Zuni-Acoma Trail

Two hikers walk across a cracked, black lava flow dotted with bushes under a clear sky.
Hikers exploring the Zuni-Acoma Trail.

NPS Photo by Nick Guarino

Follow an ancient trail across the rugged lava flows that has been used for generations to connect Zuni Pueblo and Acoma Pueblos.

This trail is about 7.5 miles (12 km) one-way as it goes from Highway 53 to Highway 117. This trail is marked by cairns, so it is important to know what to look for before embarking.

Due to the trail's difficulty and length, rangers recommend doing a car shuttle by parking one vehicle on either end of the route. Alternatively, hike a smaller portion of the trail starting at either end and create an out-and-back hike.

Please plan ahead and be prepared for this or any other hike. For more information on this trail, please contact the visitor center.

A pile of rocks form a cairn trail marker amongst desert shrubs
Piles of rock called cairns mark the route on many trails at El Malpais. Please do not disturb these cairns or build new cairns to prevent confusing other hikers.

NPS Photo by John Kuehnert

Hiking Cairned Routes

Sometimes the only trail markers along El Malpais trails are cairns: a series of rock piles used to trace a route across the land. Cairns are common on lava landscapes where creating a traditional trail or footpath is impossible because of the extreme nature of the terrain.

Hiking cairned routes requires more attention to navigation. As you travel, make sure you have the next cairn in sight before moving on to the next one. Keep your eyes on the land while walking; the uneven nature of the terrain demands it since there is no even surface. If you want to enjoy the views, stop first to get a secure footing, and then look around. Look back frequently to stay familiar with the landscape as it changes.

Please take care not to disturb cairns as you hike. Do not build new cairns. Building cairns off the intended route may cause other hikers to become disoriented and lost.


Last updated: September 5, 2022

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