Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ice Cave near Grants NM

Ice Cave and Bandera Volcana in New Mexico

When you travel by Grants NM, you may notice the signs advertising the Ice Cave. This is a Must-See in the El Malpais. It's privately run and the only ice cave accessible from Hwy 53. It May be 90 degrees outside but the cave is always cold, about 32 degrees.
To get to Ice Cave, take New Mexico Hwy 53 south from I-40 in Grants. It's a scenic drive past the Zuni mountains, not quite to the continental divide.

The road into Ice Cave
Keep a lookout for the Ice Cave sign. The dirt driveway is on the left and leads to an ample parking area among pine trees. At the end of the drive is the little store.

General Store
The General Store is the starting point for self guided walking tours of both the Bandera Volcano and the Ice Cave. The store was built in the 1930′s for the Zuni Mountain Railroad trade. It was in operation when the logging industry was in full swing. The ancient artifacts on display were found around the lava, dating back 800 to 1200 years.

Lava Flow
The lave flows are composed of jagged, broken basalt rock produced when the surface of a lava flow hardens around the still molten lava.

Twisted gnarly trees adapted to the shallow soils conditions, thriving in what appears as inhospitable.
The trail to the Ice Cave
Along the way to the Ice Cave there is a smaller cave, once used as a natural “refrigerator” by the owners, and minor caverns created by collapsed lava tubes.

72 steps down and 72 step back
The stairs are broken up with a couple of landings with benches to rest a bit. Once down there, it's awesome! The temperature in the cave never gets above 31 degrees F, so as rain water and snow melt seep in, it freezes. The ice floor is approximately 20 feet thick, with the deepest ice dating back 3,400 years!

That is solid ice on the floor of the cave.

The greens and oranges you see on the lava are lichen and Alpine moss, which is very rare this far south.

Ice Cave with frozen waterfall

Smaller cavern- This one is down in the bigger cave.

Onward to the volcano

The trail to the Bandera Volcano Crater is a half mile long and takes about 20 minutes to reach the view vantage point. An easy hike with some uphill climb.
For more information on Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano, click here. 

Trees growing in lava

There are at least 278 days of sunshine in Cibola county. the photo below is just to show off a cloudy day. No rain just clouds. On the way home we had a fabulous view of Mt. Taylor, 11,301 feet, north of Grants.

Mt. Taylor