Camping: El Malpais, Joe Skeen Campground

El Malpais is an area about an hour west of Albuquerque, New Mexico on I-40. El Malpais is made up of a National Monument run buy the National Park Service and a National Conservation Area run by the Bureau of Land Management. Backcountry camping is allowed in some remote parts of the National Monument but the only campground is the Joe Skeen Campground in the National Conservation Area (you don’t really notice the difference between the NPS and BLM land, it’s all the same pretty desert terrain). The Joe Skeen Campground has ten sites with a fire pit and covered picnic table at each one. There are also pit toilets in the campground. Despite being described as “primitive” (because there is no running water). This campground is well maintained and very clean. It sits below a large cliff with views that span the entire area if you are brave enough to climb up. This campground is also typically empty. We stayed here 4th of July weekend and there was one other person camping. The dirt road of off NM117 that leads to the campground is short but has a dip in the road that would be difficult for small cars to traverse if it was flooded. I have driven it in a Jeep Wrangler and a Honda Accord and neither had issues. This campground is awesome and is one of my favorite campgrounds to stay in. Partly because El Malpais is one of my favorite places ever and it is in my favorite state but it’s also just a great little desert campground. Camping at the Joe Skeen Campground will cost you the hefty price of zero dollars.

This picture was taken at night but ended up looking like an old film picture. You can kind of see some stars in the top left corner.

Thanks! – Josh

Sunday Hikes: Sandia Cave Trail

Just east of Albuquerque sit the Sandia Mountains, rising up to twice the height of the city. Every time I have visited Albuquerque I have wanted to go and explore the mountains and on our last trip to New Mexico I finally got to! We entered the Sandia Mountains area going south on 165 which is a dirt 4wd road halfway through the mountains before turning to a paved highway by Sandia Crest (the tallest point in the range). Somewhere along the road we found a small parking lot for the Sandia Cave Trail and decided to check it out! 


The trail was pretty short but gained a good bit of elevation for being less than a mile long. At the end of the trail we came to a small spiral staircase on the side of a cliff that took us up to the cave. The stairs didn’t really feel safe but we didn’t die so I guess they were a little safe. 


At the top of the stairs there is probably ten feet before you hit a waist high brick wall that we climbed over to get into the cave. We didn’t expect to go crawl in the cave so we only had one head lamp and our phone lights with us but thanks to some firefighters at the entrance we were encouraged to go check it out. The cave is very dry and extremely dusty but is a nice cool escape from the New Mexico heat. The end of the cave was probably half of a mile tops from the entrance and we crawled on our bellies or hands and knees most of the way. After crawling to the end and back we emerged looking like Oompa Loompas from all the orange dirt and dust in the cave. We headed back to the Jeep and continued on with our day covered in orange dirt! 


Despite the trail being nothing this hike is really cool and unique compared to any other trails I’ve done. This is the only easily accessible cave I know of in a national forest that is so unregulated. There wasn’t a single warning sign about cave ins or all the dust you will inhale in the cave. I would recommend this trail to anyone unless your claustrophobic and I want to do it again already! 

Thanks! – Josh