Ice Cave & Bandera Volcano


“New Mexico’s Land of Fire and Ice!” I was excited to finally come see this natural phenomenon near Grants, NM. I got here pretty early in the morning on a Monday. (If you’re freaked out about being in the wilderness alone, then maybe do this earlier in the season on a weekend when more people might be there.)

I paid my $12 fee inside the Old Time Trading Post and headed up the Volcano Trail to the Bandera Crater Lookout Point. There are 29 volcanoes in the El Malpais region, visible as you make your way along the trail, along with large expanses filled with lava flow and jagged volcanic rocks. The Bandera Crater is the largest volcanic cinder cone in the region at about 1200 feet wide at the top and almost 750 feet deep. The elevation at the look out point is 8122 and it was super windy at the edge that day too!

After checking out the crater, I made my way down to the Ice Cave Trail. The temperature in the Ice Cave never gets above 31° F. Ancient Indians and early settlers mined the ice before refrigeration was available. Ice removal stopped in 1946, and now they say the floor of the cave is about 20 feet thick. Arctic algae creates the green tint in the frozen water.

The deepest, oldest ice in the cave dates back to 1100 BC! The cause of the original formation of the ice is uncertain. However, its perpetuation is due to a combination of existing conditions that make a natural ice box: 20 feet of ice in a well-insulated cave that is perfectly shaped to trap frigid air.