Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
30.00 ft (9.14 m)
Trail type
0.90 mi (1.45 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Malpais Nature Trail in Valley of Fires National Recreational Area is a short, 0.9-mile loop trail in the heart of the Tularosa Basin. The lava field that extends for miles is home to a variety of cacti and wildlife. This trail is completely paved, making it accessible for everyone. The trail starts from the parking lot where it descends to the lava field over the course of four long switchbacks to the lava field. From there the trail meanders through the black rock that is filled with several species of cacti, with yucca, and spoon plant (not to be confused with the yucca plant). Late April and early May visitors can see the wildflowers of the yucca and cacti in bloom. The trail finally loops around the initial switchbacks, which hikers have to follow back to the parking lot.  

The lava field runs for more than 45 miles and is believed to have been caused by vents in the Earth's crust. The main vent, Little Black Peak, can be seen from the trail as well as some of the Sacramento Mountains to the east. Visitors may also be treated to animals of all species that are native to the area such as roadrunners, rattlesnakes, and mule deer. You are allowed to wander off the trail and onto the lava, though you'll want to make sure you have proper footwear and are careful where you step. This is the perfect place to stop, take a hike on the nature trail, and have a picnic at the shelters.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

General Day Use Fee

Open Year-round



ADA accessible. Flora and fauna. Educational.


Foot traffic.

Trailhead Elevation

5,242.00 ft (1,597.76 m)

Highest point

5,242.00 ft (1,597.76 m)


ADA accessible
Family friendly
Flushing toilets

Typically multi-day


Permit required



Nearby Adventures

Three Rivers Petroglyph Site, New Mexico


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