Tent Rocks Day Trip

A Mom’s Review: Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

It’s Labor Day weekend and I knew that I wanted to get out of the house and do something fun with the family. I had heard from a few friends that if you like hiking, then Tent Rocks was the perfect place to go. Although I do love a good hike, because I have three kids, my first concern is always the difficulty of the climb. However, after visiting, I can say without hesitation that visiting Tent Rocks was one of the best day trips we’ve taken in recent memory!

entrance to Tent Rocks national monument

Tent Rocks: The Drive

The drive to Tent Rocks is approximately 45-60 minutes from Rio Rancho. We made our way north on Hwy. 528 to Bernalillo and then proceeded north on I-25. I actually enjoy our trips heading towards Santa Fe.  The vistas of New Mexico’s expansive, rolling landscape alone make the trip worth it.

sandia mountains seen from Bernalillo

You’ll continue on I-25 for about 25 minutes and take exit 259, NM-22 towards the Santo Domingo Pueblo. As you pass through the Pueblo, there’s no shortage of vendors on the side of the road selling everything from Navajo Tacos to bread. Although we didn’t stop this trip, we have in the past and the bread we had was amazing! I guess it should go without saying to use your own judgement and exercise caution when buying from anyone on the side of the road. After a short drive, you’ll come up along the Cochiti Lake Dam where you’ll take a left to Tent Rocks. No worries, there is plenty of signage in case your GPS goes haywire.

Entering Tent Rocks National Monument

Honestly, we didn’t know what to expect when we visited Tent Rocks. Because we didn’t research it beforehand, we kind of assumed the area would be more remote and under-developed. We were definitely mistaken. To enter the park, there is a nominal $5 fee per car. Not a big deal, but again, we weren’t expecting it. Luckily we had some cash on hand because you know, debit cards.

Tent rocks entrance fee

Upon arrival, we found ample designated parking and clearly marked paths to the trails. Restrooms and covered pavilions are on site as well. It was nice to see that paved accessible parking was also available.

The Trails

Before you set out to tackle the trails, I strongly suggest you have plenty of water. We recently purchased some hydration packs and they were lifesavers, especially since we have three thirsty kids. Although the longest trail is only 3 miles round-trip, the high altitude and scorching New Mexico sun will make you wish you had one.

Speaking of trails, at the foot of the mountain you’ll find the option of taking 2 different paths. My advise, take the Split Canyon route to the right. The other Cave Loop will take you past Shelter Cave, a man-made cave carved out of the mountain. Although kind of neat to see, you’re not allowed to actually go in so in my opinion, makes the extra hike not worth it. Besides that, the majority of the jaw-dropping scenery is found along the Split Canyon trail anyways.

Split Canyon Trail

As you make your way up Split Canyon trail, it doesn’t take long before you run in to the most extraordinary geological formations and terrain you have ever laid eyes on. I lost count, but I’m pretty sure the word “wow” was uttered half a million times. It really is THAT beautiful.

Initially, the path through Split Canyon is a relatively easy climb and continues that way until about the last 1/4 mile of the climb. At that point, the ascension to the top definitely gets harder, but still very possible with children. Our six year old daughter had no issues getting to the top. In fact, we came across several families with young children that made it up no problem.

split rock canyon

View From The Top

Although the climb to the top of the mountain is a bit more strenuous, the reward is totally worth it. The views from the top are spectacular! You literally get a 360 degree view of the entire region and it’s gorgeous. We spent a good half hour admiring the diversity of the surrounding landscapes. I’m fairly certain that if I didn’t have impatient kids “ready to go”, that I could have easily spent the afternoon up there.

We make it a point to visit nearby sights and I wholeheartedly recommend Tent Rocks for your next day trip. We had such a great time, although we walked away exhausted. As for my kids, they said they’d go again. Kid tested. Mother approved.

See our Day Trip Guide for other nearby places to visit.


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