El Malpais National Monument is a fascinating place. El Malpais is pronounced el-mal-pie-ees and means the badlands in Spanish. El Malpais has even more volcanic features such as lava flow tubes, cinder cones, and ice caves. Even driving to the Monument was cool because of all the lava along side the road.
We stopped at the Visitors Center first. We greeted by a wonderful Ranger, Bill Reynolds. He was so excited to tell us about the Monument and gave us lots of great information and even got us more excited to see everything. He sent us to the El Calderon Loop trail.
Within minutes of starting our hike, we found our first lava tube and Junction Cave and of course, most of the group hiked in. This tube is one of the oldest in the monument at 115,000 years old.
Just down the trail,
we saw the Double Sinks, 2 lava tubes right next to each other. These are about 80 feet deep and are formed when the lava tube roofs collapse.
Next, we stopped at the Bat and Xenolith Caves. The Bat Cave is closed permanently so the bats can live in peace. The Xenolith cave allows for some caving.
We also stopped and saw a lave trench, is formed like a lava tube but the roof collapses shortly after the tube cools.
The El Calderon cinder cone,
and some past controlled forest burns.
Here are some of the more interesting lava rocks we found on our hike.
After our hike, the kids had completed their Ranger books and were ready to earn their badges. Ranger Reynolds did something extra special and took them outside to the Contential Divide trail marker. It was the most special badge earning events.
Andrew got this cool Jr. Ranger vest from Grandma for his birthday.
After seeing El Malpais, we had a 2 1/2 hour drive to Santa Fe where we planned to spend the night.