Although we have visited all the National Parks (except for the two new ones; stay tuned later in September), this National Monument in New Mexico called, Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, is one of the special places we return to whenever we are in the area.
Our first hike/experience here was with a friend of a friend who lives near Santa Fe. She took us to this special place – just a few years after it had become an official National Monument. The road to it was dirt and there were no improvements – no gates, no parking lots, no bathrooms, just Nature. We loved it then; now it is a discovered-place-to-visit, just like Yosemite. Because of our National Park experiences, we know that you must get up early and get their first if you want to experience that special Mother-Nature Moment without crowds and noise.
We leave our little Santa Fe casita around 7 AM for the short-but-truly-Southwest-vistas drive to the monument. We arrive at 7:53, the 8th car in line! Gates open at 8 AM. All we had to do is show our National Park Pass – otherwise it was $20 for the day.
4 miles further along a road with dips for the arroyos, we park and start our hike. The National Monument has been carved out of land owned by the Cochiti Pueblo people – they work at the gate and definitely still have an affinity to this land. It truly is special.
Due to several factors, the hike is moderately difficult; a 630 feet elevation gain across the 1.5 mile hike to the top of the plateau; some rock scrambling and stair climbing, narrow canyon passages, and very granular trail surfaces best hiked in real hiking boots. It’s worth every pounding heartbeat – spectacular views of the tent rocks as you hike and then a panoramic view of the area from the top. It took us one and half hours to reach the top and the younger people weren’t that far in front of us (OK, so they were new to the trail and had more gawking time than us old timers!).
Two German guys at the top were drinking beer. They had indications of being people who are doing Route 66 too. Yep, you meet all kinds of folks along the Mother Road!
Going down we run in to a group of about 6 older people (like us) who ask if ‘is really hard’ and ‘is it worth the hike up.’ What do you think we said?
The Cochiti Pueblo created their own Visitor Center since there is none at the National Monument – rip-off post card prices, but nice folks, clean bathrooms and a good attempt to add positively to the Tent Rocks experience.
A great hike and now we need food! We decide to make it a twofer on our trip checklist – check off a must-do hike and a famous Santa Fe eatery, The Pantry Restaurant, where they have been serving excellent local fare since 1948. We ate here in 2002 when we were on our Route 66 trip. Great food and good service – always busy.
Home for an afternoon of regular routines – laundry, misc. stuff – yes, life creeps in even in Santa Fe. Even mailing our son some Hatch Green Chile Sauce…!