Valle Caldera Supervolcano

Valle Caldera National Preserve is an ancient volcano that has a crater 12 miles in diameter. The crater itself is a grassland, with the tree line starting at the base of the crater wall, going up the sides of the crater wall. This seemingly unremarkable meadow is really the inside of a crater filled with enough magma capable of covering an entire continent - a super volcano. It was eruptions from this volcano millions of years ago that covered its surroundings with 1000 feet depth of ash, which eventually eroded to become the formations we see today at Bandelier NM and Tent Rocks NM.

Overlooking the crater of supervolcano Valle Caldera, NM
Overlooking the crater of supervolcano Valle Caldera, NM"

We hiked the Valle Grande Trail, the only hike open during our visit in early April. At 2 miles roundtrip, the trail led us down the crater wall, but stops just as we got into the crater. The Visitor Center is located near center of crater, whose road is only accessible when visitor center is open. Hours change frequently so check the website for updated information. Near the center of the crater is a small hill called Redondo Peak. It was formed when magma pushed up the surface.

Practical Information (as of April 2015):

Features: Explore the crater of a supervolcano disguised as seemingly calm grassland.
Fee: Waived as of Sept 2019
Website: Valle Caldera National Preserve

Rio Grande Gorge State Park

Another landscape that seem unremarkable at first glance is the Rio Grande Gorge State Park. Here you will find the Rio Grande Rift Valley. Rift valleys occur at the boundaries of continental plates, when the land is being stretched and pulled between the plates. The Rio Grande River uses this stretched land as its flow path for much of Northern New Mexico.