Chain of Volcanic Craters
Mount Taylor, just north of Grants, is the center of the southeastern portion of a volcanic plateau where extensive lava flows and the Chain of Craters extend south toward the basins and ranges of southwestern New Mexico. The Chain of Craters south of Grants is another example of the highly volcanic nature of this area. At Exit 89 on Interstate 40, NM Hwy 117 travels south along the east side of El Malpais Lava Flow. La Ventana arch is approximately 8 miles/13 km south of the interstate. El Malpais Visitor Center is 9 miles/14 km south of the interstate. Further south on NM Hwy 117, there are views of the Chain of Craters to the west.
To access the Chain of Craters backcountry byway, turn south to NM Hwy 53 at the San Rafael Exit on Interstate 40. Approximately 25 miles/40 km south of the interstate is County Road 42 just west of the entrance to Bandera Volcano. County Road 42 is a dirt/gravel road 33 miles/53 km long before it joins NM Hwy 117 to the south. Along the length of the road are 25 volcanic cinder cones lined up in a row north to south. 18,300 acres of this area has been set aside as a wilderness study area The BLM website cautions that high clearance vehicles are required on the unpaved road and that the road is not passable when wet or snowy conditions are present.