Hiking in the Crater of a Volcano – Valles Caldera.

Valles Caldera is the name of an extinct volcano that was 300 times as big as Mt Saint Helens. It lies not far from Los Alamos, where they built the A-bomb, and where I lived in 1972.

It blasted its top 1.5 million years ago. The town of Los Alamos is built on one of the “lava” flows, the biege-colored volcanic tuff, that spread for miles around the volcano.

The caldera or crater is 13 miles across and 40 miles around. It doesn’t look like a typical volcano crater, as it’s a lot of flat grassland with pine-clad hills dotted here and there.

Native Americans have visited for thousands of years, because of the plentiful game, but also for the obsidian. Black, volcanic glass, obsidian is almost as heavy as regular rock, but it’s very hard and ideal for making spear points and arrowheads.

The obsidian has been found in states as far away as Kansas and Nebraska and also in Mexico. Present-day flint-knappers still chip and create arrowheads from obsidian quarries in New Mexico.

Here is a chunk of obsidian plus some smaller pieces I bought in Houston.

One hike we took was along Obsidian Ridge where we saw lots of small obsidian pieces lying in the dirt. The obsidian was created when high-silica magma cooled rapidly in the aftermath of the magma explosion.

Flowers along the obsidian trail.





There are few gravel roads in the caldera, all with some rough patches and washboard sections. We took a road that ran along San Antonio Creek, a meandering stream in an extended grassy meadow.

San Antonio Creek


It was a tranquil scene of green grass under a blue sky next to a lazy-flowing stream. We saw three fishermen in the area that proved it’s a trout stream, although the trout can’t be very large. I believe this creek flows into the San Antonio Hot Springs, but it wasn’t marked on the map. I’ll save that for my next trip up there.



On the way home, we stopped in the Los Ojos bar in Jemez Springs for some chips and dip. I had a ginger beer mule, which I had never heard of, made of Australian ginger beer and lime. It was nice after a hot day, and the ginger taste was prominent.

The Los Ojos is an iconic bar with guns up on the walls along with elk and deer heads. If you ask, the owners will point out bullet holes in the ceiling.


BLOG TOPICS: I write in-depth blogs about a mix of topics: Science and Energy, and Inspiration and Hope, and Health and Hiking.


The Gray Nomad ….. New Mexico has mesmerizing hikes plus only 2 million people live here.


Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. [Gospel of John, chapter 4.]


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