Connect with us

New Mexico

These Underground Lava Tubes in New Mexico Will Take You to a Dark but Cool New World



Does the thought of exploring underground attractions excite you? It probably has something to do with the fact that you are below the ground, and it feels as though you’ve been transported to a whole new world. Well, we took note of absolutely gorgeous underground lava tubes in New Mexico that are worth visiting. All you need to do is add it to your itinerary list! Check out El Malpais National Monument:

El Malpais National Monument Introduces You to a Beautiful Otherworldly Scene

El Malpais National Monument caves new mexico

Source: Instagram

It’s not a surprise if tourists from different parts of the globe come together to see the El Malpais National Monument in New Mexico. Why exactly is that? The place features such picture-worthy earth formations that will leave you in awe. You will be fascinated by the geology, sun gardens, hidden ice formations, and even the bat residents! Indeed, the caving adventure that awaits your careful exploration is best shared with your family and friends.

When you come to El Malpais National Monument, expect to see and dramatic volcanic field that covers much of the park.  It leaves a barren look and a somewhat dreary atmosphere, but the several caves in the area will mesmerize you.

The Different Underground Lava Tubes at El Malpais National Monument Will Give You a Memorable Caving Experience

Big Skylight cave El Malpais National Monument

Source: Instagram

There are five caves that are open to the public for cave exploration. Among these five include Junction Cave and Xenolith Cave. You can access the caves at the El Calderon Area. On the other hand, the three other caves are Big Skylight, Giant Ice, and Four Windows Caves. These are available at the Big Tubes Area.

Junction Cave

Junction Cave new mexico

Source: Instagram

If you are a beginner who has just started his or her caving experience, then you better go to the Junction Cave. This one, including the short section of the lava tube outside the cave called Junction Bridge, are perfect! The entrances can easily be spotted and are just close to the El Calderon parking area. You don’t have to hike too long because the well-maintained gravel trail is merely 200 feet away from your car. Those who are more adventurous may opt to proceed to the small side passage about midway through Junction Cave. There, the visitor will have to crawl to a small chamber.

Xenolith Cave

Xenolith Cave El Malpais National Monument

Source: Instagram

The experienced cavers will definitely have fun exploring Xenolith Cave. There are rooms here aptly called the “Large Intestine” and “Small Intestine” that evoke the shape on the pristine volcanic passages. If you are curious about this cave’s name, accounts say that it comes from the geologic term for the “pieces of non-volcanic rocks found embedded in its walls.”

Take note that Xenolith Cave is off-limits for beginners. The caving difficulty for this one is rated “extremely difficult.” After the first 100 feet, you’d need to take a ten-foot climb and make your way through and very tight crawlways. There is also no trail inside this cave so you need to know how to properly navigate your way. Be careful when scrambling over the large, unstable boulders. Lastly, make sure that you are in the right physical condition, and have the right equipment when coming here.

Big Skylight Cave

Big Skylight Cave El Malpais National Monument

Source: Instagram

Before you leave El Malpais National Monument, you might want to check out the Big Skylight Cave, which is considered a National Treasure. It’s not really easy to get to this place. You will need to hit the muddy road and go on a 20-mile off-road Jeep drive. Once you reach the destination, you’d need to free climb the cliff walls down into the cave and make your way across the giant lava boulders to get to the mouth of the lava tube. This is certainly not for everyone because it takes mad skills. But the beauty that lies in front of you can’t be described into words. In fact, even a photo that already looks so stunning wouldn’t be able to give justice to when you see it in person.

Giant Ice Cave

Are you tired of the usual sightings during the summer season? Come to El Malpais National Monument and head straight to the Giant Ice Cave. This underground lava tube is a treat on a warm summer day because the room is cool and a small perennial ice floor can be found at the cave’s back rim. During the winter season and early spring, there are temporary columns of translucent ice that grow several feet high. You need to reach the center of the cave to see it, but it sure is worth it!

Four Windows Cave

Four Windows Cave nm

Source: Stav is Lost

Can you guess why this cave has that name? That’s easy. The cave has holes that look like windows! This one is probably one of the top caves here in El Malpais National Monument.

Acoma-Zuni trail El Malpais National Monument

Source: Instagram

Before you go, why not enjoy the variety of terrain and trails New Mexico has to offer by hitting the Acoma-Zuni Trail? It might be a tiring 8-mile hike, but you will be in awe at how well-kept the trail is. It is not just clean. The markers along the trail are also visible so adventurers won’t get lost.

How Can You Explore These Underground Lava Tubes at El Malpais National Monument?

Can’t wait to have the best caving experience? Well, you’ll be happy to know that all you need is a free caving permit and proper equipment, and you are good to go! You can obtain it in person from the El Malpais Visitor Center and at the El Morro Visitor Center. Take note that these permits are valid for up to seven days after the date it is issued.

Also, both individual and group caving permits are only valid with a cave permit number obtained from a park ranger at a visitor center. The individual permit application may be processed in advance of your trip for a hassle-free experience. You may just bring it to a park ranger at a visitor center to obtain a cave permit number.

For group permits (groups of 11 or more), you need to contact El Malpais National Monument Visitor Center to reserve a date and time thirty days in advance. Once you are done with your reservation, you also need to bring your permit application to a park ranger at a visitor center to obtain a valid cave permit number.

Note: All caves at El Malpais National Monument are closed for visitor safety and resource protection until further notice. You may regularly check or call the Visitor Center for updates prior to coming here.

El Malpais National Monument Visitor Center Contact No: (505) 876-2783


What do you think of the underground lava tubes at El Malpais National Monument?

You might also want to check out the 8 stunning places you should definitely visit in New Mexico.

A writer big on nature, travel, and dogs. If you can't find Errot with her furry pal, then she's probably out exploring.