Cave permits now available for selected park caves
FREE mandatory cave permits are now available to visit specific caves in El Malpais. Permits can be obtained at the Northwest New Mexico Visitor Center at I-40/Exit 85 or at the El Malpais Information Center on NM Highway 53. More »
NPS photo by Rick Best
Exploring the region by vehicle can be done on paved highways or rugged backcountry dirt roads.
The El Calderon Trailhead road and Sandstone Bluffs road are generally passable to all vehicles. Four-wheel-drive and high clearance are recommended for other park backcountry roads.
Exploring By Car:
Highway 53 provides access to:
Highway 117 provides access to:
County Road 42 is the "Chain of Craters Backcountry Byway" and travels along the western boundary of the park. It provides access to the Big Tubes area and a segment of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. This is a lightly maintained road that can become impassable after heavy rain or snow. Get a road report and travel in a four wheel drive high clearance vehicle if using this route.
Did You Know?
Gopher snakes can mimic rattlesnake behavior, thrashing their tails in dry grass or leaves. These elegant reptiles are nonvenomous and help control rodent populations in high desert regions like El Malpais. More...