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U.S. Southwest:

Valle Caldera National Preserve,

New Mexico

August 30, 2019

(Elevation: 8,500 ft.)


National Park Service


National Park Service

Valles Caldera National Preserve protects much of a 13.7-mile wide extinct volcanic caldera in the Jemez Mountains, just west of Los Alamos.  


The preserve encompasses almost all of the volcanic caldera created by a spectacular volcanic eruption about 1.25 million years ago. The caldera is dormant, but not extinct, and still displays signs of volcanic life with hot springs and boiling sulphuric acid fumaroles. The juxtaposition of large grassland meadows, or valles in Spanish (we explored the largest, Valle Grande, during our visit), surrounded by rounded forest covered volcanic domes provides the distinctive natural landscape that led to the name of Valles Caldera.


The lowest points in the preserve, located in the valley floors, are 8,500 feet above sea level; the highest point, at 11,253 feet above sea level, is Redondo Peak, a resurgent lava dome located entirely within the caldera.


The preserve was created in July 2000.

National Park Service


La Jara Trail

The hike began at the Valle Grande Visitor Center, located inside the rim of the caldera. The trail loops around the  Cerro La Jara, a  tree-covered rhyolite lava dome that rises almost 250 feet above the Valle Grande floor.

The hike includes a walk through a prairie dog town, and expansive views of the Valle Grande, as well as the hills and mountains that surround thirteen-mile-wide caldera.


La Jara Trail Gallery

Big Sky Country of Valles Caldera

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