New Mexico - La Mosca Lookout and El Malpais NM


Expedition Leader
Took a week off work to head from to Arizona following the substantial completion to relax for a bit before coming back to finish the closeout paperwork. Last year on another trip to Arizona I passed through El Malpais National Monument south of Grant, New Mexico but due to not having the time I couldn't stop to explore the area so I made it a point on this trip to explore it some (COVID-19 put restrictions on some areas). Saturdays plan was to head down to the KOA in Grants New Mexico then drive up to La Mosca Lookout to check out the area (I know a KOA but given the weather conditions I'm glad I got a cabin for this portion of the trip) then spend Sunday exploring El Malpais.

La Mosca Lookout

The lookout is to the right of the towers just hidden by the trees

View from right below the lookout.

The road on the right in the background I explored a little ways after checking out the views from the lookout.

Heading further down the road.

Somewhere behind this tree is a sign.

Figured these was a good time to turn around and head back to the KOA - weather conditions and my map not showing the complete route made the decision for me.

If I return to this area again I'll be camping back in this area since there were no people and some good spots I was able to scout out. The return trip will also include hiking Mt Taylor (the highest point in NW New Mexico) since the upper trail head is just below the switchbacks that lead up to the lookout.

El Malpais National Monument - forthcoming
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Expedition Leader
Last year on a family camping trip/reunion in western Arizona I drove though the El Malpais National Monument area and wanted to head back since then as I didn't have time on that trip. So on this trip back I was able to explore the El Calderon area (no cave permits due to COVID-19), the Big Tubes area (somewhat), made an attempt at the Hole in Wall trail and explored the backcountry route along county road 42.

Junction Cave

Double Sinks

Bat and Xenolith Caves

Trail shot

Views from the El Caleron Loop trail


Back along the trail



Expedition Leader
Lava flow at the start of county road 42

Big Tube area - I opted not to really explore this area since you but will plan too int he future since I want to check out the caves in the park.

What the trail looks like more or less

I had thought of heading down NPS road #300 to try and reach the Hole in the Wall but again opted not to since I was trying to be mindful of the weather and didn't want to run into issues if it started to rain. So I just explored a little ways then turned around.

Back down county road 42 - theres a number of these roads out to the Chain of Craters WSA but they'll have to be explored another time.

Road 42


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Expedition Leader
Saw my 2nd vehicle when I took this photo - a guy in a 90's wrangler wearing a white shirt and tie with the roof off. Assumed he was heading back to the ranch.

Another dirt road towards the end of road 42 leads to the Hole in the Wall area. There is a nice parking area at the trail head but no map so I fumble around for a minute till what I got on what I assumed was the correct trail - an old Jeep road.

Called it quits just a little ways after this old fence line, since I didn't have a good map of the area and I was starting to get a little tired and hungry (I have a bad habit of not really eating anything while hiking, just some bare minimum things).

The quitting point after a few miles.

Back to the truck and some food.

Made one final quick stop on the way back to the KOA to get an overview of the area.

The cracks in the lava flows kind of reminded me of brownies.

Another trip will be in the works at some future date so I can explore the caves in the area and explore some the backroads in the Chain of Craters area. I'm glad I made this stop.