El Malpais means "the badlands" in Spanish. The park is so named because of the unusual terrain caused by lava from ancient volcanoes. It covers a large area and is sparsely visited. Much of the park's area is covered by lava flows, and it also contains canyons, sandstone cliffs, rock formations, cinder cones, and lava tube caves. It is perfect for someone who wants to get away from it all and enjoy the spectacular scenery in solitude. Grants, Gallup, Albuquerque, and Pie Town are nearby towns that can be explored as well.
RV Parks & Campgrounds Near El Malpais National Monument
Exploring the El Malpais National Monument and surrounding attractions is easy to do with an RV. Simply park your RV at one of the nearby RV parks and go exploring. After a full day, your family will enjoy the amenities of the campground. You can rent an RV through RVshare at a nearby location and be all set for a fun adventure.
RV Rentals Near El Malpais National Monument
Things To Do Near El Malpais National Monument
Hiking is the most popular activity at this park. Plan to take one of the hiking trails to see the stunning scenery, rock formations, and lava flows. The nearby El Malpais National Conservation Area also offers beautiful hiking trails. Don't miss the stunning La Ventana Natural Arch in the Conservation Area. In the summertime, the National Monument offers a ranger program in the evenings that will take you to Bat Cave to see the flight of hundreds of Brazilian free-tailed bats as they look for insects to eat.
El Calderon Trail
El Calderon Trail is a figure-8 loop. One part of the loop is a 3.5-mile section that goes through forests of ponderosa pine, pinon pine, and juniper trees. The other part of the loop goes along the cinder cone rim. The trail features beautiful wildflowers and is primarily used by hikers and bird watchers. Dogs are allowed on the trail.
20 miles south of Grants on Highway 53
Lava Falls Trail
The Lava Falls Trail is a loop with a short spur that goes to a natural amphitheater of lava flow. The trail offers scenic views and is used by hikers and walkers. It is not recommended to bring dogs due to the jagged surface of the lava on the trail.
36 miles south of I-40 on Highway 117
Big Tubes Trail
The Big Tubes trail will take you to the unusual sight of two collapsed lava tubes. It will also lead through forests of aspen, ponderosa pine, pinon, and juniper. Follow the cairns (piled up rocks) to stay on the trail. Dogs are not allowed on this trail.
Stop at the El Malpais Visitor Center to see if the roads are passable. From there, head south for 3.6 miles and turn left on County Road 42. After 4.1 miles, follow the sign to turn left toward the Big Tubes area.
Acoma Pueblo is about 50 minutes away, and it is worth the trip. Acoma is a Native American pueblo that is on the top of a 357-foot tall mesa. It is called "Sky City" because it is so high up. It is believed to have been built in the 12th century or earlier, and it is the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States. Pets are not allowed on the tour.
Go east on I-40. Take State Route 23 south from I-40 to the pueblo.
La Ventana Natural Arch
La Ventana Natural Arch is a huge rock formation in the shape of an arch. It is located in the nearby El Malpais National Conservation Area. It is only a short quarter-mile walk from the parking lot to the arch. The drive to the arch from Grants is very scenic.
From Grants, take I-40 east. Take Highway 117 south to the arch.
New Mexico Mining Museum
The New Mexico Mining Museum is the only uranium mining museum in the world. Learn about the uranium miners and how they worked. Explore the legacy of mining and related culture in the Grants area.
100 Iron Avenue, Grants, NM
Route 66 Vintage Museum and Double Six Gallery
The Route 66 Vintage Museum features vintage New Mexico postcards and exhibits about historic Route 66 in New Mexico. The Double Six art gallery shows art by New Mexico artists.
1001 W. Santa Fe Ave., Grants, NM
Nearby Shops and Restaurants
La Ventana Steakhouse
La Ventana Steakhouse is known for its great steaks and margaritas. They also serve New Mexican food, ribs, seafood, and chicken. This place has received excellent reviews.
110 Geis Street, Grants, NM
El Cafecito is a family-friendly cafe that serves Mexican and New Mexican food. Come here for dinner, and then enjoy a sopapilla, a traditional New Mexican dessert eaten with honey.
820 E. Santa Fe Avenue, Grants, NM
Indian Trail Trading Post
The Indian Trail Trading Post is an authentic resale shop serving the Grants area. Visitors have been enchanted by the unusual and vintage merchandise to be found in this shop. Go back in time by browsing the unique Native American and historical items here.
1871 W. Santa Fe Ave., Grants, NM
How To Get To El Malpais National Monument
To get to the El Malpais National Monument Visitor Center, take I-40 west from Albuquerque or east from Gallup. From I-40, take exit 85, and go south on Highway 117. Turn left onto Cliflear Blvd. and follow it to the Visitor Center. The Visitor Center is very close to I-40.
El Malpais National Monument is open year-round. The Visitor Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. There is no fee for normal use of the park. Permits are required for special activities like caving, commercial filming, weddings, and large group events. Permits must be secured at least 30 days ahead of time.
1900 E. Santa Fe Ave., Grants, NM
Fee: Entry fee $0
El Malpais National Monument is a wonderful place to visit if you want to spend time in nature hiking and viewing unusual scenery, lava flows, and rock formations. On your trip, you can also tour nearby destinations such as Acoma Pueblo and visit shops and restaurants in Grants. Traveling with an RV is a perfect choice for your visit. There are many RV parks in the area where you can spend the night and relax after sightseeing. If you are planning an extended trip, there are some wonderful national parks to visit that are not too far away.