Day trips: Carrizozo offers treat for lava lovers

Compiled By William Thompson: Freedom Newspapers

Just west of Carrizozo lies a 45-mile long lava flow which is estimated to have been formed more than 1,000 years ago. The perfect place from which to begin exploration of the lava flow is the Valley of Fires Recreation Area, four miles west of Carrizozo.

The recreation area has a nature trail loop that’s almost a mile long. For those who want to venture out onto the lava, it is recommended that hiking boots be worn due to the rough and often sharpterrain.

A Web site, www.americansouthwest.net, describes the lava as “buckled and twisted” and the surrounding scenery as “grassy prairie, stark mountains and sandy desert.” The valley contains lava flows “50 metres thick.”

HOW WAS THE LAVA FLOW FORMED?
The lava was formed by a series of vents that opened up on the valley floor about 1,000 to 1,500 years ago. It was genuine volcanic activity but most of the lava didn’t spew out of a giant volcano, but rather flowed out onto the valley floor from beneath the valley floor. The tallest cinder cone in the valley is called “Little Black Peak” and is about 400 feet tall.

HOW TO GET THERE
Follow U.S. 70 west out of Portales. Continue on U.S. 70 through Roswell. Merge onto U.S. 380 at Hondo. The Valley of Fires Recreation Area, operated by the Bureau of Land Management, is located four miles west of Carrizozo on U.S. 380.

It’s a little over three and a half hours driving time. The recreation area has a campground on a small ridge overlooking the lava for those who don’t want to make a round trip all in one day.

RECREATION AREA HOURS AND FEES
A visitor center and bookstore at the Valley of Fires Recreation Area is open 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. seven days a week. The campground is open year round. The day-use fee is $3 for an individual or $5 per carload. Electric camp sites are $18 a night and tent sites are available for $7 a night.

WHAT ABOUT THE TOWN OF CARRIZOZO?
The town has two historical museums, a gift gallery and a microbrewery. Call 648-2241 for more information about Carrizozo attractions.