Courtesy of National Park Service

Hiking adventure in New Mexico.

Travel + Leisure
September 06, 2012

Evoking the South Dakota Badlands, this New Mexico preserve has a stark, austere beauty. El Malpais National Monument’s rugged volcanic terrain—115,000 acres of arches, lava flows, cones, ice caves, and sandstone cliffs—means there are few actual trails; stop by the ranger station to pick up a map. This is a fairly isolated area, so dress appropriately and bring supplies; when hunger strikes, you’ll need to head to the nearby town of Grants for restaurants (there’s no food sold in the park).

The Ice Caves

What Lies Beneath: In the New Mexico Badlands, a path carved by lava leads visitors from the Bandera Volcano to a cave where temperatures never reach above 31 degrees Fahrenheit. The ice floor is 20 feet thick and gives off an eerie green glow from the algae beneath.

How Did It Get There: No one knows how the formation began, but ice started accumulating in the spot some 3,400 years ago. Early settlers flocked to the “Desert Ice Box” with wagons filled with sawdust, so they could bring the ice home.

Cool Bonus: The local saloon, which at one time literally served iced cold beer, is now the Ice Caves Trading Company, with displays of 1,200-year-old stone tools used by the Anasazi Indians.

La Ventana

A popular steakhouse.

Red Lion Hotel Grants

Formerly the Best Western Inn and Suites

The rooms aren’t anything to write home about, but the hotel does throw in nice little extras like free daily breakfast and free high-speed Internet access.

Ancient Way Café

Stop by this rustic café for super-fresh fare like huevos rancheros made with free-range eggs served by a friendly wait staff.

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