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BLM El Malpais NCA - Volcan Cerro Brillante

Geologic Feature

This is a volcano which sputtered, spewed, and vented lava repeatedly, then blew its west side away! When its source magma contained gas, it erupted violently spewing frothy lava high into the air. During its last activity, probably over 50,000 years ago, one eruption blew out an enormous part of its side.

Today you can walk into the center of this now forested blowout crater, then follow the least steep path feet to the top covering 500 vertical feet. The view is grand in all directions. There are no formal trails and the ascent is slippery even when dry... and very steep.

The view from the summit is mighty. Mount Taylor to the north, El Morro to the northwest, The Narrows to the East, and the Sawtooth Range to the south. Truly, you will see volcanoes most everywhere you look.

Recreational Opportunities

Chickadees here vocalize uniquely like the first three notes of the tune, "Three Blind Mice".

The forest is mostly pinyon with fine bird diversity.


Seasons Accessible

Three to four-season access depending on rain or snowfall. This volcano is 10 miles east of NM-117 on the Chain of Craters Byway, County Road 42. Four wheel drive is recommended on the rough dirt and rocky road. No vehicle should attempt to drive this road when it has become muddy from rain or snow. All bicycles and motorized vehicles in the NCA must remain on designated roads.



Nearby Places