El Malpais NCA
West Malpais Wilderness/Hole-In-The-Wall
|New Mexico Pocket Maps|
West Malpais & Hole-in-the-Wall El Malpais National Conservation Area Within the West Malpais Wilderness is a 6700-acre kipuka called Holein-the-Wall. “Kipuka” is a Hawaiian word meaning “island of vegetation surrounded by lava flow.” Bureau of Land Management Rio Puerco Field Office 100 Sun Ave. NE Pan American Bldg., Suite 330 Albuquerque, New Mexico 87109 505/761-8700 or El Malpais Ranger Station 505/280-2918 or www.blm.gov/new-mexico In case of emergency: BLM Rio Puerco Law Enforcement – 505/761-8700 Immediate Emergency – 911 24-hour Federal Law Enforcement – 800/637-9152 BLM/NM/GI-16-05-8000 Welcome to the West Malpais Wilderness/ Hole-in-the-Wall! L ooking for adventure? A hike into this rugged wilderness brings wonderful opportunities as well as challenges for the adventurous hiker. vital nutrients for others, and opening up new niches in which life may begin anew. As a result, species have adapted to the unique conditions here. There is also considerable evidence of human activities in the Hole-in-the-Wall. The ancestors of today’s native peoples, homesteaders and modern day ranchers have influenced this special area. The area is remote, far from the roars of the highways and insistent dings of technology, and a person can be free to reconnect with themselves. You’ll “A wilderness, in contrast with begin to refresh as you hike through those areas where man and his own rocky areas with little vegetation works dominate the landscape, is and spot tracks from cougars or see skittering lizards. As you hike hereby recognized as an area where further into the Wilderness, you the earth and its community of life are may look around you, shocked as untrammeled by man, where man himself the barren land becomes more is a visitor who does not remain.” densely vegetated. Now that this area is wilderness, it is protected for all to enjoy. Among other opportunities in the El Malpais NCA, is the West Malpais Widlerness. Within the West Malpais Wilderness an oasis of vegetation is housed and is known as the Hole-inWilderness Act of 1964 the-Wall. The Hole-in-the-Wall is the largest islandlike depression in the The El Malpais National EL Malpais NCA lava fields and over the years, moisture and Conservation Area (NCA) contains some of the most soil collected on some of the oldest lava to form this 6,000dynamic and scenic landscape in New Mexico. El Malpais acre park of ponderosa pine. is Spanish for “the badlands,” a description worthy of the area’s countless volcanic eruptions which sent rivers of Near the northeast corner of the wilderness you will find molten rock and flying cinders over what is now a bleak yourself in a 6700-acre kipuka called Hole-in-the-Wall. valley of three million years’ worth of hardened lava. Native “Kipuka” is a Hawaiian word meaning “island of vegetation American settlers probably witnessed the last of the surrounded by lava flow.” This fertile ground, underlain by eruptions. Their former home is now a land of craters and the 700,000-year-old North Plains lava flows is inhabited by lava tubes, cinder cones and spatter cones, ice caves and numerous forms of life, surrounded and segregated from pressure ridges, and a surprising amount of vegetation. their original biotic communities by a sea of broken, jagged basalt. Many varieties of trees, shrubs, mammals, reptiles, grasses, fungi and other creatures make this wilderness their home. These life forms interact with and influence one another, in this harsh, dry environment. For example, lichen slowly breaks down rock and obtains nutrients from the stone. This process provides new soil and a toehold for new plant growth. Antelope, deer, rabbits, and squirrels forage for these plants and scarce water. Lightning-caused wildfires sweep through areas, destroying some plants, while releasing Access The easier, fastest, and best driving route to access the West Malpais Wilderness and Hole-in-the-Wall is from the south end of the NCA off NM 117. From NM 117, proceed northwest on CR 42 for approximately 2.1 miles. Take the right fork to the north and travel about 5 miles to where the road ends at the West Malpais Wilderness trailhead. These areas can also be accessed from the north by turning south from NM 53 onto CR 42 and proceeding approximately 5.8 miles turning left (east) on the road to Big Tubes (NPS 300). From Park Road 300 take 301 off to the south. Park Road 301 forks many times but stay on it continuing to go south and east. (Be forewarned, this is one of the roughest roads in the NCA!) These roads are minimally maintained but should be marked at each junction. You should see a sign for Little Hole-in-the-Wall. Continue straight in for an additional 9 miles to the Cerro Encierro Trailhead. Pointers and Precautions Water is a scarce and precious resource in this arid country. You must carry with you all the water you need. No mechanized vehicles (mountain bikes included) may be driven past the posted wilderness boundary into the wilderness. It’s safer to let someone know where you are going. Wet weather conditions can make roads treacherous and impassable. Check with a Ranger before you attempt to drive any of the back roads within the NCA. You can explore above and below ground lava features (but stay out of bat caves!). The West Malpais Wilderness and Hole-in-the-Wall are places for you to savor solitude, encounter some of the Earth’s geologic past, and experience the solace and satisfaction that comes from exploring an area often overlooked by others.