City of Rocks
by Dan Davis
I’ve seen way more than my share of rocks during my nearly forty years in Arizona. I’ve seen them all from anthracite to volcanic, and every color from aqua to zebra striped and and piled up in every shape imaginable. So I was pleasantly surprised on my visit to the City of Rocks State Park in New Mexico where I found what I call the Stonehenge of volcanic rock.
The C of R as I like to call it is 24 miles northwest of Deming, or about 82 miles north of Las Cruces, and the rock formations themselves are only about a mile square. This is an interactive, hands-on park where you can hike, climb, crawl, or sit and nobody yells at you to “get off the rocks!” Even campers and RV’s are allowed to park right along side the rocks.
Park Ranger Gabriel Medrano says the volcanic rocks formed about 35 million years ago, and “the ash was so hot it actually welded itself to each other,” forming this rare stand of rock outcroppings. In fact, Ranger Medrano says there are only five other places in the world that look like the City of Rocks.
Keep a keen eye out, though because you will often find something familiar about these formations, during a short hike I just happened to spot a rock formation that looks just like a female lion resting her head. It was so distinctive, other travel writers lined up behind me to get pictures.
The City of Rocks is also dedicated to astronomy, and visitors get the opportunity to use the parks solar powered, 14 inch Meade LX 200 telescope under the clear skies of this remote location.
This is one place you’ll be happy to be caught between a rock and a hard place.
Getting there: Go west out of Las Cruces on I-10 to Deming, take US 180 northwest 24 mile; then go northeast on NM 61 for four miles to the park entrance.