Big views of sweeping panoramic landscapes can be enjoyed here. Lava flows, cinder cones, sandstone cliffs and rimrock, and distant mountains can be seen in the area.
The region is high southwest desert country dominated by Juniper-Pinon forests, high desert grasslands, and Ponderosa parklands. Elk, deer, and antelope can be found, along with bear, coyotes, prairie dog colonies, and other mammals. Bird populations are diverse; over 200 species have been documented in the region, including eagles, various hawks and raptors, ravens, and others.
The region is rugged and remote, appealing to those seeking a more wilderness oriented type of experience. Few developed trails exist, and trekking on lava can be very strenuous. For those willing to take the land on its own terms, the rewards are great.
Hiking, trekking, photography, birdwatching, and scenic driving can all be enjoyed throughout the year. Winter can be severe, often limiting access to the backcountry.
Hiking and trekking are the most popular activities in the park. Birdwatching is also popular with visitors; a bird list for the region has been published and is available at visitor centers.
El Malpais is a place for strenuous hiking or just soaking in the natural beauty of the region. With a mix of terrain, every visitor will find something to do here that fits with their skill level and the time available.
The park is open year round. Winter can be severe, with weather limiting access. Spring and fall are best, and summer can be hot at times.
No fees are charged for normal visitation. Fees are charged for special use permits.
ADA Accessibility Notes
Visitor centers and most trailheads are accessible. Most trails and routes are not wheelchair accessible due to the rugged nature of lava terrain.
Pet Friendly Notes
Pets are welcome as long as they are leashed. Be kind to your pet and keep them on developed trails; rough lava can cut and injure paws. Please bring plenty of water for your pets.