Field Trip: Curious Learners in a Geologist’s Paradise: Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

Sunday 7:45am-4:00pm


Gary Smith, University of New Mexico-Main Campus
Gary Weissmann, University of New Mexico-Main Campus

**This event has already taken place.

What if you could take introductory-course geology students (perhaps with a few partners, children, or parents) to a place where during a day of hiking in a square-mile area they could explore ...

  • sedimentary process
  • volcanic processes
  • faulting and tilting
  • regional tectonics
  • aquifer hydrostratigraphy
  • soil formation
  • aqueous geochemistry
  • landscape development
  • the intersection of culture with geology?

And – what if these learners could contemplate geological features at spatial scales ranging from sand grains to rift valleys, and from human time scales to millions of years?


  • Departure: 7:45 a.m.
  • Return: 4 p.m.
  • How to prepare: Wear comfortable hot-weather clothing, hiking footwear, and a hat. Bring a daypack for lunch (provided) and water, sunscreen, a rain coat, and a camera (the scenery is spectacular). After a one hour drive to the fieldtrip site, participants walk throughout the day and away from vehicles and water. Temperatures could reach 95oF (35oC) and afternoon thunderstorms are possible.
  • Total hiking distance and elevation: Approximately 3 miles. Elevation range is 5750 ft (1750 m) to 6375 ft (1945 m); most of the trail is gentle with one steep segment.
  • Releases: All participants will need to sign liability releases.


Location: Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, New Mexico; 55 miles (87 km) north of Albuquerque.

The bedrock geology of the Monument features the interbedding of upper Miocene sedimentary and pyroclastic deposits at the intersection of the Jemez Mountains volcanic field and the Rio Grande rift. These strata are tilted and displaced by faults with motion at least as recent as late Pleistocene. Erosion accentuates not only the spectacular namesake pedestal features but also a slot and box canyon that will be traversed during the trip.


Participants on this field trip will not only find something of interest, regardless of discipline, but will consider how to use field sites as places for students to explore the interconnected processes that geologists study. The leaders will model, and lead discussion of the questions that engage introductory-level students to speculate, hypothesize, test hypotheses, make geological interpretations, and to ask their own curiosity-driven questions.


The field trip will consist of a loop hike at the Monument, following an approximately one-hour drive from the University of New Mexico. A trail guide is available here. The morning traverse will go to the termination of the Slot Canyon Trail, with a lunchtime overlook of the Rio Grande rift and adjacent mountain ranges. After retracing the route through the slot canyon, the hike will follow the western part of the Cave Loop Trail back to the trailhead parking area.

Cost and Registration

The field trip is currently full. If you would like to be added to the waitlist, please email kherbstr at carleton dot edu. Cost is $55 and includes transportation and a box lunch.