On Sunday, I decided to head out for some adventure in Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. A little over a drive from my campsite to get to the National Monument later, I found myself spending all day exploring and thinking of future adventures to have within.
It is worth noting, before I go any further: at the time that I am writing this, Rio Grande del Norte National Monument is included in the review that President Trump has ordered. I have written a long comment about this, and urge my readers to write their own comments as well.
Originally, I had thought of taking my first visit to the monument on Saturday, but after spending the morning and afternoon in Santa Fe, I decided to save my first adventure for Sunday alone.
So, waking up Sunday morning, I packed up and drove North to the Rio Grande Gorge Visitor Center at the south end of the monument. I arrived shortly after they opened, picked up some maps and chatted with the ranger there.
On the upside, I learned that this monument is less threatened by President Trump’s review than others, as it enjoys immense local support and a general lack of interest from those who would wish to exploit the land for more destructive means. That was pleasing to hear, but as the day progressed, I became ever more troubled by the inclusion of this amazingly beautiful monument in that review.
Reading the maps, I headed up route 570 into the gorge. I was immediately taken back by the absolute beauty of the gorge. Layer upon layer of massive basaltic lava flows cut through by the Rio Grande, North America’s fourth- or fifth-longest river. The view driving within the gorge is amazingly impressive.
I took some time to stop at several points along the way, including a stop to hike the La Vista Verde Trail. I noticed several typical features of lava flow along this trail, and the views up and down the gorge are some of the best I would see for the whole day. Along the way, I noticed a kayak tumbling, empty, down the intense rapids built from the remarkably high water flow at the time. Thankfully, it was easy to inform a ranger at the trailhead about it, but I found it fascinating just to highlight how impressive the river was flowing through the gorge.
Continuing on, I stopped at the southern trailhead for the West Rim Trail, where I found a large herd of impressive big horn sheep. I don’t like getting close enough that the animals react to me, and they were clearly reacting to me just driving in, so I ended up not getting any good pictures of them. Nonetheless, it was great to see them hanging out in the sun with their own remarkably impressive views of the gorge.
From there, I continued on to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge Rest Area. When I arrived, there were tons of large crowds, but the men’s bathroom was locked down. A lot of people were complaining, but someone finally convinced the attendant to open them and let us all in. It was an interesting time, but I also wanted to head off onto the northern side of the West Rim Trail for more pictures, including several options of shots at the bridge itself.
Finally, it was time to head into the Wild Rivers area of the monument, where I was even more impressed. This area lies mostly atop the rim, with some beautiful hikes going down into the gorge. I only did some light hiking in, along with stops along the rim for some sightseeing at the absolute beauty of the area. After a stop at the visitor center there to discuss hiking options, I am definitely wanting to return this next weekend for some absolutely great hiking options!
Unfortunately, I only arrived at the visitor center just before they were getting ready to close for the day, and I had another few hours to drive back to camp for the week, so I hopped back into the car and hit the road.
Between my love of volcanism and canyons, this monument quickly became one that I absolutely fell in love with. With the waters raging particularly hard from all of the precipitation the area has gotten this year, the rivers were particularly impressive as well! There was also a kayak race happening on the southern end for Mother’s Day, but I ended up missing it as I spent all of my time exploring the monument instead. Oh well. It was still an absolutely amazing day of exploration at yet another National Monument!