Unexpectedly arising from southern New Mexico’s barren landscape is a natural arrangement of larger-than-life rocks reminiscent of urban high rises. Formed of hot volcanic ash that solidified nearly thirty-five million years ago, these formations have been carved by the elements into gnomish shapes and fanciful columns that can reach forty feet high. Only a handful of places in the world have formations like these. I know all too well they are not easy to climb. I tried.
Popular with many overnight campers, the “city” is webbed with pathways that I curiously trundle through, feeling dwarfed along the way, until dusk. It is during the golden hour, when the sun begins to set, that the magic begins. The sun’s rays bounce from the ancient volcanic rock giving off an exquisitely rich cornucopia of color—sparkling hues of pink, orange, yellow, and purple—that you can only see in these moments. The “city” comes to life, making this an ideal time to begin clicking the camera’s shutter.
The reason to visit City of Rocks is to escape routine and stress. Trust me, it will be you and the rocks and no phone signal when you visit. The landscape is a nice blend of the west’s rugged rock formations and grassy plains. You’ll be in the desert, tho’ the land is not barren like you see in Arizona or Southern Utah.
I always to see Fred Flinstone as the large rock formations literally remind me of Flinstone’s Bedrock. Close your eyes and envision for a moment. You see this, too. Don’t you?
City of Rocks
32 ̊35’24” N
-107 ̊58’33” W
5,250 feet (1,600 meters)
1,230 acres (497.8 hectares)