When people come to Santa Fe, they expect to find two things: great Southwestern art and New Mexican food.
The first comes in abundance and is generally overpriced, as most would expect, but you can find hidden bargains with above average pieces – the kind of art that won’t be at a Holiday Inn show, either. The second is also everywhere and has become so renown, pretty much any restaurant anywhere will create a beans/onions/ peppers/corn/cheese concoction and slap “Santa Fe” on it, as if their mishmashes were representative of the place. They never are, of course.
But it’s the natural beauty of the city that’s often overlooked. Certainly, visitors notice it when they come into town and gaze at the artist’s palette sky when the sun sets. They thrill at the dramatic towering snow-peaked mountain range, the Sangre de Cristos, as the perfect western backdrop. Even the wide expanse of sagebrush and juniper bushes fuels many people’s imaginations of what life was truly like in the pioneer and Old West eras.
Still, very few come to Santa Fe thinking there are some cool outdoor experiences to enjoy. Thanks to RAS’s cousin, J, we headed to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rock National Monument, a roughly 40-minute drive southwest from the city limits to the entry gate. It’s located in and around the Pueblo de Cochiti reservation, and the name “Kasha-Katuwe” means “white cliffs” in their tribal language.
If given the choice, the girls would rather go to a smallish amusement park in Albuquerque, an hour and fifteen minutes away or so, instead of hiking through an unknown national monument. They did exactly that with J’s family while RAS and I drove the 40 minutes to the park’s entrance, which is still about 10 minutes from the main trailhead.
When we arrived there, the parking situation was a little haphazard. People squeezed in their vehicles wherever they could, with one small coupe blocking the way for at least a half dozen cars behind it. The situation became so dire that some of the stuck motorists, with RAS helping them, began to extricate the tiny car to anywhere that would allow them to drive out. But since it was in Park, nothing could be done. I’m sure once those people in the mini-vehicle showed up, all holy hell descended on them. So if you should come here, please be mindful of the where to park and who you might be blocking.
Parking problem aside, this is definitely worthy of your time in Santa Fe if you are willing to drive a little and want to do something other than shopping and art gallery browsing. Here are some of the amazing sights we enjoyed on the 2-mile round-trip hike:
As with many slot canyon areas, storms bring cascades of water and flood them. They also cause powerful erosion, as evidenced by the exposed root system of this tree. Water has also carved the pumice and tuff from and ancient volcanic field, and brought the wavy layers of canyon walls and the famed conical tent rocks
The trail goes through a narrow slot canyon that’s probably only about a foot wide, so narrow that you have to employ controlled traffic flow tactics for people to get through:
When you finally make your way to the top, which is a bit steep and challenging, you’re rewarded with the incredible view:
We came on a relatively cool day, and we still sweated quite a bit. Make sure you bring plenty of water for hydration. And don’t forget to stop at the crossroads to the national monument at the reservation, where you can get some different iterations of fry bread.