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On A Tank of Gas: Cochiti Area

On A Tank of Gas: Cochiti Area

Check out Tent Rocks and Cochiti Lake

By Moriah Carty

Let’s head north again for some true New Mexico adventures.

On the southeast side of Jemez, nestled amidst three different Pueblos, a world of excitement and wonder awaits.

Start north on I-25 until exit 259, then head west on NM 22. Eventually “National Monument” signage can help lead the way.

Albuquerque to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument: 54.7 miles

Tent Rocks National Monument   Better known as Tent Rocks, Kasha-Katuwe means “white rock” in Keresan, which is the language of the Pueblo people.

The cone- or tent-like figures are the result of volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. The rock is fairly brittle as you head up the canyon.

The hike weaves between tight spaces worn down through years of erosion. It feels claustrophobic at times, as it narrows and widens. It opens up as you near the base of the fairly steep climb to the top.

The ascent is fairly difficult as you scramble over some short ledges – careful foot placement is key. On the way back down, you can connect with the Cave Loop, which eventually takes you back to the car. Total mileage is just shy of 3.5 miles.

Make your way back to NM 22 and head west again. The signage makes this trip a breeze.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks to Stone Kiva Restaurant: 9.6 miles

Stone Kiva Restaurant   Stone Kiva is one of the only restaurants in the area, but it doesn’t disappoint. Snag some burgers and beer, but not too much, before heading out to sea.

Order dessert to-go, it’ll be the perfect snack for later.

Follow NM 22 east until the turn off for Cochiti Lake; make a left.

Stone Kiva Restaurant to Cochiti Lake: 2.5 miles

Cochiti Lake   Cochiti Lake is a product of the dam that helps control the Rio Grande.

It is one of the 10 largest earth-filled dams in the United States, and it’s about five miles long from end to end. Sort of impressive for a state as dry as New Mexico.

Cochiti has all the amenities of any campground: camping, hiking, fishing, boating, swimming and picnic grounds.

While swimming is probably out of the question this time of year, boating is a nice pastime on the no-wake lake. You might even spot some windsurfers while you’re there.

If you don’t have your own means of floating on the water, check out some rentals in town before making the trip. The paved boat ramp makes for easy access.

At some point before sunset, pull out the dessert from earlier and enjoy the serenity. It’s not often New Mexicans find themselves in the presence of so much water.

Cochiti Lake to Albuquerque: 49.9 miles

And that’s a wrap. Make sure to be respectful of the land around at every stop on the trip as it is rich with culture and tradition for others.

Sayonara weekend travels, until next time.

Stops: 3; Miles 116.7 


Moriah Carty is an Albuquerque local with a heavy sense of wanderlust.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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