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Zuni-Acoma Trail hike in the El Malpais Nat'l Monument (near Grants, NM)

Fri, 2013-04-19
Jean Dewart and Mary Thompson


  • Join us for a car camping weekend at the El Malpais National Monument, to hike the historic Zuni-Acoma trail.
    The trip is a joint trip with the Northern Group of the Sierra Club.  We will limit the trip to 20 participants.  
  • We will drive to the Monument on Friday.  There are a number of sites to see, depending upon participant interest - tour Acoma Pueblo ($20), the NM Mining Museum ($3) in Grants, and El Moro Nat'l Monument ($3) 42 miles west of Grants. 
  • Saturday we will hike the historic Zuni-Acoma trail.  We may have a National Park Service Guide.  The trail is 7.5 miles one way, takes 6-7 hours, and will require a car shuttle.  The car shuttle may involve a "car key swap" - depening upon participant interest.  More details are found at:
  • Sunday will include a shorter hike to archeological sites or volcanos within the El Malpais.  This may also be a ranger led hike.  One goal will be to return to Los Alamos/Santa Fe by 6 pm. 
  • There is camping at the BLM Joe Skeen campground on the eastern side of the El Malpais.  There are 10 primitive sites for up to 2 cars & 8 people each at the Joe Skeen campground.  Each site has an awning over a picnic table and is within strolling distance of 1 of 2 vault toilets.  Cell service is with Verizon whose tower is to the north.  There are clean rest rooms and limited potable water available between 8:30 AM and 4 PM at the BLM ranger station 2 miles south of the campground.   
  • It is also possible to join this trip and stay in a motel in Grants.  There is also dispersed camping in the El Malpais.  
  • Sign up via email to Jean Dewart, or Mary Thompson,  As the trip nears, we will have more information on the hike, car shuttle, and camping details. 



Eighteen LAM and Sierra Club folks joined the trip to the El Malpais.  On Friday, on the drive out, some of us visited Acoma Pueblo and the NM Mining Museum.  Both well worth the time.  We camped at the Joe Skeen BLM Campground at the El Malpais - plenty of room for all.  
We split into 2 groups on Saturday - one driving around to the west end of the Zuni/Acoma trail - about 45 minute drive.  The other half started at the east end, about three miles from the campground.  We had perfect timing, and the two groups met at noon for lunch.  We exchanged car keys for the return drive.  
The first mile on each end of the hike is a regular trail thru the dirt and sand - quite easy to follow.  The middle 6 1/2 miles cross the lava fields.  The trail is marked with cairns - we lost the trail a few times, but with 9 hikers it was fairly easy to refind the cairns.  The views of the lava fields are spectacular.  The footing is fairly rugged across the lava - but can be done with tennis shoes if your souls are moderately stiff.
We arrived back at the campground between 4 and 5 pm, and joined together for a potluck dinner.  It was fairly windy, so no campfire.
About 10 of the group joined one of the BLM rangers for a petroglyph hike on Sunday.  Others returned home via the various other attractions in the area.  The petroglyphs included a stone calendar , but we were about 30 minutes late to see the shadow mark the noon hour.  Well worth coordinating with the BLM to see these features.
The trip was well worth it - most participants thought they would come again.

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