Sometimes called “The Land of Fire and Ice,” Bandera Volcano and Ice Cave is in a unique location in New Mexico. 10,000 years ago, Bandera Volcano erupted in a violent explosion. It poured out about 20 miles of lava flow through a lava tube system over 17 miles long. One of the finest examples of a cinder cone in the region, today, the volcano rises 560 feet into the air and has a central depression or crater that is 750 feet deep. A large breach on the southwestern side of the cone makes it quite distinctive.
Located in a collapsed lava tube on the side of the volcano, the Ice Cave glistens with layers of perpetual blue-green ice that reflect the rays of sunlight which enter the cave. The temperature never rises above 31 degrees Fahrenheit. As rain water and snow melt seep down into the cave, it collects on the ice deposit at the bottom and freezes new layers of ice every year. Over the years, scientific research has indicated that ice has been forming in the cave for over 3,400 years.
Bandera Volcano is one of the most accessible volcanoes in the country. Starting from the Trading Post at its base, the trail to Bandera View Point is a half mile long and takes about 40 minutes round trip, with a 150 foot gradual climb to a fabulous view. The Ice Cave is just a few hundred yards from the Trading Post, but is accessed by a short trail and then 70 steps down into the cave.
In addition to many contemporary Native American arts and crafts, the historic Trading Post has ancient artifacts on display. Most of these were found in the lava, and some date back 1200 years. The trading post deals in jewelry, pottery, rugs and other art of the local Indian tribes.
During the winter months, the weather in the area is generally fairly mild, with many warm days. Winter storms are not unknown, so check the weather before your arrival. In the summer, temperatures soar into triple digits (except in the Ice Cave, of course) making it a great way to cool off during the heat. During Monsoon Season, violent summer storms can blow up unexpectedly, so check the forecast before hiking to the summit.
Located 90 miles west of Albuquerque, it is an easy day excursion if you are basing out of the capital city and is open all year long. Other attractions in the area include:
Bandera Center and Ice Cave
12000 Ice Caves Rd
Grants, NM 87020
Toll free: 888-ICE-CAVE