Volcanoes are cool! In New Mexico, our volcanoes are part of what makes our landscape so special. Did you know that New Mexico is also called “The Land of Volcanoes”? Not only do we have a lot of volcanoes, we have almost every type of volcanic landform. Many of our volcanic features also play a part in Native culture and are considered sacred.
To see some of the most significant volcanoes and volcanic features across the state, check out our Volcano Road Trip.
New Mexicans are lucky. If we don't live next to a volcano, we can take a short drive and see one.
Since volcanoes cover most of the state, plan on a few days to cover all 1800+ miles. The trip takes you to real volcanoes and some of the great landscapes created by these powerful and magnificent forces of nature. See the
As well as volcanoes, the state has examples of every major type of volcanic land feature, beautifully preserved by our desert climate.
New Mexico doesn't have any active volcanoes. Some are extinct, but some are dormant; just waiting to explode again. The explosions won't happen any time soon, though. Scientists estimate
that there is a 10 percent chance that an eruption could occur in New Mexico in the next 1,000 years. (Shown: Albuquerque Basin Volcanic Field).
1. Petroglyph National Monument (Albuquerque)
The Albuquerque volcanoes, Vulcan, and her two smaller sisters are inactive. When they erupted, (more than 150,000 years ago), their lava flow created much of the west mesa and the basalt rocks that the Native Americans, Mexican and Spanish settlers carved symbols into 400 to 700 years ago.
2. Mount Taylor (Grants)
Mount Taylor is the second youngest volcano in New Mexico. It is an example of a
stratovolcano. These tall, cone-shaped volcanoes are made up of layers of lava and other volcanic material from multiple eruptions. Between eruptions, the lava hardens, so material from new eruptions (often coming from different centers) gets deposited on top of the old.
3. El Malpais National Monument (Grants)
Whether you want to hike across an actual lava flow or investigate a lava tube system, El Malpais (also known as the Zuni-Bandera Volcanic Field) is sure to leave its mark on your memory. Resulting from millions of years of volcanic activity, five different lava flows are layered here. The McCartys flow is one of the youngest. Because of its youth, you can find some of the most pristine lava formations on earth right here.
4. Zuni Salt Lake (Catron County)
Zuni Salt Lake is an example of a volcanic
maar. These low craters get formed when hot magma comes in contact with groundwater. The Zunis and other Pueblo People consider this lake home to the Salt Woman deity. For centuries, these people have made pilgrimages here to gather salt for ceremonial and cultural purposes. Access to this lake is unclear, but we included it because of its volcanic significance. In the photo, you can see the maar next to the small volcano.
5. Shiprock (Shiprock)
This unusual rock formation gets its name because it seems to rise out of the surrounding landscape like a ship on the ocean. In geological terms, it was once a volcanic plug, serving as the stopper for a volcano vent. Along with its massive height, Shiprock is known for its distinctive dikes, or fence-like sheets of lava that emanate from the structure.
6. Cabezon Peak (near the ghost town of Cabezon)
Peter Spotts/Used by permission
Cabezon Peak is a volcanic plug, or volcanic neck. The aptly named "Big Head" is one of the more than 50 volcanic necks in the Mount Taylor volcanic field. Located in the Rio Puerco Valley, Cabezon Peak reaches 7,785 feet and offers dramatic views of the surrounding areas including the Sandia Mountains, the Rio Grande Valley, the Jemez Mountains, and the Sangre de Cristos.
7. Valles Caldera National Preserve (Jemez Springs)
Though small for a supervolcano, some consider Valle Caldera the poster child for its class. It is one of six supervolcanoes on dry land, and one of the three in the U.S. Even driving along its rim, you can glimpse a bit of what the Valle Caldera has to offer – green meadows (snow-covered in winter) and meandering streams. While volcanic action left an upward landform at Shiprock, here a volcano left a 13-mile wide bowl, or
8. Capulin Volcano National Monument (Capulin)
At Capulin Volcano National Monument, you can drive right up the side of this extinct cinder cone volcano.
At the top, find hiking trails around the rim and down into the mouth of the volcano. There is a lava flow hike at the base too.
9. Valley of Fires State Recreation Area (Carrizozo)
This is one of those middle-of-nowhere places but it's a worthwhile spot to see some of the state's coolest lava flow formations and the determined flora and fauna that thrive among the rocks. Valleys of Fire is in the Carrizozo Malpais, one of New Mexico's other badlands. The lava here came from Little Black Peak, located just northwest of Carrizozo.
10. West Potrillo Mountains Wilderness Study Area (south of Las Cruces)
These mountains are a series of 48 volcanic cinder cones with small sand dunes, playas, and lava fields in-between. Within the lava field area, there are three well-known maars, Hunt's Hole, Kilbourne Hole, and Potrillo. These craters are so otherworldly that NASA astronauts even
trained for moon missions
11. Jornada del Muerto Volcano (Socorro County)
Jornada del Muerto, or Dead Man's Trail, is named after the arduous section of the Camino Real that passed near this lava flow, just east of White Sands. The volcano here is a shield volcano – a volcano with a low, shield-shaped profile. This shape forms because the lava from these volcanoes is especially liquid, thus the lava flows farther. Up close, the lava field is an expansive complex of lava tubes, some of which serve as bat habitat.
It doesn’t take much to see a volcano in New Mexico. We’re sure you’ve seen a few. Were you surprised that some of these landscapes features were formed by volcanoes? Which are your favorites and why?