Great Hikes: Lava Falls Trail, Malpais National Monument, New Mexico

Updated on May 10, 2018
Tom Lohr profile image

Tom Lohr is an avid fan of science, space travel and exploration. He has spent 13 months at the science station at the South Pole.

Welcome to Planet X
Welcome to Planet X | Source

The Quick and Dirty


TYPE: loop

LENGTH: 1.25 miles

TIME: 45 minutes


DOG FRIENDLY: allowed, but not recommended

Lava Falls Trail

If you find yourself in western New Mexico, take the opportunity to learn about the Land of Enchantment's violent and volcanic past. El Malpais National Monument, close to Grants, New Mexico, offers some spectacular examples of what happens when large amounts of molten rock solidifies and becomes a prominent feature of the geography. The Lava Falls Trail is on the southeastern side of the National Monument and offers a quick sample of the gigantic lava field.

The Hike

Lava Falls Trail is advertised as a one mile loop, but in reality it is closer to a mile and a quarter. Expect to spend at least 45 minutes hiking it. The uneven ground will keep you from reaching full hiking pace and you will also want to stop and take in the rich blackness of the landscape. Simply start at the trailhead lot and follow the cairns. In three quarters of an hour you will have taken in some of the best of Malpais National Monument.

Navigation along the loop can be a bit tricky. You will never get completely lost since it is mainly a large, quasi-flat area, but keeping to the loop so you can see all of the sights requires attention. The trail is mostly marked with rock cairns. The cairns are made from the same black lava as the rest of the landscape, so finding them can take some concentration. They are plentiful with very little distance between them so look for the next one before taking off from the one you are currently at and things should go smoothly.

Dogs are allowed on the Lava Falls Trail, but I would only recommend taking Fido during the winter months due to the temperature of the lava and how it would feel on your pet's paws. Also, the abrasion factor on paws is not to be underestimated. Personally, I would not take my canine companion on this short hike.

Typical Trail Cairn
Typical Trail Cairn | Source

Do Not Fall Down

Hiking on the the black lava is love/hate experience. While the porous rock offers excellent grip and traction for your shoes, it is full of divots of all sizes that can make the journey a little wobbly and therefore somewhat hazardous. Falling onto the lava field is going to require a little more than a band-aid. Hiking poles are strongly recommended for better stability. If you do not have a set, a durable and very affordable option are BAFX trekking poles. I have used them on numerous hikes and they have saved me from more than a few tumbles.

The Spooky Trees

The Lava Falls Trail is not to be missed if in the area. It is probably the closest you will ever come to walking on a barren, alien planet. Even the trees have an other worldly appearance. The tree seeds, dropped by birds eventually sprout in the deep crevices of the lava. The trees have to twist their way up though the non-yielding rock and as a result have very twisted trunks. They look like trees from your average evil forrest of fairy tale fame.

Twisty Tree
Twisty Tree | Source

Getting There

From Interstate 40, take exit 89, just east of Grants. Go south on NM 117 approximately 40 miles and look for the signs for Lava Falls trail. The road from I-40 is paved and the road to the trailhead is well maintained.

Lava Falls, NM:
Lava Falls, New Mexico 87020, USA

get directions

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)