West Malpais Wilderness


Location: South of Grants

Elevation: Approximately 7,200 feet

BLM Acreage: 39,540 acres

Description:
The West Malpais Wilderness is a landscape of volcanic lava flows, mostly flat, and encompasses three main ecotypes.  The southeastern portion of the wilderness is a grassland with wide open expansive views.  The western area is a piñon-juniper woodland.  Ponderosa pine is prevalent in the northern portion of the Wilderness.  The most distinctive landform within the West Malpais Wilderness is a 6,700-acre kipuka (a Hawaiian term meaning island of fertile ground) in the north part of the wilderness called Hole-In-The-Wall.  Ponderosa pines are sprinkled through the grassland of the kipuka, which is ringed by a sea of broken, jagged basalt where ponderosa are plentiful.  The Wilderness is located within the El Malpais National Conservation Area.

Access:
Hole in the Wall Trails (south)  Brochure
From Interstate 40, drive NM 117 south approximately 34 miles to CR 42.  Drive northwest on CR 42 approximately 2¼ miles to the intersection with a road (a West Malpais Wilderness sign is located at this intersection).  Turn right (north) and drive approximately 4.4 miles to a locked gate, which is the trailhead for the Hole in the Wall.  Note that at 3½ miles you will encounter an intersection with a road leading to the right which looks better maintained.  This road leads to a private residence and only authorized vehicles are allowed on it.  The Hole in the Wall trails are occasionally used by the rancher with motorized vehicles, under permit, for livestock grazing management.

Hole in the Wall Trails (north)  Brochure
From Interstate 40, drive NM 53 south approximately 26 miles to CR 42.  Drive CR 43 approximately 4½ miles to the Big Tubes Road.  Drive this road 3.3 miles (passing the Big Tubes parking area at 2¾ miles, on the left) and take the left fork.  Continue 1¼ miles and take the right fork just past a stock pond at the western edge of the lava flow.  Continue .4 miles to the southeast and take the left fork, heading east.  Continue 5.4 miles (crossing a cattle guard at .2 miles and entering the forested area at 1¾ miles) to the Cerro Encierro trailhead.  Note that this is a very rough road and that the road and trailhead are located on National Park Service lands.  Anyone wishing to park overnight should contact the National Park Service to inquire about requirements.  The Hole in the Wall trails are occasionally used by the rancher with motorized vehicles, under permit, for livestock grazing management.

Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST) (east)
The CDNST passes through the southern portion of the Wilderness.  To reach the east side of the trail, from Interstate 40, drive NM 117 south approximately 34 miles to CR 42.  Drive northwest on CR 42 approximately 2¼ miles to the intersection with a road (a West Malpais Wilderness sign is located at this intersection).  Turn right (north) and drive approximately ½ mile to a point at which the CDNST crosses the road.  There is no trailhead; you must look for rock cairns and posts marking the trail.  Note that both the east and west ends of the trail are accessed from and connected by CR 42.

Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (west)
The CDNST passes through the southern portion of the Wilderness.  From Interstate 40, drive NM 53 south approximately 26 miles to CR 42.  Drive CR 42 approximately 22½ miles to a trailhead on the south side of the road.  The trailhead is on the opposite side of the road from the Wilderness.  Note that both the east and west ends of the trail are accessed from and connected by CR 42.

 

Contact Information
BLM Ranger Station
(505) 280-2918

Rio Puerco Field Office
435 Montano NE
Albuquerque, NM 87107
505-761-8700


West Malpais Wilderness

Hiking/Backpacking Camping Horseback Riding Watchable Wildlife

Fees
None.

Season/Hours
Open year-round.

Recreation Guidelines
BLM Recreation Guidelines

Special Rules

Wilderness areas are closed to motorized vehicles and mechanical forms of transportation (mountain bikes included).

Obtain a backcountry permit from the El Malpais Information Center in Grants or the BLM El Malpais Ranger Station on State Road 117.
Wet weather conditions can make any of the dirt access roads treacherous and impassable. Check with a ranger for conditions before you attempt to drive them.


Click map to enlarge

Map of West Malpais Wilderness