Hiking In Tent Rocks New Mexico

Hiking in Tent Rocks near Santa Fe, New Mexico

slot canyon view of sky


A 3-hour hike through a slot canyon, with incredible rock formations. An hour outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico, this hike starts out going through shallow sand beneath a beautiful set of cliffs, and then quickly turns into a narrow winding slot canyon. The final bit is a 600-ft ascent up to a spectacular view of the surrounding area.

There are two hikes, the “cave loop” and the “slot canyon” hike. We did both in about 3 hours, taking our time. The total distance was about 4.3 miles. This hike is very very popular, and I recommend getting to the entrance before 9:30am if you don’t want to wait in line for an hour and a half. They won’t even let your car into the park if it’s at capacity, and they also won’t let you park at the entrance and walk in (which would be 4 miles through privately-owned Cochiti territory). In fact, we arrived at 11am and were turned away, so we came back the next morning at 9am and had a much better time.

slot canyon view of sky

The first part of the hike is through a gorgeous slot canyon. It’s pretty narrow in parts, but mostly flat and easy to walk.

At about the 1.4 mile mark the slot canyon has come to an end, and the trail starts to head upwards. It’s a little slippery, and fairly steep. There’s one section where I had to use my hands going up and going down. If you’re afraid of heights, or not sure of your footing you’ll have a tough time here. However, halfway up the hill is also one of the prettiest spots, so if you only go halfway up you’ll still get to enjoy the best view of the “tent rocks”.

view of tent rocks

Continuing up, the peak provides a gorgeous view of the surrounding area, including Lake Cochiti off in the distance. You can also walk along the ridge, getting views down into the slot canyon below.

view of slot canyon

At the end of the ridge is a gorgeous view into the valley, though you can’t really see the rock formations any better out here. Even in December, the sun up here was blazing hot and very bright. We all removed our jackets and winter gear and hiked the ridge in t-shirts and long underwear.

The cave loop hike is a great detour to go on the way back to your car, but it’s barely worth doing on its own: the cave (really, cavate) itself is very small and not particularly interesting.

view of cochiti valley

© 2021 / Molly Jane Nicholas / email