What a surprise we found here in the city of Carrizozo, Valley of Fire. It is located in New Mexico on the northern part of the Tularosa Basin between Sierra Blanca to the southeast and the Oscura Mountains to the west. This was an amazing place we stopped to visit on our way from Roswell to Albuquerque in October 2002. We stopped because someone at the White Sand Dunes had told us about this place on a previous trip. As we had never been yet, we decided to stop and check it out.
We had no idea what we stumbled upon here. It is one of the youngest and best-preserved volcanic lava flows in the United States. Their website says it is between 1,500 and 2,000 years old. Apparently lava making up the flow came from Little Black Peak, about 10 miles north-northwest of Carrizozo, and went about 40 miles south-southwest down the bottom of Tularosa Basin in two active flows. Little Black Peak’s cinder cone is the result of an explosive episode that interrupted the steady outpouring of lava. We were shocked at how long and deep some of the lava had flown. It actually had flown all the way to the White Sand Dunes. Amazing.
Apparently prehistoric humans found shelter at the Valley of Fire and undoubtedly collected plant food and fiber and hunted and trapped animals. Occasional bits of pottery found to testify to visits by Native Americans of the Jornada branch of the Mogollon culture during the period until about 1400 AD. The region also become the domain of the Mescalero Apache, whose resistance to intrusions of emigrant settlers led to the establishment of nearby Fort Stanton in 1855.
From a distance it may look like the Valley of Fires is a barren rock, but when you walk through the nature trail there are many varieties of flowers, cactus, trees, and bushes typical of the Chihuahuan desert. Animals include bats, roadrunners, quail, cottontails, mule deer, barberry sheep, and lizards. It’s also a virtual birdwatcher’s paradise with great horned owls, burrowing owls, turkey vultures, hawks, gnatcatchers, cactus wrens, sparrows, and golden eagles. The trail is paved and has a guide brochure.
If you feel like staying a while, the Valley of Fire recreation area has 19 campsites with picnic shelters, tables, grills, and potable water at each site. RV electric hookups are available at 14 sites. Two sites are wheelchair accessible. The full facility bathroom is fully accessible and has showers. Vault toilets are available throughout the park. If you are just there for a few hours, like us, make sure to check out the visitor center. They have books, postcards, t-shirts, and information about public lands in New Mexico.
We arrived there late afternoon and it was a little chilly but still nice. Had a great time and the dogs seemed to like walking around the areas they were allowed. I really enjoyed spending time at this beautiful monument and would gladly go back the next time we are in the area. Hope you enjoyed learning more about the Valley of Fires in Carrizozo, New Mexico. Here is a link to their website with even more information than what I am listing below.
Valley of Fires Visitor Information
6158 US-380 Carrizozo, NM 88301
Daily – 8:30 am -4:30 pm
- Day Use – one person in the vehicle, $3.00.
- Day Use – two or more in-vehicle, $5.00.
- Tent Camping – $7.00
- RV Camping (13 sites)
- with water & electric, $18.00.
- without water & electricity, $12.00.
- dump Fee – $15.00
- Group Shelter – group use, $25.00.
- Tour Bus – 15 or more persons on board, $15.00.
- America The Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Passes are sold here.
The Valley of Fires lava fields is reached by driving 4 miles northwest along US 380 from the junction with US 54 at Carrizozo.
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