Tent Rocks National Monument: Am I a Real Hiker Now?

By the time we reached Albuquerque, NM, we were frothing at the bit for some physical exertion. Sure, we were both used to driving long days, but we were also used to having days in between completely dedicated to adventure.

As we dawdled in the cabin we rented at a KOA, we decided that we absolutely had to go on a hike the next day, no matter how long the drive was going to be (8-9 hours).

Thanks to a friend who used to live in Albuquerque, we found this place called Tent Rocks National Monument, located directly between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Officially called Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, it means “white cliffs” in the Pueblo language, Keresan.

We chose the slot canyon trail mostly because neither of us were able to do any of the slot canyon trails offered during season as tour guides. Excitedly, we woke up and got their so early that we were the impatient visitors waiting just outside the park for it to open.

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Moments before we stepped onto the trail, it started snowing. Hard. Each breath I drew stabbed my lungs sharply. But we had committed. So, as 2 people who have never hiked before in snow, we set off to conquer the 3-mile-hike.

The snow wasn’t deep enough to hinder us from hiking or deep enough to get our socks wet. But it was deep enough sometimes to lose sight of the trail. And to have a spontaneous snow fight near the top.

IMG_9687I have to say that slot canyons are one of the coolest things to hike through. It has that combination between making you feel dwarfed by nature but also a hint of adventure when you weave your way through from slot to slot. There were parts where you really have to scramble on your hands and knees to reach the next rock.

When we finally came through to a clearing, we saw all these cool tent-shaped structures topped with a sprinkling of snow.

The formations are made of layers of volcanic ash and rocks, which makes their presence and size quite remarkable. When you reach your hand out and gently brush the sides of these formations, it small specks of it come off with your finger.


We were extremely lucky that the sun stopped by to say hello just as we reached the peak. The views from up here were incredible! It felt like we could see all of New Mexico from this one spot—the sun layered through the scenery like one of those shots that movie directors sit around all day to capture. 

Staying at the top for as long as we could before becoming frozen logs, we stood around in silence for a while, just watching the clouds move. On the way up, we had shed layer after layer, our bodies warming from the exertion as well as the emerging sun. IMG_9727

By the time we were back in the floor of the canyon, the snow had all melted so we were able to see what it looked like in the snow as well as without. We also started seeing people—people who weren’t overeager to hike at 6AM that morning.

The snow had surprised both of us when it started. Given that we were about 500 miles from Colorado, we thought that would put us too far to see any snow. Neither of us thought that it ever snowed in New Mexico but then I remembered that there are actually a few ski slopes in the state! Luckily, we would be in Texas by that night so there was no way that it would be too cold to camp the rest of the trip.

This hike was exactly what we needed to push through the 8 hours of driving that day. Although it didn’t really help our overall smell—showers were scarce on the road, ok?—it was totally refreshing. Hiking in snow? Done. So… am I a real hiker now?

Practical Information

Trail length: 3 miles round-trip
Elevation gain: 750 ft

Have you ever hiked in snow?

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  • http://www.clemandmarcella.wordpress.com/ Marcella ~ WhatAWonderfulWorld

    You definitely are a real hiker now!! ;) Oh my, the views are breathtaking, and I often think that snow when trekking just adds to the beauty of a place. Gorgeous photos!! :D

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Thanks Marcella!! And yeah, in this case, it definitely added to the beauty! A little bit colder and I’m not sure how it would’ve went.

  • http://www.laurenonlocation.com laurenonlocation

    Whoa … the scenery on this hike is seriously beautiful!! I’ve never hiked in snow, but this looks like just enough to make it pretty, without making it too dangerous. And I’d definitely consider you a real hiker now, you’ve done so many recently!! So jealous! :)

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      I know! I was blown away by how just a little bit of snow adds to the fairytale-ness (just made that up) of a place.

  • http://www.twofeet-oneworld.com/ Jessi @2feet1world

    Just beautiful! I’d say you’re a real hiker for sure ;)

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Haha you know just what to say, Jessi ;)

  • http://www.crumbsinthebed.com/ Kerri

    That’s too beautiful a hike to pass up, especially in the snow!

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Seriously! Next time, real hiking boots for sure.

  • http://adventitiousviolet.com/ Camila @ AdventitiousViolet

    Wow those are some gorgeous shots from the top! I absolutely love landscape with snow – like a real Canadian haha

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Thanks, Camila :) Hahaha oh man you guys are crazy! While I was in Nicaragua this past week, I ran into at LEAST a dozen of you guys :p