A narrow stream meanders across a grassy meadow.
A narrow stream meanders through a grassy valley at Valles Caldera.

M. Mudd

Located in the Jemez Mountains of north-central New Mexico, Valles Caldera National Preserve protects, preserves, and restores ecosystems and cultural landscapes within an outstanding example of a volcanic caldera for the purpose of education, scientific research, public enjoyment and use, and cultural continuity.

The juxtaposition of large grassland meadows, or valles in Spanish, surrounded by rounded forest-covered volcanic domes provides the distinctive natural landscape that led to the name of Valles Caldera. The high-elevation ecosystems, ranging from 8,000 to 11,254 feet high, combine abundant rainfall, mixed-conifer forests, and deep rich soils to support a great diversity of animals, plants, fungi, and other organisms including herds of several thousand elk and healthy populations of mountain lions, bears, and coyotes.


Discover Nature at Valles Caldera

  • A coyote with its tongue sticking out walks toward us in a grassy meadow

    Valles Caldera protects and restores a broad range of habitats for wildlife.

  • The Milky Way and a night sky bursting with stars over a small stream.
    Night Skies

    Come and discover some of the darkest skies in the world.

  • A dainty purple flower stands tall in a wildflower patch.

    The park's broad elevation range fosters a diversity of plant communities.

  • A volcanic landscape composed of white gravel and bright pools of water.
    Volcanic origins

    Explore the volcanic origins of Valles Caldera.

  • Flames engulf the ground in a pine forest.
    Wildland Fire

    Fire is a natural component of the Jemez Mountains ecosystem.

  • A small stream in a grassy valley surrounded by rock spires and evergreen trees.

    With miles of meandering headwaters streams, Valles Caldera is an important watershed protection area.


An Ecosystem in Recovery

The preserve offers a landscape in which to explore the dynamics of high-elevation ecosystem stability and resilience in the context of changing climate conditions. Although the natural beauty of the caldera has persisted, the land-use practices of the 19th and 20th centuries, including overgrazing, clear-cut logging, and road building, have left a legacy of unhealthy forests, riparian damage, degraded wetlands, and reduced stream function. Numerous wildlife species were extirpated from the area as well. Today’s approach to ecological restoration builds on the lessons learned from this history and seeks to regain balance between human uses and natural processes. The preserve is an ecosystem in recovery. Major wildfires in 2011 and 2013 burned 60% of the preserve, and today the contrast in recently burned areas between old-growth forest and dense, second-growth forests provides a compelling demonstration of the value of landscape restoration to promote biotic integrity and biodiversity, while improving watershed function and reducing the potential for future catastrophic wildfires.

Historic black and white image of hundreds of sheep grazing along a narrow creek Historic black and white image of hundreds of sheep grazing along a narrow creek

Left image
Sheep grazing on Jaramillo Creek, 1935

Right image
Recovering wetland beside Jaramillo Creek, 2001.

Last updated: January 4, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

090 Villa Louis Martin Dr.
Jemez Springs, NM 87025


Ranger Station (for general park information)

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