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Frozen fire shaped by cataclysmic forces and the footsteps of the ancient ones.
El Malpais National Monument National Park Service Box 939 Grants, NM 87020 505/285-4641 For information on the El Malpais Conservation Area, contact: Bureau of Land Management Box 846 Grants, NM 87020 505/285-5406.
El Malpais Information Center: 505/287-3407
Location: El Malpais is located in New Mexico, 70 miles west of Albuquerque and 10 miles south of Grants (800/748-2142).
Getting There: From Albuquerque, head west on I-40 to Grants. Drive 16 miles south on NM 53, then turn left and drive one and a half miles into the monument to the Zuni-Acoma trailhead. Signs mark the trailhead. Or turn off I-40 before Grants, onto NM 117, to find the visitor center, which is open all year.
Seasonal Information: The summer heat, although tempered by an average altitude of 7,000 feet, can be intense as it rises from the black lava in suffocating waves. In summer, temperatures get up to 90 degrees F. Mid-July through August brings monsoon rains.
Winter means freezing temperatures and snowfall, making spring and fall prime times to visit. In winter, temperatures are generally in the 30s. Snow, which falls from November through February, makes County Road 42 muddy and therefore impassable.
Wildlife: Most common are elk, deer, turkey, golden eagles, coyotes, badgers, black bears, mountain lions, chipmunks, squirrels, swallows, thrushes, snakes, and bats.
Insects: Contact park office for information.
Plant Life: Pinon, aspen, blue spruce, Douglas fir, and juniper join hardy grasses.
Facilities: Camping is primitive, but El Malpais officials will suggest some good sites.
Parking: Contact park office for information.
Permits: Free backcountry permits are required. They are available at the information center, from BLM, and by mail from either source.
Policies: El Malpais demands that you tread lightly, for it ranks among the youngest and most fragile of America's landforms. That means no campfires or handling of artifacts.
Hunting and trapping are permitted in the conservation area.
Leave No Trace:
Maps: The NPS Information Center and BLM Ranger Center sell the El Malpais Recreation Guide Map for $4. USGS topographic maps "Arossa Ranch" and "Los Pilares" cover the region.
Other Trip Options: