Valles Caldera – New Mexico – Part 1 – 20199 min read time

For our first stop during our 2019 trip to New Mexico, not far from the house we rented in the Jemez Mountains are the ancient….

remnants of a large volcano. The Valles Caldera is within Valles Caldera National Preserve.

Details from Wikipedia:

Valles Caldera (or Jemez Caldera) is a 13.7-mile (22.0 km) wide volcanic caldera in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico. Hot springs, streams, fumaroles, natural gas seeps and volcanic domes dot the caldera floor landscape. The highest point in the caldera is Redondo Peak, an 11,253-foot (3,430 m) resurgent lava dome located entirely within the caldera. Also within the caldera are several grass valleys, or valles, the largest of which is Valle Grande, the only one accessible by a paved road. Much of the caldera is within the Valles Caldera National Preserve, a unit of the National Park System. In 1975, Valles Caldera was designated as a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service.

The Main Caldera

The previous year we had arrived fairly late in the day so we were limited to being driven a short way into the caldera by one of the park volunteers. This time we arrived early on a rather rainy day. We were able to drive ourselves into the main caldera and even further into the park to visit some of the other valleys and calderas.

The area has been used for movies and TV shows in the past so there are some “settlement” buildings. Most are no longer used but are great subjects for images.

Through the car window in the rain.

After spending some time around the old buildings we jumped in the vehicle and headed down a long winding dirt road!

This would take us to the other side of the main caldera and up and over to another caldera.

The Valleys and Other Caldera

We found some more old buildings but these had collapsed.

We continued on down the road until we were driving along a ridge where we stopped to get some shots of the small valley.

On the upside of the road the scene was very different. There had been a fire here back years ago… actually during my first visit to New Mexico.

The valley was full of small wild flowers so I could get my flower and macro fix at this stop.

From here we made out way over the ridge into another caldera.

The clouds started to breakup a bit so the light was better and we actually saw some blue sky peeking through.

We decided to turn around and take a slightly different route back to the ranger station.

As we drove along I noticed some birds flying and realized they were Mountain Bluebirds. I quickly grabbed a longer lens and was able to catch a bluebird that stopped momentarily on a rock by the road.

As we drove back toward and into the main caldera we were able to look down into the areas that run below the road. The yellowing grass made seeing tan critters some what difficult but since I spend a lot of time looking for birds to make images of, my eyes are tuned into movement where there shouldn’t be movement.

I suddenly saw a movement in the grasses. I asked Jim to stopped the vehicle and to wait a minute. Sure enough out of the grasses came a coyote.

It was headed to the stream that wound through this little valley.

As we continued on down the road the stream was more visible making patterns in the grasses.

Back to the Main Caldera

We arrived back in the main caldera to a much brighter sky! So we stopped at the “settlement” again. This catch pond was much more picturesque with a blue sky in the picture!

As we drove back toward the ranger/visitor center, I hoped we would see the prairie dogs that make their home in the caldera. When we visited the last time, we only caught a glimpse of a couple. We were in luck this day, as we drove into the flatter part of the caldera we could see the prairie dogs standing up on their mounds.

Some of them were pretty close to the road.

We stopped at the visitor center and the prairie dogs were running around all over the place in the parking lot! But I wanted to get some panoramas of the main caldera so as the dogs ran around in the grass I worked the landscape a bit more!

We bought a few items from the gift shop and thanked the rangers for all they do and we headed on out of the caldera.

The Valles Caldera is a very interesting geological location. The landscapes and animals make this a great place to visit. It is not far from Santa Fe. So if you are in the area, I highly recommend it. Bring a SUV if you plan to drive in past the “settlement”, though.

To see larger versions of these and many more images from Valles Caldera please click on an image or check out my Gallery.

Next stop, the very picturesque Las Conchas Trail!

That is all for now.


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