El Malpais National Monument

So, when we left Santa Fe ten days ago, we were driving along on I-40 toward Gallup, New Mexico and started seeing what looked like volcanic material. Hmmmm.

Lava flows on I-40

Right after that, we saw a sign for El Malpais National Monument and literally decided to go there at the exit, after checking Google satellite to make sure the coach would fit in the visitor’s center parking lot. I really don’t know how people RV’d before Google. 🙂

The visitor’s center had a short film and super helpful staff that advised us we could take our 60′ total “sport” coach and trailer on one of the park roads, NM 117, a scenic drive to see lava flow fields and beautiful sandstone cliffs on the east side of the monument, plus a sandstone arch known as ‘La Ventana’.

Lava flows dating back 3900 years, and these are the youngest flows in this region!

Now some may know that our coach line is the Ventana. So this arch’s name made us smile. Off we went. What’s a 45-mile round trip when you can see a sandstone arch with the same name as your coach?

Sandstone cliffs along NM 117 scenic drive

Hoodoos along the scenic drive

The sandstone cliffs get much higher as we approach La Ventana

Spectacular La Ventana, dating to dinosaur times, one of New Mexico’s largest natural arches

La Ventana, viewing La Ventana 😎

Turns out, we were here before, 22 years ago! Credit to Jerry for remembering that we visited La Ventana on our very first trip together to New Mexico. Surely our relationship with Koko (La Ventana’s given name) was meant to be!

The arch’s span is about 120 feet, and it’s just beautiful!

Up close and stylized!

You knew we had to do it…

A view too perfect not to share!

Hoodoos and sandstone cliffs on the way back to I-40

Mount Taylor, the highest point (11,306′) in the Cibola National Forest, in the distance to the North of El Malpais

A last view of the lava flows

We hope you’ve enjoyed this spur of the moment visit to one of our special National Monuments. There was so much more to see here, including volcanic cinder cones, craters, a lava tube cave system, and even ice caves, but due to our vehicle size, we were limited to a scenic drive and spectacular natural arch. Yes, we could have unloaded the bikes and explored further, but we were on a bit of a schedule, to get to the Petrified Forest the next day!!! That is a post for another day…

I hope this inspires you to get out there and see some of our incredible natural resources!

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16 thoughts on “El Malpais National Monument

  1. Great pics! I’m glad KoKo got to see her inspiration. Your trip reminds us all what a beautiful and diverse country we live in. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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