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El Malpais National Monument

Some of the most unique and challenging hiking in New Mexico can be found at El Malpais National Monument. El Malpais means “the badlands”, and certainly the nearly 200 square miles of ancient lava fields can be a forbidding and challenging environment. Lava lacerates stumbling hikers and the New Mexico heat is unforgiving to those who forget to hydrate. But New Mexico backpacking enthusiasts know that the fantastic scenery and rich history of the area make it worth the effort.

There are two major trails to use on a backpacking trip to El Malpais. The Narrows Rim follows the corridor between 500-ft sandstone cliffs and 3,000-year-old lava flows, and offers a great view of the La Ventana Arch. The Zuni Acoma Trail has been used for millennia by native Americans, and visitors can see the evidence for themselves as they cross man-made lava-rock bridges and observe ancient stone cairns.

When visiting El Malpais National Monument it is important to respect all natural and historic environments and leave them undisturbed. Overnight back packing expeditions require a free backcountry pass.