El Malpais-Lava Falls Hike – 02/14/2014

Exploring the El Malpais National Monument, near Grants, a large area of volcanic rock with some interesting features, including tubes.

Drive In

From Albuquerque, head west on I-40 towards Grands, but turn south on NM 117.  For some 28 miles you will drive between the Narrows Rim and the Malpais, and past La Ventana Natural Arch (beyond the Arch is a trailhead that goes up on the Rim, north to an overlook with a great view of the Arch).  At about 28 miles, turn right on a dirt road to the parking for the Lava Falls Trail. 

The Hike

Lava Falls Hike.Vince.2014-02-14

Parking is at the edge of the Malpais lava.  From here, the trail crosses dirt for a few yards, then quickly rises onto the lava.  The trail on the lava is marked with cairns, stacks of rocks – keep them in view – if not for these marks of the trail, one could quickly get lost on this featureless terrain. The surface consists of sharp points and ridges, tough on boot soles (and skin should one fall down) and at times it is difficult to discern the track of the trail.

As noted above, the terrain is basically devoid of features.  We did encounter some collapsed lava tubes, but none in condition to enter into.  We also encountered a mound with a relatively smooth surface, and of course we found our way to the Falls, a large depression that appears to be an area that collapsed as lava beneath ‘drained away’.  This is an interesting place to visit and take a short hike.


Total Distance:  1.52 miles
Elevation: start  7,105 ft, maximum  7,139 ft,  minimum  7,101 ft
Gross gain:  38 ft.  Aggregate ascending  279 ft, descending  280 ft
Maximum slope: 28% ascending, 34% descending, 5.4% average
Duration: 2:00

GPS Track Files for Download
I urge you to explore our hiking tracks with Google Earth. With the virtual 3-dimensional presentation, achieved by panning and tilting the view, you can get a much better idea of the hikes and terrain than you can get from the 2-dimensional screenshot above. For assistance: Using Google Earth Track Files.

References (Lava Falls and other features in the Malpais)

National Park Service, El Malpais National Monument:
     Lava Falls
     Lava Falls Gallery
     Lava Falls Area Trail Guide (pdf)
AllTrails: Lava Falls Trail
      Lava Falls
      La Ventana Arch
American Southwest: El Malpais National Monument
New York Times: Into a Lava-Lined Underworld Near Albuquerque

This entry was posted in 2014, Grants, Years and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply