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0.6 miles

Elevation Gain

65 ft

Route Type



Added by Derek Mathewson

This short and easy hike will lead you to this scenic cave near the town of Gallup!

...When you research hiking gems to explore in New Mexico, this cave most likely won't be one of the first ones to pop up. This amazing landmark, called Kit Carson Cave, is a short drive off the I-40 and is located near the town of Gallup. 

After a long day of driving, or if you're just looking for a little adventure to stretch your feet, this cave is a cool spot to check out. Getting there...off the I-40, you'll take exit 26 (towards Rehoboth) onto W Historic Route 66 frontage Rd, and will take that about a half mile until you get to NM-566. Take NM-566 about 6.5 miles, passing Red Rock State Park, until you get to Kit Carson Road. You'll see an old white church sign on the right. Make a right and go through the gate on a dirt road. If the gate is closed, then try to find a spot across the street or just up the road to park. I was fortunate the gate was open and drove about 200-400 feet before I found a spot to park. Once you get on the dirt road you'll pass some houses (mobile homes) on your left and you'll see some small wooden blockades on your right with some room to park. This is also the start of the trailhead. You can either park here or just up the hill ahead.

Most of the hike is through wash and brush, but there's a definite foot-beaten path that you can follow, so make sure to stay on the trail. When you see a small concrete base with an old water trough on your right, then the cave is just around the corner to your left. After 0.3 miles you've made it! The entrance to the cave stands at about 50+  feet, while the inside of the cave goes back another 80-100 feet on an uphill slant. The sandy climb into the cave can be a bit steep, but nothing you shouldn't be able to handle. Although the cave is amazing to explore, be cautious about bringing kids and/or pets due to the high amounts of broken bottles and cans left behind by local slobs. Kind of hard to tell from the images taken, but when you first walk up to the mouth you'll notice graffiti towards the back end of the cave. When you make the climb inside, you'll also notice a live spring wall in the back. You can actually see/hear water droplets dripping from the spring.

THE HISTORY: Although there is "NO" official record of Kit Carson actually spending time in this cave, the rumor has it that Kit Carson used this cave during his campaign against the Navajo...which is a horrible part of New Mexico's history, where thousands of men, women & children died during both the long walk across the state and their captivity! Considering they used Kit's name after him to name the cave, I'm assuming he had something to do with the history, but I'm not totally sure, because I wasn't able to find any factual truth. For all we know, the name could've been used to pull tourists in from Route 66, because back then the cave had its own historical marker sign...who knows!

But on an adventure standpoint, definitely check this hiking expedition out if you're in the area, are looking for something adventurous to do, or have a fascination for caves!

As always...pack out what you pack in, leave no trace and never stop exploring!

Happy Trails!

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Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


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