This is a very tough 7.5-mile, cairn-marked hike across cooled lava flows. The route has been in use for centuries by Pueblo Peoples, and continues to be used today. Prepare for this rugged trek with appropriate sun protection, food, water, and sturdy shoes. Hikers can access a section of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail approximately one mile from the parking lot. Pit toilets are available.
Here you'll find a 4.8-mile loop trail that wanders past lava tubes, other lava flow features, and to the top of El Calderon volcano, active around 60,000 years ago. This is the most developed trail in the park, and the trailhead features picnic tables and pit toilets. Hikers looking for more can also access the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail from the parking lot.
Bandera Volcano & Ice Cave has stood as a family-owned and operated business for over eighty years, highlighting a massive cinder cone and lava tube with a perpetual layer of ice. To inquire about entrance fees and other information, call 505-783-4303 or 888-423-2283, or visit their website. Expect a half-hour drive from the El Malpais Visitor Center.
County Road 42 provides access to Big Tubes and also is the formal name for the Chain of Craters Backcountry Byway. Road conditions can vary throughout the year, so always check with a ranger before you make the drive. Four-wheel drive, high-clearance vehicles are recommended for this road.
Last updated: May 12, 2021