Days 16 & 17
May 7 – 8
We left Cochiti Lake the next morning and headed to Albuquerque to resupply. We needed to be in Flagstaff, AZ on May 9th for the pre-Overland Expo. We always spend a couple of nights at the Flagstaff KOA before the Overland Expo West.
El Malpais National Monument
After picking up groceries and refueling, we decided to camp at El Malpais National Monument for the next couple of nights. There is only one campground with 10 campsites on the Eastern side of the park. We tried to camp there last year, but all of the sites were full when we got there.
Dispersed Camping at El Malpais
Granted, we didn’t show up until around 9:30 last year after we spent a great deal of time in the parking lot of a Home Depot replacing our grill.
This year, we got there in plenty of time and had about three campsites to choose from. We picked a spot on the outside of the ring with a little more space. Because the rear of our vehicle is a little higher than the front, we try to camp in spots with the opposite arrangement. This campsite meant that we wound up in kind of a peculiar position with our front and rear almost in a couple of big bushes.
As night fell, a couple of sites gained occupants and a couple of occupied sites lost their inhabitants. The owner of a modified blue camper van came over to say hi. We talked for a long time. It turns out that he was traveling with his dog and cat. I took him up on his offer to let me meet his pets.
We talked for a lot longer before it was time for dinner and bedtime.
El Malpais National Monument centers around a chain of volcanic craters and the lava field created by them.
Last year, we drove the Chain of Craters Scenic Byway from the eastern side of the park to the western side and camped at El Morro National Monument. That campground was very nice.
El Malpais and the Chain of Craters Scenic Byway
El Morro National Monument
This time, we wanted to do some of the trails on this side of the park. We stopped at Sandstone Bluffs. The area gives you am opportunity to walk along the top of sandstone bluffs that look down on the lava field.
The views really are stunning.
We spent a lot of time climbing up and down around the rocks at the top.
We followed a trail leading to the bottom of the bluffs. I enjoyed getting a chance to see the bluffs from the bottom.
We walked along the bottom for a while.
We eventually followed a track back up to the top.
The only people we saw on the sandstone hike was at the top near the parking lot.
After a break, we drove further south and stopped at the Narrows picnic area and the trailhead for the Narrows Rim Trail.
The trail climbs up a sandstone bluff and continues to gain elevation along the edge of the bluffs until it ends at a view of the La Ventura Natural Arch. It is almost exactly 8 miles long.
The trail alternates between walking on rocks, soil and sand. I was really grateful that almost all of the deep sandy parts were uphill on our way out. I was already a little tired and really didn’t want to have to hike uphill through them on the return hike.
The views were pretty amazing.
I really liked the views of the collapsed lava tubes.
The hike was certainly worth doing.
We came across a solo hiker about a mile from the trailhead on our return hike.
It was a great day. We were ready for a quick dinner and then bed.