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City of Rocks

Intermediate
 4.0 (5) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

A well-maintained route around volcanic rock pinnacles with a view of the New Mexico desert.


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Map Key

6.4

Miles

10.3

KM

Point to Point

5,728' 1,746 m

High

5,201' 1,585 m

Low

703' 214 m

Up

696' 212 m

Down

4%

Avg Grade (2°)

22%

Max Grade (12°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Birding · Views

The park gate is closed between 9 pm and 7 am; overnight camping is available. Day passes are $5 for adults.

Overview

The Hydra Trail portion of this hike is easy and flat doubletrack. The Table Mountain segment is narrower, with a couple brief, somewhat steep climbs. Overall, it is a fairly easy hike. Additional mileage can be added by making a loop via the Observation Point Connector and access road or circling the rock pinnacles on the dirt park road.

Need to Know

The Visitor Center, which has a number of nice displays on area wildlife, flora, and geology, is open 9 am to 5 pm. New bathroom and shower facilities are found in a building behind the Center and are open 24 hours. A Coke machine is the only source of refreshments.

A number of campsites, including ten powered sites, are available. Unique, clean, and with a nice hiking trail, City of Rocks is an ideal camping stop for hikers traveling along I-10 through southern New Mexico.

Description

The City of Rocks trail loop is made up the park's main Hydra Trail, with an extension to Table Mountain, taking hikers to one of the best viewpoints in southern New Mexico. The trail can be accessed at a few different points throughout the park. Beginning at the trailhead behind the Visitor Center and heading in a counterclockwise direction, the trail is a wide, flat, gravelly doubletrack circling the rock pinnacles in the shadow of a large mesa. Large granite markers can be found at intersections, although it is hard to get lost here.

The turnoff to Table Mountain is at the mile point. Watch for a break in the fence to the right. The trail follows contours up the mesa, climbing twice, and ends at the southwest corner of the mountain. Although no trail on the top exists, it can be explored for some amazing views. The only way back down is via the trail. Reaching the bottom, Hydra Trail continues much as before, circling around the pinnacles before ending at the Botanical Garden just west of the Visitor Center.

Hikeers interested in adding mileage can do so at various points. The park trail map shows an extension on the west side of the trails, and a loop can be made by taking the main access road south and then east to the observation point, circling back via Observation Point Connector. There are also a number of shorter trails that pass through the pinnacles, including the Planet Walk Trail, which features a number of astronomical displays.

History & Background

The pinnacles making up City of Rocks were formed by a volcanic eruption millions of years ago. As the sediment eroded away, it left behind columns, some thirty to forty feet in height. There are few places like it in the American Southwest.

Contacts

Shared By:

Brendan Ross

Trail Ratings

  4.0 from 5 votes

#3363

Overall
  4.0 from 5 votes
5 Star
40%
4 Star
20%
3 Star
40%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#46

in New Mexico

#3,363

Overall
9 Views Last Month
1,836 Since Sep 15, 2015
Intermediate

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Photos

View from the trail
Mar 26, 2022 near Faywood, NM
View from the trail
Mar 26, 2022 near Faywood, NM
View from the trail
Mar 26, 2022 near Faywood, NM
View from the trail
Mar 26, 2022 near Faywood, NM
View from the trail
Mar 26, 2022 near Faywood, NM
The view from the top of Table Mountain goes for miles. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Mexico.
Sep 15, 2015 near Faywood, NM

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Check-Ins

May 4, 2021
Nick Kepf
Unique rock formations. Beautiful view of the surrounding desert. 6.4mi — 3h 37m
Feb 27, 2018
Matt Hage
6.4mi