Fun Family Adventure: Explore a New Mexico Slot Canyon

There are a few different slot canyon hikes in New Mexico and one of our favorites is about an hour outside Las Cruces, near the town of Radium Springs. I don’t know if the canyon it has an official name, but we’ve always referred to it as “Sparky Canyon” ’cause we like to pair our hike with a stop at Sparky’s Burgers in nearby Hatch, NM. It’s a quick and relatively easy yet different hike that’s good for the whole family.

Location:

The closest landmark to the slot canyon is Fort Selden, NM. Take exit 19 off I-25 and head west. Just past the Ft. Seldon Historic site, the road dead ends on El Camino Real. Turn right (north) and follow to just past mile marker 19.  You will pass the entrance to Leasburg Dam State Park, then later the Blue Moon Cafe. Where the road straighens out, you’ll see a green gate on the side of the road. There’s plently of space to pull off and park alongside the road. 

new mexico slot canyon 1

Finding the slot canyon

The slot canyon is located on BLM land, so it is on public land. There is a gate at the head of the trail you will have to climb over, and there’s always a nearby section of the wire fence that’s been pulled up to let four-legged friends through as well.  The gate is likely there to keep out any 4-wheeled vehicles, but we’ve been hiking here for years and never had an issue. 

The entrance to the slot canyon is about a half mile from the gate. The trail wanders through the brush and isn’t always the clearest – but you’re heading towards the “valley” between the two hills. The picture below was taken from the gate, and the arrow points to where you’re headed. Once you get close, you’ll see the trail leading you right into the entrance to the slot canyon.

new mexico slot canyon gate
new mexico Slot Canyon entrance

The Hike

The slot canyon itself is only about a quarter mile long. Parts are quite narrow, but easily passable. I really don’t like tight spaces, but I have no problems in there! There are a few larger steps up, but mostly it’s a fairly flat and easy walk.  Enjoy the twists and turns, the cool layers of the sediment – and the shade!

 

The slot canyon ends at a clearing, where in the past we’ve been greeted by numerous rock cairns left by previous hikers. Sometimes they get knocked down by wind or rain, but you can always add to them or start your own! 

 

new mexico slot canyon 1
new mexico slot canyon rock cairns
Kris in new mexico Slot canyon

If you’re wanting more of a challenge, keep going up and around to the left past the end of the slot canyon. On your left you’ll see a trail that will take you up to the top of the hill overlooking the canyon and surrounding area. This is a much steeper climb but the views from the top are lovely.

View from top of new mexico slot canyon
Slot Canyon steep hill

Once you’ve gone as far as you’d like to go, head back through the slot canyon and back out the way you came in.

How long to allow

That really depends on your personal pace, and how many times you stop to admire the scenery. Our last hike – with two teens and a dog – in the summer heat, took about two hours start to finish.  If you only do the slot canyon portion, it can be a lot quicker. 

Food & Drink options

None, so plan accordingly. Take water and maybe a snack or two. There is a restaurant back up the road a few miles (the Blue Moon Cafe) but we’ve never stopped in. 

 

Our favorite food option is to hop back on I-25 and head up to Hatch, NM for a visit to Sparky’s. Famous for their green chile cheeseburgers, they also offer BBQ and some awesome looking milkshakes. There is often a line, but they’ve recently added more indoor seating, and there is plenty of outdoor seating in the back. Enjoy their unique collection of antiques and statues all around the restaurant. 

Tips

Slot Canyon Hike New Mexico

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