Sunday, June 24, 2012

Narrows Rim Trail-El Malpais

The Narrows Rim Trail is a 7.8 mile round trip along the mesa top overlooking the Narrows area of El Malpais in northwest New Mexico. The Narrows is a 3 mile corridor where lava flowed close to the base of 500 foot sandstone cliffs.

The trailhead is at the Narrows Picnic Area 21 miles south of Interstate Highway 40 along Highway 117 near Grants, New Mexico.  There is a general trail guide for this hike available at the Visitor’s Centers. The elevation of the trail is over 7000 feet.

The trail climbs gradually with the picnic area is sight in the first segment. The route is well marked with rock cairns and some segments have sandy footing. The forest is Pinon Pines, One Seed Junipers, and Gambel Oaks with patches of Ponderosa Pines. I didn't see any large wildlife but the sandy trail segments had tracks of many small animals.

The trail is close to the rim the entire route and provides sweeping views the entire distance. I thought the lava flow area resembled a wavy ocean surface from this height, extending toward the mountains and volcanic cones in the distance.

The highlight at the end of the trail is an elevated view of La Ventana Arch. The trail guide describes this as a good bird watching area. I saw many swallows along the cliffs along with Turkey Vultures and Ravens, and glimpses of a few others.

The Zuni Sandstone bluffs are 160 million years while the McCarty’s Lava flow is either 1500 or 3000 years old, the information seems to vary.

It took me 1:55 hours to arrive at the La Ventana Arch view point. The return hike took 1:45 hours and the total time was 3:50 hours. I began hiking at 7:30 AM when the temperature was 61 F degrees and it was 83 F degrees at my 11:20 AM finish on a hot mid June day. I carried and drank 3 liters of water. 

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