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Malpais Nature Trail

An interpretive boardwalk hike through an field of ancient lava flow.

Hiking Easy

1.6 km
21 m
21 m
0-1 hrs
Low Point
1.6 km
High Point
1.6 km
Malpais Nature Trail Map

The Malpais Nature Trail is a spectacular short hike through a lava flow dating back just 5,000 years. The BLM states that "the lava flow is considered to be one of the youngest lava flows in the continental United States," and though the blackened landscape seems barren, "there are many varieties of flowers, cactus, trees, and bushes typical of the Chihuahuan desert." Though short and almost entirely flat, this will quickly become your new favorite hike in New Mexico.


Wildlife sightings can range from sheep and mule deer - to great horned owls and golden eagles, the BLM notes. They also consider the Valley of Fires a "birdwatcher's paradise" thanks to its relative proximity to the Rio Grande River to the west. Snakes are also common, so watch where you step and be mindful of warning signs throughout the campground.

The Malpais Nature Trail begins at the main group pavilion in the center of the campground. It starts with a series of gradual switchbacks, and a free brochure is available to accompany your hike. Several interactive waysides along the trail also highlight the geology and wildlife that reside in the massive blackened valley.

Valley of Fires is managed by the BLM and there are 19 campsites, with hookups available at 14. Many of the sites rest along a bluff, where you can enjoy commanding views of the lava flow from the comfort of your campsite. Tent camping starts as low as $7 per/night and showers are available within walking distance of every site. Charcoal grills and potable water are also available and a self-serve pay station is available if you come after hours.

If you do plan on spending the night, which comes highly recommended, consider sites furthest from the main road for your best chance of peace and quiet. In the early mornings, large trucks driving along the highway can sometimes be heard from the first few campsites.




Walking along a well-kept trail that’s mostly flat. No obstacles are present.

Low Exposure

1 out of 4

The path is on completely flat land and potential injury is limited to falling over.


1 out of 4

Close to help in case of emergency.

Best time to visit

all year round


  • Wildlife
  • Historical
  • Picturesque
  • Dog friendly
  • Wild flowers
  • Family friendly

Guidebooks in this area