One perfect day in El Malpais National Monument

Experience the lava fields, breathtaking views, and some of the oldest Douglas firs around

Ted Alan Stedman

Why go now: This volcanic landscape gets a burst of color when August monsoons bring late-summer bloomers.

Elevation: You’re up there. Between 6,500 and 8,300 feet.

Lay of the land: 114,000 acres of caves, lava fields, and spatter cones, surrounded by sandstone bluffs and some of the oldest Douglas firs in the region.

Winged trips: In May and June, the monument is a stopover for northbound hummingbirds.

Name tag: El Malpais means “the badlands” in Spanish.

Gateway town: Grants (pop. 8,772), 25 miles north.

Hot rock: Grants earned the nickname “Uranium Capital” after a rancher discovered the radioactive ore there in 1950.

Drop by: The gleaming Northwest New Mexico Visitor Center (1900 E. Santa Fe Ave.; 505/876-2783), home to a 60-seat educational theater, exhibits, and free trail maps.

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