Hole in the Wall at Malpais National Monument

Total Miles


2,360.22 ft


5 Hours

Technical Rating



Best Time

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Trail Overview

This excellent day trip starts on the western edge of Malpais National Monument, drives by the Big Tubes cave system and then crosses an easy introduction to driving over rock before accessing the "Hole in the Wall" in back country of Malpais Wilderness. Malpais consists of a series of large lava fields, giving long vistas dotted with pine trees and black rock. At the hole in the wall, this suddenly gives way to open prairie. This area is recognized as its own ecosystem, distinct from the rest of Malpais.The caves are about 20 minutes from the highway on an easy dirt road, and require a permit from the ranger station to explore. You must bring your own helmets and head lamps, but otherwise access to the caves is virtually unlimited.Until the caves, the trail is a simple dirt road. While easy, it is important to note that during monsoon weather this road turns to complete soup, only accessible to experienced drivers with purpose built mud rigs. The rest of the time is is passable in a sedan. From the caves onward, the trail is considered "primitive" and is not maintained by the park service. There are several rock shelfs, and small fields of rock that must be crossed. Virtually any SUV with AWD/4WD will have no problem traversing the terrain. However, there are a couple of places where some stock pickup trucks may hit their tail going up and down shelves.Please be careful to stay on the trail when driving this area. It is not always clear where the allowed roads end, so make sure to follow the current map guidance from the rangers at the ranger station. Signage tends to consist of simple posts in the ground, with small 4x4" blazons on them, so they are easy to miss.This trail represents unique scenery with awesome points of interest, making it a fantastic day trip from Albuquerque.

Photos of Hole in the Wall at Malpais National Monument

Hole in the Wall at Malpais National Monument
Hole in the Wall at Malpais National Monument
Hole in the Wall at Malpais National Monument


There are three rock shelfs, and two scree fields that must be crossed. Other than this, the trail is very easy, imminently crossable dirt, prairie and rock.

Technical Rating


Status Reports

Bantha Overland
May 15, 2024
2021 Ford F-Series Super Duty
Heavily rutted road that would be impassable when wet. Takes you to the Big Tube area to see some lava caves

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