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HIDDEN CORNERS

For a hoodoo guru, several high points

March 11, 2007|Rosemary McClure

WHAT:

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, N.M.

WHERE:

North-central New Mexico, 40 miles south of Santa Fe, 55 miles north of Albuquerque

WHY TAKE THE DETOUR:

Leave the galleries and chile ristras of urban New Mexico behind for a half-day trip to this wonderland of cone-shaped rock formations, where you can hike, picnic or just marvel at an uncanny natural phenomenon.

The park's main feature is its tepee-shaped hoodoos that soar as much as 90 feet into the air; to see similar geologic formations you'd have to visit Cappadocia, Turkey.

The hoodoos, produced by ancient volcanic eruptions, are crowned by large boulders that have become hard hats of a sort, protecting the softer sand, ash, pumice and tuff below.

Of the two trails available to hike, the Canyon Trail is the more interesting. Although it's only three miles round-trip, parts are difficult, climbing through a very narrow and steep (630-foot elevation gain) canyon, ending at a mesa top with spectacular views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Rio Grande Valley.

The other hike, the Cave Loop Trail, is 1.2 miles and rated as easy. It's a good, fun hike for kids.

GETTING THERE: From Albuquerque, take Interstate 25, then exit Santo Domingo/Cochiti Lake Recreation Area (Exit 259) onto New Mexico 22. Follow the signs to Cochiti Pueblo and Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. Turn right at the pueblo water tower (painted like a drum) onto the access road, Tribal Route 92, that connects to BLM Road 1011/ES 266. Travel five miles on the gravel road to the national monument parking area. (RVs are not advised to take the gravel access road.)

DETAILS: Albuquerque District BLM Field Office, (505) 761-8768 (taped message with road conditions) or (505) 761-8700, www.nm.blm.gov/recreation/albuquerque/kasha_katuwe.htm. Hours: Open for day use only. Winter (Nov. 1-March 31) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; summer (April 1 to Oct. 31) 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission $5 per vehicle. In bad weather, the access road may wash out.

-- Rosemary McClure

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