El Malpais National Monument has dark features both on the ground and far above. Black lava rock covers much of the surface and even darker night skies fill the horizons in all directions. Why not take an evening to look up after a day of looking down at lava?
Where to Look Up
The International Dark Sky Association requires areas have a visual-band zenith luminance of 21.2 magnitudes per square arcsecond (0.4 mcd/m2) or darker for official certification. Many places in and around El Malpais already exceed this requirement, and you can visit them any time of year! There’s no need to wait for a certification to explore the night skies.
How to get there: Take exit 81 off of Interstate 40 for New Mexico Highway 53. Drive approximately 20 miles before turning left onto the trailhead.
La Ventana Natural Arch (BLM)
How to get there: Take exit 89 off of Interstate 40 for New Mexico Highway 117. Drive 18 miles south. The turn-off is on your left.
The Narrows Trailhead (BLM)
How to get there: Take exit 89 off of Interstate 40 for New Mexico Highway 117. Drive 20 miles south. The turn-off is on your left.
How to get there: Take exit 89 off of Interstate 40 for New Mexico Highway 117. Drive 36 miles south. The turn-off is on your right. A one-mile gravel road ends at the parking lot.
There's plenty to see with your naked eye, but binoculars or telescopes offer a deeper look into space. Bring a chair if you plan on spending a few hours outside, sky maps to better undersand what you're looking at, and pack extra layers, especially furing the winter. Local sunset and sunrise times change with the seasons, and weather can vary, so remember to plan ahead if you're looking to get a late or early start.
Year-Round Visible Features
Summer Sky Features
Winter Sky Features
Protect The Night
El Malpais National Monument has spectacular dark skies. What do your skies look like at your home? If your night sky isn't as dark as you would like, you can help improve night sky quality by taking steps around your home and in your local community.
Last updated: July 2, 2022