El Malpais National Conservation Area

Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico.

Update: The El Malpais Ranger Station is currently closed for renovations and is expected to reopen summer of 2021. Water for campers and RVs is not available at this time. Joe Skeen Campground, La Ventana Natural Arch, and other developed recreation sites are still open. Check back for updates or call (505) 280-2918 with questions.

The El Malpais National Conservation Area (NCA) was established in 1987 to protect nationally significant geological, archaeological, ecological, cultural, scenic, scientific, and wilderness resources surrounding the Zuni-Bandera volcanic field. El Malpais translates to "the badlands" in Spanish.

The NCA includes dramatic sandstone cliffs, canyons, La Ventana Natural Arch, Chain of Craters Back Country Byway, Joe Skeen Campground, the Narrows Picnic Area, and the Cebolla and West Malpais Wilderness Areas. There are many opportunities for photography, hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing within this unique NCA.

For more than 10,000 years people have interacted with the El Malpais landscape. Historic and prehistoric sites provide connections to the past. More than mere artifacts, these cultural resources are kept alive by the spiritual and physical presence of contemporary Native American groups, including the Ramah Navajo and Puebloan peoples of Acoma, Laguna, and Zuni. These tribes continue their ancestral uses of El Malpais including gathering plant materials, paying respect, and renewing ties.

Nearby Activities


El Malpais is located 80 miles west of Albuquerque and just south of Grants, New Mexico. Two state highways provide access to the NCA from Interstate 40. Exit 89, east of Grants, will take you along NM Highway 117 and provide access to the BLM Ranger Station, several developed recreation sites, and Cebolla Wilderness. Exit 81, west of Grants, will take you along NM Highway 53 which provides access to Continental Divide Trail trailheads, West Malpais Wilderness, Hole-in-the-Wall trailhead, and El Calderon (National Park Service). The BLM Ranger Station is located 9 miles south of I-40 Exit 89 on NM Highway 117. The GPS coordinates above correspond to the BLM Ranger Station.El Malpais National Monument Visitor Center (National Park Service): 1900 E Santa Fe Ave. Grants, New Mexico 87020 (505) 876-2783

Additional Information

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