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Natural Wonders: Ice Caves, Bison, and Huckleberries

Three treks to life-list phenomena

Cool off in the Southwest’s natural freezer.

The Wonder
Though they lie beneath a sun-scorched desert, the 10,000-year-old Bandera Ice Caves never get warmer than 31°F. Ice, 20 feet thick and glistening blue-green, forms when rain and snowmelt seep into the collapsed lava tube and freeze in the winter air that sinks into the cave. The result: a 60-degree temperature drop as you climb down a ladder into the maw of the pit.

The Way
From the visitor center, 100 miles southwest of Albuquerque, take a half-mile trail lined with twisted cedars to the rim of Bandera Volcano, where you can look into its 800-foot-deep crater. Then, circle back to the visitor center and follow the Cinder Trail .7 mile to the cave. A person-size hole in a jumble of rocks reveals a wooden staircase that drops 75 feet to the frozen floor.

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