Frequently Asked Questions

What does El Malpais mean?
El Malpais is Spanish for badlands or bad country. It was used by early Spanish map makers to describe areas of volcanic terrain.

Where are the Ice Caves and Bandera Crater?
Although these features are within the monuments legislated boundary, they are privately owned and operated. Visit for more information on this area.

Does El Malpais have a developed campground?
No. Primitive camping is permitted but requires a high-clearance vehicle to access areas where camping is allowed. The BLM has a 10-site primitive campground on NM117, just south of their Ranger Station. The campground has pit toilets and campsites feature picnic tables and fire grates. El Morro has a nine site developed campground located about 20 miles west of the Information Center off of NM53.

Can I go into any wild cave that I want?
Currently, five caves are open to exploration via a FREE cave permit system. At El Calderon, cavers can visit Junction Cave (seasonal closure in effect) and Xenolith Cave. At Big Tubes, cavers can visit Big Skylight Cave, Four Windows, and Giant Ice Cave. Click here for more details.

Entry into any other cave at this time is by permit for research purposes only: a permit must be obtained well in advance of your visit. Check out our permits page or contact monument headquarters at (505) 285-4641 for more information on obtaining permits.

Can I bring my dog?
Pets must be leashed at all times. We don't recommend hiking out on the lava with your pet as the rugged terrain can easily injure them. The most pet-friendly trail is the 3.8 mile El Calderon trail located off of Hwy 53 in the El Calderon Area.

Please don't leave your pet locked in the vehicle or unattended at any time.

Pets are not allowed inside caves.

Last updated: February 22, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

1900 E. Santa Fe Ave.
Grants, NM 87020


(505) 876-2783

Contact Us