Earth Day Love Letter: Tent Rocks!

Self portrait with my new kicks at Tent Rocks!

Last week the Blonde Coyote was featured by WordPress as one of the best nature blogs for Earth Day! Quite a honor for me, since Earth Day is as close to a religious holiday as I get. Welcome to all my new subscribers! The meaning and mission of my life is to see as much of this Earth as possible and share it through the Blonde Coyote. Thank you all so much for reading and for all the amazing feedback! You guys make my world go ’round. 🙂

On Earth Day, I woke up at dawn, went outside and stayed out all day long, until sunset. What better way to celebrate than with my feet on the ground, the breeze in my face, and the sun in my eyes. I went for a morning hike around my old neighborhood in New Mexico and then took my friend Ashley for her first hike at Tent Rocks.

Slot canyons at Tent Rocks, a rare example of volcanic slot canyon, most are carved out of sandstone

Tent Rocks National Monument, less than an hour south of Santa Fe, New Mexico is one of my top five hikes of all time. This hike has everything you could want in a desert trek: slot canyons, wicked rock formations and incredible views.

Passing big ponderosa pines on the way into the slot canyon at Tent Rocks

The first half of the trail winds through a slot canyon so narrow you can touch the walls on either side, then the canyon opens up beneath the 90-foot conical hoodoos that give this National Monument its name. Finally, the trail switchbacks up to the top of the mesa to an overlook of the slot canyon and tent rocks as well as sweeping views of the Rio Grande River Valley to the east and the Jemez Mountains to the west.

Tent Rocks Intruder! There's something to be said for places so quiet that a passing plane feels intrusive. This world needs more quiet places, and less planes.

I used to frequent Tent Rocks a lot more often back when the monument still allowed dogs. Since they closed it to pets in 2010, I’ve been back a handful of times to show it off to friends. Ashley, a fellow Earth-lover, declared it the second-best trail she’d ever seen.

Ashley overlooking Tent Rocks & New Mexico's wide horizons

The slot canyons and hoodoos at Tent Rocks are formed from volcanic ash that blanketed this region of New Mexico in a series of explosive pyroclastic eruptions around 7 million years ago and then again between 1.6 and 1.25 million years ago. Over time the ash hardened into two formations: the older, finer Peralta tuff and younger, coarser Cochiti formations.

Tent Rocks Self Portrait, showing the layers in the tuff

Tent Rock’s volcanic tuff is quite crumbly and readily carved by wind, water and people. Differential weathering of the layers has produced the distinctive pointy hoodoos as well as the sinuous slot canyon. The 4-mile round trip hike also boasts a cave dwelling similar to the famous cliff caveats at Bandelier National Monument, just northwest of here. The caveats were carved by hand by the Ancestral Pueblo People between 1150 and 1600.

The last time I hiked this trail was in January, in the snow. This time Tent Rocks was blooming! Desert flowers may be few and far between, but each one is such a gift: a burst of color in a sea of sand and rock. All we’ve done to this Earth and it still just keeps on giving. To me, that’s Love. Happy Earth Day!

Spring Flowers on Earth Day!

I had a few loose ends to tie up here in New Mexico, but now I’m on the road again, dogs in the backseat and the Teardrop in tow! Next up: Taos!

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in western Colorado. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at
This entry was posted in Hiking!, New Mexico, Photography, Road tripping!. Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to Earth Day Love Letter: Tent Rocks!

  1. Gunta says:

    Reminds me of the Narrows at Zion. Lovely way to spend Earth Day! Hate it when they don’t allow dogs. Though to be fair, how do you distinguish the polite dogs from the brats?

    • It’s not the dogs that are the problem. It’s the humans who don’t keep them under control and cleanup their waste.

      • Gunta says:

        Sadly, you’re right about that! The humans are to blame and the rotten eggs always spoil it for the rest of us. I just got back from my favorite beach. Me and the pup were the only ones there. It’s so much fun to let her run, but I’m very careful to keep her under verbal control (or on leash when necessary) and pick up after her. The problem comes when we run into other dog owners who aren’t so careful.

      • Yeah, I’m not one of those dog people who think dogs should be allowed everywhere. I get why they were banned at Tent Rocks. More than once I met people in the slot canyon who weren’t keen on squeezing past a dog, even a good dog and one time I ran into a guy with a rottweiler who was aggressive to other male dogs. The boys and I had some good times there, but there are plenty of places in the world where they’re welcome and Tent Rocks is still worth seeing, even if I have to leave them at home.

  2. Thank you for sharing your Earth Day adventure… travels to Taos……My pooch and me are celebrating the day hitting the trails close to home today……next week we will be headed to Cannon Beach. for 8 days of adventure…I look forward to keeping up with your travels while I’m there.

    • Gunta says:

      Ohh… Cannon Beach – one of my favorites on the Oregon Coast and so very pooch friendly. Have FUN!

      • mimi8030 says:

        Yes – Cannon Beach is a wonderful spot and so dog friendly – We are going to Mutts and Moms at the Inn at Cannon Beach on Mother’s Day! Great time for canines and humans.

  3. Kyle Kuns says:

    Congrats for being one of the best nature blogs for Earth Day! You deserve it. Great photos as usual.

  4. sandy says:

    You deserved to be picked as one of the Earth Day blogs. Do you know how many people read your posts and wish they were doing what you are? Happy trails to you, the dogs, and the Tear Drop.

  5. hmh912 says:

    Thanks for sharing these trails. It looks like an awesome place to visit. I’ve added it to my list of places to go. 🙂

  6. Raven Siker says:

    I currently live in Santa Fe, NM and was more than happy to see Tent Rocks as your Earth Day post! I would agree with you that it’s one of the Top 5 trails I’ve ever been on and it never ceases to amaze me. Last Summer when I took my husband for the first time since our being together I couldn’t believe how much the landscape had changed since when they had allowed dogs years ago. Thanks so much for your amazing photos! I’ll be headed that way later in the spring for some very special pregnancy photos! Happy trails to you and I’ll be reading! 🙂

  7. Rosanna says:

    I just recently discovered your blog…what a treasure. I’ll certainly be following your adventures. Thank you for sharing your experiences through the blog. I’m from the Philippines and it is such a pleasure to be able to “virtually visit” the places you go to. 🙂

  8. Bridget says:

    Wonderful posting for Earth Day.

  9. canonsett says:

    Spectacular- thanks

  10. futuredoll says:

    Awesome & Congrats-that is how I found you via wordpress release. Never new there was so much variety of landscapes at Tent Rocks-have to put that into my rotation when I visit!

    • Yeah, Tent Rocks should definitely be on everybody’s list when they’re visiting Santa Fe. It’s an incredible place, not far from town and most of the trail is relatively flat and fine for all hiking abilities. Check it out!

  11. Carrie says:

    Yea for WordPress! With their introduction I came to your blog happy to see photos of my ‘home-land’. I felt like I was walking on the land myself. Thank you for sharing your perspective of this beauty.

  12. P. C. Zick says:

    You are absolutely inspiring. Thank you for the posts and congrats on the Word Press designation. You most certainly deserve it. I’m itching for the west.

  13. This is dangerous. Your blog makes me want to travel!

  14. Beautiful pictures! So glad you got to spend Earth Day at Tent Rocks. It’s magnificent, isn’t it? Thanks for your great post!

  15. Happy Earth Day to you. I’ve been visiting Tent Rocks for almost 19 years. I agree, it’s one of the best hikes and unusual places to visit in all of New Mexico…possibly even the United States. When I first began hiking tent rocks, not only could I take my dogs, but we were permitted to camp there and there were no fees or restrictions. It’s still an amazing place, but I do miss the old days.

    As for the way I celebrated Earth Day, it was on the comfortable back of my horse. She and I spent the entire day enjoying our planet and all it has to offer here in New Mexico. The day was beautiful for a long trail ride out in nature appreciating our amazing earth.

    Tijeras, NM

  16. mimi8030 says:

    Incredible photos! Enjoyed the beauty of New Mexico! I would like to visit Tent Rock sometime.

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  18. Wow, I’m really envious. I really like hiking and walking and there are very beautiful places here (the Alps). But I’d really really like to hike in deserted landscapes like those. And the photos are amazing, those colors are so saturated. Again, I’m really envious!!! (:

  19. 🙂 Hope you get the chance to go there, it’s definitely worth it! Have a nice week! 🙂

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  21. Tina says:

    Hi Mary,

    Really enjoy reading your blog. I was able to check out Tent Rocks this past weekend, very magical place! Thanks for letting us all know about this great place.


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