New Mexico’s volcanic past is on display in all directions, from the volcanic mountains that pepper the horizon to geologic oddities in unexpected places. City of Rocks State Park is one of the latter. Located about halfway between Silver City and Deming, this family friendly destination may qualify as one of the most unusual campground & RV Parks in the world. Picture the Flintstones taking the Jetsons camping on Mars and you will be able to visualize the vibe. However, it is still better to experience it in person. A photo of your RV shadowed by enormous volcanic rock towers is definitely a unique one to send to friends and family as a testament to your desert adventure.
City of Rocks Geology
City of Rocks gets its name from the amazing volcanic rock formations found here. The park encompasses about one square mile of giant, wind sculpted volcanic boulders. Some of the rock columns are 40 feet high. There are paths, resembling city walkways, winding between them.
The park is nestled in the scenic Chihuahuan desert region of southeastern New Mexico. The boulders were deposited by the Emory caldera, located at the southern end of the Black range, during a massive eruption about 35 million years ago. Over millions of years, erosion whittled the columns and spires seen today. The cumulative effect is a stunning, surreal, alien landscape. The surrounding landscape is flat as a pancake.
The Mimbreno Indians (Mimbres) lived in the area between 750 – 1250 A.D. Mimbres are archaeologically a branch of the Mogollon, but who these folks are related to is a matter for a debate between people who know more than me. However, “Indian Wells” are visible in the rocks. The former inhabitants used the conical holes to gather and harvest water. Additionally, there are also grinding stones scattered throughout the park, where ancient people ground seeds, among other things.
There is little to no light pollution at City of Rocks, which provides outstanding dark sky conditions AND there is an onsite observatory for astronomy aficionados and star gazers. Check for availability before you go.
Bird watching is popular. For example, there are at least 35 species nesting in the cavities and crevasses of the boulders, which is also snake habitat. There are three varieties of rattlesnakes in the area. Watch for them. You probably don’t want to meet any of them unexpectedly. They don’t want to meet you either.
Additionally, the park offers camping, hiking, mountain biking, and wildlife viewing, with well developed, interpretive trails, an observatory, picnic areas, a desert botanical garden, a new visitor center, tidy restrooms, and hot showers. Faywood Hot Springs, a rustic geothermal resort, is 2.4 miles southwest of the park.
TRAVEL TIP: Bring groceries and plenty of water. There are no urban amenities nearby. The closest grocery stores are in Fort Bayard, Deming or Silver City.