About 1.25 million years ago, a spectacular volcanic eruption created the 13-mile wide circular depression now known as Valles Caldera. The park is home to vast mountain meadows, forested lava domes, abundant wildlife, and meandering streams. Human history stretches back more than 11,000 years from when ancestral native peoples hunted wildlife and mined obsidian, and more recently ranchers raised sheep and cattle.
Immerse yourself in the heart of the caldera by taking a drive into the backcountry. You will find places for solitude, hear the running waters of the caldera’s streams, touch rocks formed millions of years ago, hike across meadows and through forests, or catch fish.
To travel the 18 miles of backcountry roads by vehicle, a Valles Caldera Backcountry Vehicle Pass is required. The daily limit of backcountry vehicles provides a truly personal experience.
Passes are available for entry when the park opens. The pass is valid for entry for up to 6 hours after the stated time.
You will receive a gate combination that you will need to use to continue into the backcountry. If you do not receive the gate combination or forget it, please stop by one of the visitor facilities and present your backcountry vehicle pass to a ranger. They will provide you with your code.
You will need to get out of your vehicle to unlock and re-lock the backcountry gate. If you need assistance, please contact a park ranger at the entrance station or call in advance at 575-829-4100 ext. 3.
Backcountry travel is limited to the summer season, which generally runs May 15 to November 15 (weather-permitting). Inclement weather and wildfires may cause the backcountry vehicle route to be temporarily closed.
Much of the backcountry route is dirt and prone to erosion. 4-wheel drive is not required; high clearance is recommended. Use care and good judgement while driving.
Be aware of wildlife on the road. They have the right-of-way at all times.
Speed limit is 10 mph (16 km/h) in developed areas around buildings and 20 mph (32 km/h) everywhere else within the park.
One pass per private vehicle is required; reservation-holder must be in the vehicle or with the vehicle group at time of entry.
Pets are not allowed beyond the backcountry vehicle gate, including in your vehicle.
Parking is limited in the backcountry. Please park in areas where vehicle traffic can continue along the road. Do not park in front of any gates. Park only in areas of bare ground as parking on grass can start a wildfire.
Vehicles are required to return to New Mexico State Route 4 no later than the gate closure time listed in the operating hours. Exit the park via the same route as entry.
Cell phone reception is very limited within the backcountry.
Annual and Lifetime passes are accepted as your entrance fee. See Fees and Cancellation section for valid entrance passes. Passholders will still be required to pay the $2.00 reservation fee.
Fishing within Valles Caldera National Preserve requires the purchase of a park fishing permit and New Mexico fishing license.
Passes will be released for reservation on the first of each month in two sets of monthly batches:
$2 non-refundable reservation fee
39201 NEW MEXICO STATE ROUTE 4 Jemez Springs NM 87025