Explore New Mexico’s Land of Fire and Ice at the Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano in Grants, New Mexico. It’s a must-see attraction for your Route 66 itinerary.
The Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano is dubbed “The Land of Fire and Ice” for a reason. The attraction features, at least in theory, two geographic phenomena that are stark opposites: a hot-lava spewing volcano and a bitter cold ice cave.
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OK, the volcano is dormant, so you probably won’t run into any actual fire. But if you visit on a hit June day like I did, it just might feel like its on fire all the same.
Start your visit at the visitor center, housed in the 1930s Old Time Trading Post, where you can buy your ticket to the trail, purchase water or snacks, and check out the archives in a small museum. Then you can continue on to the main attractions via the two self-guided trails (don’t worry, you’ll get a map with your ticket and there are signs to point the way).
They recommend starting with the trail to Bandera Volcano, especially on a hot summer day, because you can then end your hike by cooling off in the ice cave. The volcano trail is around half a mile long and takes about 20 minutes to get to (40 minutes round trip).
You’ll walk through a variety of elements, seeing ancient lava fields, cinder cones, twisted old-growth Juniper, Fir trees, and Ponderosa Pine trees along the way. You’ll eventually reach a final lookout about 150 feet up before turning back around.
From the lookout you’ll be able to take in the Bandera Volcano, a 1,400 foot wide, 800-foot deep volcano that last erupted 10,000 years ago.
The other trail leads to the ice cave. This trail is around a quarter of a mile long and takes about 20 minutes round trip to complete. But you’ll want to allow extra time to marvel at the natural landmark that is the trail’s destination.
That destination is a perpetual ice cave (also known as Zuni Cave) that formed inside of a collapsed lava tube. For more than 3,400 years natural layers of ice have been accumulating inside of the walls, trapping cold air.
As you descend the 70-steps down into the cave via a man-made wooden staircase you’ll notice the gradual temperature change with every step down you take. The temperature inside the cave never rises above 31 degrees Farenheit. The walls glisten with a blue-green ice colored from a subspecies of algae.
The Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano is located in Grants, New Mexico, right on the Continental Divide, and just a short drive from Route 66.
More photos of Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano in Grants, New Mexico
Stopping in Grants on your New Mexico Route 66 road trip? Be sure to also stop at the Route 66 Neon Drive-Thru Sign!
Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano
Address: 12000 Ice Caves Rd, Grants, NM 87020
Hours: 9am-5pm, Daily
Cost: $14 (Teenagers and Adults, 13+), $7 (Children ages 6-12), Free (Children under 6)