Dennis Johnson
1 month ago

There’s a State Park 40 miles north of Alamogordo that’s also in a lava field. Some of the campsites are tucked right into the flow. There’s also a boardwalk out into the lava field.

Danny Henderson
1 month ago

I used to live in Milan which is right next to Grants. Louis L’Amour the writer of western novels wrote one of his first books (Flint) of which places his character’s activities in the grants area. Note: if you know how to do it, you yourself can actually walk that fictional characters trail just by reading the book, as other people have done it themselves. A lot of Uranium used to be mined out of the Mount Taylor uranium mines during the cold war era. Also be sure to visit the many different historical areas like the Sky-City Casino and other native american indian places. Grants is also the historical site for an old Cavalry Fort (Fort Wingate), – Note: the original fort was located just south of Grants, but however Fort Wingate was later re-located over to the east side of Gallup right next to interstate highway 40 (it was later turned over to the native American Indians to be used as a school.

1 month ago

Burro’s weren’t here 500 years ago they were brought over by Europeans along with horses.

Michael Galvin
1 month ago
Reply to  Crowman

Weren’t the Europeans here 500 years ago?

1 month ago

I discovered this lava flow area while driving down I-40. Came back the next year, and visited El Malpais National Park at Grants. Most people have never heard of it, but it’s pretty cool stuff.

7 months ago

Correct – Wheeler Peak in Northern New Mexico is highest at 13,167 feet. Mount Taylor, however, is notable as it is one of the Navajo four sacred mountains.

7 months ago

We stayed there at the Grants KOA with our grandkids. There’s a great hiking trail that the kids enjoyed. If you stay there, get their pizza-it’s great. They even delivered!

Katharine Carmichael
1 year ago

I Live Here! Always have. New Mexico is the “Real & True Volcano State”! We have Every type. Super too. As well as Marrs, Which are ONLY Found in New Mexico. A lot of Our Volcanoes, Are Active still (Yes TRUTH) Like Black Mountain..

And Way, Wayy, Wayyy Many others. Most People World Wide, Really Need to Wake up to it! And Take it Seriously.

As well as STOP saying, We are A part of Mexico! All out Bull!

Look on a Map! Truly .

Michael Galvin
1 month ago

New Mexico. Not new; not Mexico.

1 month ago
Reply to  Michael Galvin

Reread her post. Stop saying we are a part of Mexico!

John T
1 year ago

The Valley of Fires BLM Campground at Carizozo, New Mexico, is in a 5,000-year old lava field. The lava comes almost up to the campsites.

1 year ago

Wheeler Peak near Taos is 2,000′ higher than Mt. Taylor and is the highest peak in New Mexico. Two other fascinating volcanoes in New Mexico are Capulin Volcano NM near Raton (a nearly perfect cinder cone) and Valles Caldera National Preserve near Los Alamos (a huge exploded volcano with more recent cones inside the crater).

Harry Earl Schueler Jr.
1 year ago

Visited this NM several years ago & stayed at the KOA in Grants renting a cabin! The NM is wonderful, did a lot of great hiking, and enjoyed a meal prepared by KOA staff also excellent!

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