Where is City of Rocks State Park
City of Rocks State Park is located in New Mexico, halfway between Silver City and Deming. It is nestled in the scenic Chihuahuan desert region of southeastern New Mexico. City of Rocks State Park displays much of the area’s volcanic past, between the burnt-red structures, enormous rock pinnacles, and wind sculpted boulders. The vast landscape of volcanic rock formations explains how the park became known as the “City of Rocks”. It’s a family-friendly destination, offering campsites, hiking, mountain biking, wildlife viewings, birding, stargazing, picnicking, and even a botanical garden.
How Big is City of Rocks State Park
The park is one square mile, with an elevation that reaches up to 5,200 feet. The “city” is made up of sculptured rock formations, or pinnacles, that rise as high as 40 feet, resembling city skyscrapers. They are separated by paths that wind between pinnacles, in an effort to mimic city walkways. These rocks were formed over 34.9 million years ago as a large volcano erupted in the surrounding area. Over millions of years, the erosion slowly began to form the sculptured columns we see today.
City of Rocks State Park Weather
The weather at City of Rocks State Park remains relatively steady season to season. June is on average the warmest month, while January is on average the coldest month. With that being said, colder month daytime temperatures rarely drop below 56°F and 27°F in the nighttime. In June, July, and August, temperatures are at a high, averaging around 90°F. Record highs have reached 106°F in the summer months. Average lows are around 60°F. The average precipitation sits around 1 inch of rain per year. Rain is rare in this area, but July, August, and September has the greatest chance of precipitation on average. Most visitors head to City of Rocks State Park from June to September. The high season is able to be extended due to the mild weather in the spring and fall.
When did City of Rocks become a State Park
Over 35 million years ago, a massive eruption by the Emory caldera deposited boulders at the southern end of the Black range. Then millions of years later, that erosion built countless columns and spires that give the current landscape a surreal and dystopian ambience. Between 750-1250 AD, the Mimbreno Indians inhabited the area. Visitors can view the Indian wells, or conical holes, where water was once collected. Then in 1953, New Mexican legislation called for the lease of 640 acres from the Commissioner Public Lands, for the purpose of officially declaring the area a state park and recreation center.
Things to do in City of Rocks State Park
There are lots of activities to do in City of Rocks State Park. To help plan your next visit, we’ve listed the main sites and the best things to do.
There are many native and migrant birds that travel through City of Rocks State Park. You can explore the bird species on your own or join a guided tour with the park’s rangers. There are at least 35 species nesting in the cavities and crevasses of the boulders. Popular birds sightings include cactus wren, scaled quail, eastern meadowlark, and great-horned owls.
St. Clair Vineyard
Just 30 miles outside of the park is St. Clair Winery & Vineyard. On the weekends they have live, local music and various wine tasting options. The vineyard has the ability to harvest over 500,000 gallons, as it sits on over 15 acres of land. The space has been family-owned and operated for over 35 years.
City of Rocks State Park is the perfect spot for avid rock climbers. With countless boulders, there’s no lack of adventure and adrenaline in the park. From the top of the peak, visitors can view the landscape from a while new perspective. Most climbers prepare to free climb, as you are not allowed to bolt or add fixed rope to the rocks.
Deming Luna Mimbres Museum
The Deming Luna Mimbres Museum, which was previously the old National Guard Armory, houses an art gallery, solarium, tack room, and even beautifully decorated dolls. The building itself dates back to the 1900s and was purchased by the state in 1977.
There are 5 miles of trailhead in the park. There are large granite markers that point out which trail is which. The Hydra Trail is among the most popular, where hikers can venture on a steep climb to view southern New Mexico from a high vantage point.
Those trails aren’t solely for hikers. Mountain bikers glide through the park’s trailheads and the surrounding area. The rocky terrain can provide a certain level of difficulty not found in other types of landscapes.
You can go camping in the park year-round, as the weather usually maintains a mild temperature through each month. Reservations can be made online for 50 amp campsites. Non-reservation sites will be 30 amp with water nearby. Many visitors enjoy group camping and picnicking under the stars of the volcanic ruins.
Education and Outreach
There are plenty of educational programs for students and young people in the park. The New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral resources coordinates services for teachers and schools. The material provides earth science information, corresponding workshops, and geoscience exercises.
Many campers enjoy picnicking while in the park. All sites have a fire pit with a grate and a picnic table. A quaint meal with the views of the volcanic rock formations is truly something special.
City of Rocks State Park has countless photo-worthy moments. Nearly all visitors will snap a photo or two of the grand scenery. Professional photographers, on the other hand, may snap thousands and thousands of photos. Close-up images of the geologic features can make for an awesome photo.
When to go to City of Rocks State Park
Camping season lasts all year round, but the most popular time to visit City of Rocks State Park is from June to September. Grab your hiking boots and rock-climbing gear to experience everything City of Rocks has to offer. During peak season most visitors plan to go bouldering, hiking, and mountain biking. Off season activities, however, are just as fun. Between the St. Clair Vineyard and the Deming Luna Mimbres Museum, there’s plenty to do. Additionally, bird watching is very popular during the off-season when migratory birds head out for the colder months. You can view the birds on your own or through a guided tour. The park also welcomes avid bird volunteers to expand their native bird program and add to the knowledge of the area.
Must-Have things to bring to City of Rocks
There are a few items to bring on your adventure to City of Rocks State Park. We’ll cover everything from necessary supplies to proper gear. Check that out here:
Tire sealant is a must. With the rough terrain and sharp rock formations, there’s a chance one of your tires will get pierced. An accident like that is most likely out of your hands, regardless of how careful you are. Bring along the extra protection for piece-of-mind.
Again, the sharp rocks along the roads and paths make proper footwear all the more important. There are plenty of trails and paths to help visitors experience the full landscape of the park. Remember to bring hiking boots if you plan to walk those paths. Otherwise, you could choose to ride a mountain bike through the park.
Many visitors plan to view the park on the tippy top of the city-like boulders. Getting to the top of those boulders safely is very important. Bringing the correct bouldering gear is the first step toward a safe climb. Some of the gear needed includes climbing shoes, a chalk bag, bouldering pad, and brushes.
Staying hydrated for any outdoor activity is extremely important. Prepare ahead by packing a water bottle. There are no water fountains throughout the park if you need a refill. Be sure to bring enough water for the duration of your visit.
There are some pretty interesting bird species and wildlife in City of Rocks State Park. Whether it’s a cactus wren, scaled quail, eastern meadowlark, or great-horned owls, binoculars can help you get a better look.
There is no lack of paths and historic rock formations in City of Rocks State Park. To help with navigation, bring a park map. Additionally, at the ranger station there are packets filled with various tasks for youngsters to earn a junior ranger badge.
You may want a snack during your hike, climb, or camping adventure. There are no opportunities to purchase food while in the park, making it important to bring fuel-worthy options along. Protein bars, nuts, and crackers are some great options.
Protecting your skin from the sun is vital. The UV rays in the deserts of New Mexico are very strong. While exploring any state park, you can get lost in the moment and the scenery. When planning to spend the day outdoors, your skin is suspectable to sun burn and further sun damage. Apply sunscreen before entering the park and remember to reapply throughout the day.
The Instagram-worthy photo opportunities are endless. Between the volcanic rock formations that reach up to 40’ high and columns that resemble city skyscrapers, you won’t want to put your camera down.
First Aid Kit
Bouldering up a steep rock formation or hiking through the dirt paths can lead to an accident. The best thing you can do is hope nothing happens, yet at the same time prepare for anything. Keeping proper medical items nearby can aid a minor incident or even a major accident.
Where to stay in City of Rocks State Park
There are a total of 50 campsites at the park. 10 of those 50 can be reserved ahead of time and have electric and water hook-ups. Each site is tucked into the rock formations for the ultimate City of Rocks experience. Each camper is well-equipped with a fire pit and picnic table. There is also a bathhouse for all campers on-site. The max length for recreational vehicles and trailers is 50’.
Food Nearby City of Rocks State Park
There are no restaurants or food stands in the park. Bring groceries, food, snacks, and water for a day or night trip. The closest grocery store is in Deming or Silver City. There are some restaurants outside of the park. Popular options include Restaurant del Sol, Kountry Kitchen, Buckhorn Saloon & Opera House, and Irma’s Restaurant.
Airports near City of Rocks State Park
Nearby airports include El Paso Airport, Tuscan International Airport, Las Cruces International Airport, and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. You will have to drive to the park from the airport. It’s a very easy drive. The park can be found off the major route I-10, going east or west.