U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
 
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Chain of Craters WSAWelcome to Wilderness Wednesday, our weekly posting to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.

This week we are highlighting the Chain of Craters Wilderness Study Area (WSA).  Here, a line of more than 25 volcanic cinder cones were created when magma found a weak spot in the Earth’s crust long ago.  The lower elevations are dominated by piñon and juniper woodland and give way to forests of ponderosa pine at higher elevations.

This is an area where multiple values have been recognized and received Congressional protection.  The Chain of Craters WSA, El Malpais National Conservation Area, and the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST) all overlap here.  These Congressionally-designated areas are managed through the BLM's National Landscape Conservation System - established by Congress to conserve, protect, and restore nationally-significant landscapes.  We suggest a long, 6½ mile hike of the CDNST to reach the Chain of Craters WSA.  The CDNST was designated to provide high quality, scenic, primitive hiking and horseback-riding experiences.  The hike is entirely within the El Malpais National Conservation Area, which was designated to protect nationally-important geological, archaeological, ecological, cultural, scenic, scientific, and wilderness resources.
 
From I-40, at the west side of Grants, turn south on Highway 53 (Exit 81) and drive about 26 miles.  Turn south on County Road 42, about 1 mile after the Bandera Crater Ice Caves turnoff.  Drive just over 5½ miles on this dirt road to a CDNST trailhead on the east side of the road.  You should have a vehicle with suitable clearance and avoid driving the road when wet.  Follow the CDNST to the west.  Because there is no trail tread on this portion of the trail, you will need to keep an eye out for CDNST signs and rock cairns marking the route.
 
For more information, please visit the Chain of Craters WSA website

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Last updated: 08-20-2014