Chain of Craters

Grants, New Mexico (Cibola County)

Last Updated: 07/25/2019
3 / 5 ( 1 reviews )
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Typically Open: Year Round
Length: 32.67 miles
Highest Elevation: 7829 feet
Duration: About 3 hours
Shape of Trail: Straight Through
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Grants
Nearest Town w/ Services: Grants
Official Road Name: 42
Management Agency: Bureau of Land Management
District: Rio Puerco Field Office


Highlight: Chain of Craters
The Chain of Craters Backcountry Byway is a 33-mile backcountry trail that winds through high mountain desert. Driving this unpaved road along a rift where lava flowed 200,000 years ago and seeing the 30 cinder cones left behind makes for a memorable experience. Located in El Malpais National Conservation Area (NCA) and National Monument in northwestern New Mexico, the byway, which is County Road 42, passes almost exclusively through public lands. The trail forms the western boundary of the West Malpais Wilderness and connects NM 53 and NM 117. The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, a 3,100-mile trail stretching from Mexico to Canada along the continental divide, intersects with the byway at multiple points. As a land feature, the term El Malpais - "the badlands" - is used locally and in other parts of the southwest to refer to lava flows.


Route Information

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1. Trailhead (0 mi)
The trailhead is the intersection of NM117 and County Road 42, 35 miles south of I-40. Turn right (north) on CR42 to begin the trail.

Directions to Trailhead

Starting Point: Grants, New Mexico

Approximately 5 miles east of Grants, from I-40, take Exit 89 south onto NM 117. Travel south approximately 35 miles on NM 117 to the trailhead (County Road 42). Turn right/north on CR42 to begin the trail.


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Writer Information

Scott Mitchell

Mapping Crew - New Mexico

Scott Mitchell is a Personal Defense and Defensive Tactics Instructor in Albuquerque. A New Mexico native, Scott lives in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains, adjacent to the Sandia Mountain Wilderness Area in the Cibola National Forest. Scott likes to get out at every opportunity to explore his state's off-road trails. As a Trailsoffroad contributor, his goal is to find and share as much reliable information as possible to help others navigate and enjoy the great New Mexico outdoors.
For individual use only, not to be shared.