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 Grants Lava Flows. El Malpais translates to "the badlands" in Spanish.
The NCA includes dramatic sandstone cliffs, canyons, the La Ventana Natural Arch, the Chain of Craters Back Country Byway, and the Narrows Picnic Area. 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 past times. More than mere artifacts, these cultural resources are kept alive by the spiritual and physical presence of contemporary Indian groups, including the Puebloan peoples of Acoma, Laguna, Zuni, and the Ramah Navajo. These tribes continue their ancestral uses of El Malpais including gathering plant materials, paying respect, and renewing ties.