2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on

Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – October 2007

Phenomenon: Valles Caldera

Hike into the epicenter of a cataclysmic explosion in New Mexico's Valles Caldera

by: The Backpacker Editors

How it Happened

As the volcano erupted, it began to collapse. Gas vents fractured the crater floor, dropping it into the now-empty magma chamber. More eruptions spawned landslides around the rim. Rain and snowmelt filled the caldera, while magma oozing from the crater floor swelled into small peaks that rose above the lake.

Hike into the Valles Caldera today, and you'd never guess that this sunken oval of ponderosa forests and trout streams 40 miles northwest of Santa Fe was the epicenter of a cataclysmic explosion. But 1.25 million years ago, a sudden and massive eruption created not only this 14-mile wide crater, but also the orange-rock landscape of northern New Mexico. Numerous hot springs in the area indicate that Valles Caldera is dormant, not extinct—which is all the more reason to get to know this geothermal gem before she blows again.

[Hot rocks] Valles Caldera's volcanic history is a consequence of its location above two intersecting cracks in the Earth's crust: the north-south Rio Grande Rift, and the Jemez Lineament, an east-west crease of weakened crust. These deep fissures enable magma to rise close to the surface.

[Big blast] Exploding with 100 times the force of Mt. St. Helens, the volcano that became Valles Caldera ejected a fiery cloud of ash, steam, and gases. While some particles drifted as far as Iowa, most debris poured out like a giant pancake, burying hundreds of square miles under ash as thick as 3,000 feet. Over several decades, the cooling ash welded into a rock layer now known as the upper Bandelier Tuff.

[Rising anew] Over time, fresh magma pushed up the caldera floor to create new volcanic domes, including Redondo Peak, which today rises 3,000 feet above the valley. The cycle of eruption, collapse, and rebirth makes this volcano a resurgent caldera, similar to others in Yellowstone National Park and California's Long Valley.

Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Address 1:
Address 2:
Email (req):
Reader Rating: -


Your rating:
Your Name:


My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Hiking on rocks
Posted On: Aug 29, 2014
Submitted By: RobinHood
Trailhead Register
Once there was a silly old ram ...
Posted On: Aug 28, 2014
Submitted By: RumiDude

View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions