After leaving Albuquerque I decided to take a route to my parents that I hadn’t yet traveled. The route I chose went right by the Bandera Volcano and Ice Cave, located just east of the Continental Divide on a 2-lane New Mexico highway. I like 2-lane highways. They usually mean I am bypassing an Interstate. I don’t like Interstates.
After the worst traveling conditions to date, where I encountered extremely stiff crosswinds on I-40 (see, I told you I don’t like interstates, but I had to travel on I-40 for a bit), rain, sleet and snow, I arrived at my first destination of the day. Snow. At the end of April. Weird weather we are having in 2015.
Bandera Volcano and Ice Cave are located on private property, down about a 1/2 mile dirt road. For the sum of $12 you can tour both. You are given a trifold piece of paper that explains what the numbers on stumps are pointing at. And you walk along, happily enjoying the sites.
It was cold when I was there. Cold and crappy. As in snowing. And the clouds were really low. Not the ideal time to be playing tourist at around 8,000 feet. But I didn’t have much of a choice as I had no idea when I would next find myself in this corner of New Mexico.
I ventured down to the Ice Cave first, which is just as it sounds – a cave with ice in it. The cave was formed from a collapsed lava tube (lave tubes run extensively throughout the region, and there are a few examples of collapsed tubes you can see during your tour).
The temperature inside the cave never reaches above 31º F. Rainwater flows into the cave and keeps adding to the layers of ice. Ice started forming here a few thousand years ago and has been used throughout the ages by people living in the area. Now it is used as a tourist destination.
Bandera Volcano is viewed via a 1/2 mile trail that takes you up and around the south side of the volcano. Having erupted about 10,000 years ago, Bandera is one of North America’s best examples of an erupted cinder cone. And, if you are to believe the owners of the volcano, it is the most accessible one to view. You walk right into the crater, high up one side. It is indeed a very impressive view, though visibility stunk when I was there due to the snow and low clouds.
I highly recommend a stop at Bandera Volcano and Ice Cave should you find yourself in the area. Just try to choose a day when it isn’t snowing. Unless you like freezing. I don’t. Big surprise, right?