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El Malpais National Monument & National Conservation Area

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El Malpais National Monument
123 East Roosevelt Avenue, Grants, New Mexico 87020
Phone: 505-783-4774 | FAX: 505-285-5661

El Malpais National Conservation Area
Grants Field Station—BLM
P.O. Box 846, Grants, New Mexico 87020
Phone: 505-287-7911

El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico.

El Malpais means "the badlands" in Spanish and is most commonly pronounced el-mal-pie-EES. Its volcanic features include jagged spatter cones, a lava tube cave system extending at least 17 miles, and fragile ice caves. The area offers diverse natural environments and tantalizing evidence of American Indian and European history. El Malpais was established by Congress to protect the outstanding archaeological, geological, and wilderness resources surrounding El Malpais lava flows.

The National Park Service (NPS) administers El Malpais National Monument, while the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) administers El Malpais National Conservation Area. This was the first such joint management area established by Congress. The Monument was established in 1987.

Two Visitor Centers with book stores, drinking water, restrooms, picnic areas.


Located south of Grants, New Mexico and 80 miles west of Albuquerque. Two state highways provide access to the Monument and Conservation Area. Both are accessed via Interstate 40. Exit 89, east of Grants, will take you along N. M. 117 which traverses the east side. Exit 81, west of Grants, will take you along N. M. 53, which travels down the northwest edge.


  • Rainfall averages 15 inches annually, with most of that coming in the July, August, and September monsoon season. Unpredictable weather may occur during the monsoon season, which may cause flooding. Thunderstorms are common during these summer rains and lightning poses a hazard to hikers.
  • Temperatures range from cold winters (daytime 30 to 50 degrees; nighttime near minus 20 degrees) to warm summers (daytime 80 to 100 degrees; nighttime 40 to 60 degrees).
  • Sunrise/Sunset

Click for Grants, New Mexico Forecast

Regulations and Precautions

  • Private lands exist within present boundaries of El Malpais and must be respected. Close all gates and stay on designated roads.
  • All vehicles are restricted to designated roads.
  • In wilderness areas both vehicles and mechanized equipment are prohibited.
  • Dirt roads may be impassable when wet.
  • Falls on lava can cause nasty cuts and abrasions.
  • Wear sturdy boots on the rugged, often sharp lava.
  • Leather work gloves are helpful on lava and in caves.
  • Do not drink surface water.
  • Poisonous scorpions and rattlesnakes live in this area. If you encounter a wild animal, do not disturb it.

Archaeological Resources Protection Act Hotline: 800-227-7286.

El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico.

Site design by Frank Stehno
All photographs by Frank Stehno unless otherwise indicated.
Copyright © 2017 by Frank and Anne Stehno. All rights reserved.
Site established in 2000.