Grants to Quemado Scenic Drive is a 86.5 mile lightly trafficked point-to-point trail located near Pie Town, New Mexico that offers scenic views and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for scenic driving and is accessible year-round.
This route takes you off the main hwy and lets you see the real country. Many hiking, camping opportunities.
This BLM and Acoma Pueblo land. It has a large section of the National Contenental Divide Trail. It has volcano tunnels, lave, slot canyons, many short trails, huge bluffs, campgrounds-all free.
Two ways to get to the Malpais. Coming west from Albuquerque, the first exit going south to Quemado brings you along the east edge of the Malpais as you travel south towards Quemado, Pie Town, Ramah, and other scenic places. BTW Pie Town does have a couple of the best Pie Places anywhere so stop by and have a slice of home made apple pie.
The view towards the west is lava flows punctuated by distorted pine and pinon trees somehow surviving like Bonsai Trees in black lava rock formations. As you proceed South you will hit some magnificent sandstone formations at the south end of the Malpais. You will pass a ranger station on your left about 6-7 miles south of I-40. The loop, as it were, going clear around the Malpais takes a solid 4 hours.
You can also start the Malpais on the west end beginning at exit 81. This is where the action is. As you start south off exit 81 you will pass a KOA on your left and another RV park on your right. If you take the unmarked paved road on your right just past the RV park it turns into Zuni Canyon road and about 10 miles up you will find Quartz Hill, a 7-8 mile 4wd road great for beginners and itnermediate mountain bikers. Fair amount of climbing so be prepared with water and extra grub. I generally go alone, but I don't recommend it as accidents can happen and I sometimes think I would like to have another person with me in case something happens.
A little way down on Zuni Canyon road from the intersection (you can't miss it, it is marked fairly well) there is another turnoff to the right that goes up about 10 miles on a decent road in dry weather. There is another trail up there I want to try but checked it out this weekend and there was a little too much snow for my comfort level, so will wait until spring or next summer to get there.
Back to the Malpais, if you continue south off exit 81 you will come to a turnoff (roughly 15 miles) to your left called "El Calderon" or the boiling pot. A few hundred yards takes you into an improved parking lot with bathroom facilities and bbq grills. From there you will find a 4wd road which takes you up for maybe 4-5 miles and that is pretty much the end of the line. Fun ride, not too challenging but a couple of rocky places and enough climbing to get your heart rate up. Also from El Calderon there is a walking trail (no bikes allowed) that take you to some bat caves about a 1 1/4 miles easy walk. Take a couple of good flashlights and a camera if you take this walk. Best time is late June to early August to catch the maximum number of Mexican Freetail Bats which migrate up from Mexico. The dryer the year, the more bats seem to migrate up. There are resident populations of bats which hibernate deep in the volcanic caves over the winter months. On your way up you will pass another ranger station, BLM I think where they do organized nature walks and you will find the Bat Lady who can tell you way more than I can. She is one of the rangers there full time.
There is way more to say but if you have any questions maybe you can contact me via this web site and I will try and answer them if you find yourself wanting to learn more about the Malpais National Monument. I have just scratched the surface!