Chain of Craters

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4/5 (2 reviews)
Grants, New Mexico (Cibola County)
Last Updated: 06/23/2023
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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.

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Trail Reviews

4/5 (2)
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Official Crew
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Rated 5/5
Visited: 06/20/2023
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Cut through from Joe Skeen campground to visit El Morro, which was closed (Tuesdays and Wednesdays), so we camped at Big Tubes. The trail was rutted from the wet winter but otherwise easy. Saw a large herd of elk near the south end. Big Tubes makes for a great campsite in an area with few options.
Trail Review: Chain of Craters  - Wade May
Trail Review: Chain of Craters  - Wade May
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Official Crew
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Rated 3/5
Visited: 06/01/2019

Nice, easy, and scenic drive. Great for sightseeing or visiting the geological sites.
Trail Review: Chain of Craters  - Scott Mitchell
Trail Review: Chain of Craters  - Scott Mitchell
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