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“Beautiful views, great $5 tour and herds of elk!”

Valles Caldera National Preserve
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: This 89,000 acre National Preserve is in the heart of one of three super volcanoes in the United States. Known for its expansive high mountain valles, large elk herds, and diverse history, the Preserve is a favorite among the locals when friends and relatives are in town. If you are in New Mexico you do not want to miss this. Bring your camera and enjoy the expansive views. Pet Friendly: Dogs on leashes are welcome at the contact stations, but are prohibited elsewhere on the Preserve. Registered assistance animals are allowed.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Level Contributor
37 reviews
17 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 21 helpful votes
“Beautiful views, great $5 tour and herds of elk!”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed July 29, 2014

If you visit Valles Caldera, plan to stay in a lodge nearby or a campground. Bandelier National Monument has a great, quiet campground and is a wonderful destination itself. It has cliff ruins with ladders that the kids will love, hiking trails, plus a seasonal waterfall. We have always had great experiences there. Be aware that since the Los Conchas fire in 2011, some of the amenities are not open yet. Also, it is a great bear year in the area, with lots of black bear cubs around. Be careful of Mama! She has no sense of humor.

We stayed at Jemez Falls campground this time, which is to the south and west of the entrance to Valles Caldera. There is no water, electric, dump station, and apparently no rangers! We stayed Thursday - Sunday and the pit toilets ran out of paper. They also were not cleaned the whole time we were there. The worst part was the "locals" coming out to party. Quiet hours are 10 - 6, but they were completely ignored. As the evening progressed the talking and yelling got louder. Saturday night, there was a huge fight with people yelling across the campground at each other threatening violence. We couldn't call the ranger because we had no cell reception!

We might go back to this campground in our RV in the fall when there will be a lot less traffic. It is a gorgeous area in the fall and this campground is a quick on/off enroute to Valles Caldera, Hot Springs, and wonderful hiking and rock climbing opportunities all along Hwy 4.

Valles Caldera has not been open to the public for very long. Currently, there are all kinds of rules about driving to the back of the park. For instance, if you are a pre-registered fisherman or hunter you can drive back there but there are all kinds of restrictions. Don't visit until you've looked up their information! They're only open from April until the beginning of October and there are a lot of limitations. For the most part, you can visit the visitors center and hike a couple trails (the pond trail leads to a marsh, not a pond, which only the mosquitoes were happy about), go on a guided tour, or scan the area with a provided scope. I recommend the Magma to Magpies tour, which was only 5 bucks per person. It was a one hour tour and the driver was extremely knowledgeable and excited about the area. We drove in an air-conditioned 16-passenger van to the back of the preserve and got to see quite a few well-preserved old buildings and learned about everything there is to know about a caldera. All of the staff were fonts of knowledge and were extremely friendly and helpful. Later in the evening, we got to see 2 elk herds; one through the scope and the other along the road.

Visited July 2014
Helpful?
1 Thank Wanderer790
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
VallesCaldera, Public Relations Manager at Valles Caldera National Preserve, responded to this review, August 1, 2014
Sorry to hear about your camping troubles but I am happy you had a great experience on the tour. Next time plan a little more time on the Preserve so you can take a guided hike or one of our Wildlife tours. We also have a Ranch Road Ramble where you can tour the Preserve at your own pace from the comfort of your own vehicle. Thanks for taking the time to write about your experience. Please come back soon.
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262 reviews from our community

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English first
Albquuerque New Mexico USA
Level Contributor
29 reviews
13 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
“Short but enjoyable intro to Valles history”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed July 26, 2014

Jim Trout gave us a short, enjoyable and informative tour of the ranch houses. He explained a bit of the geologic background to this natural wonder, the Valles Caldera, one of the largest calderas in America. We want to come back and do a longer tour.

Visited July 2014
Helpful?
1 Thank Charles C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
VallesCaldera, Public Relations Manager at Valles Caldera National Preserve, responded to this review, July 28, 2014
Thanks very much for visiting and taking the time to write about your experience. Please do come back soon and spend more time with us. We have multiple van tours and a self guided road tour called the Ranch Road Ramble which you can enjoy from the privacy of your personal vehicle. We also have late afternoon/early evening wildlife tours. So please come back and bring your camera.

-Terry
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Minneapolis, Minnesota
Level Contributor
11 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
“Awesome beauty, friendly guide”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed July 17, 2014

Highly recommend visiting this extraordinary natural attraction. We saw a herd of elk and very much enjoyed the tour with Jim Trout. He took the time to explain the geology and history of this wonderful spot (a formerly private ranch now operated by USDA).

Visited July 2014
Helpful?
Thank dravcl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
VallesCaldera, Public Relations Manager at Valles Caldera National Preserve, responded to this review, July 18, 2014
Thanks for coming and taking the time to review your visit. The natural history attracts many visitors like yourself. We also have special geology tours and wildlife habitat tours for a deeper dive into the science and chance to enjoy even more spectacular views. Please come back for a longer visit. Terry
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Miami, Florida
Level Contributor
7 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
“Friendly Staff & Great Tour Guide”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed July 11, 2014

My parents, my grown son & his girlfriend, and my husband and I took a tour with Jim Trout. He has a good knowledge of the region, the preserve's history, and volcanology. We thoroughly enjoyed it! (And only $5 a piece.) The Preserve is beautiful with gorgeous vistas. There are hiking trails. We saw mountain blue birds, barn swallows (who were feeding nestlings on a nest on the office's front porch!), elk, mule deer, and of course cows & horses. (It is a working ranch.) Oh, and lots of prairie dogs & chipmunks. The rangers were friendly and knowledgeable, as well. When we could barely make out the elk with our binoculars, they brought out the spotting scope. I would highly recommend a visit.

Visited July 2014
Helpful?
1 Thank FlaGal57
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
VallesCaldera, Public Relations Manager at Valles Caldera National Preserve, responded to this review, July 18, 2014
Sounds like you had a great tour and if I'm not mistaken it took just about an hour. Next time you visit you might want to take one of our wildlife habitat tours to get a closer look at the elk and outher critters who make the Preserve their home. Thank you for coming and writing such a great review. Please come again - Terry
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Level Contributor
362 reviews
124 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 171 helpful votes
“Saw it as we drove by”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed July 10, 2014

My friends and I saw this area as we drove by on our way to the Bodhi Manda Zen Center. We didn't get out of the car because our road trip was already taking much longer than we had anticipated. But the Valles Caldera was awesome to look at and the scenery really added to our trip.

I hope to some day visit this place for real.

Visited June 2014
Helpful?
Thank Blaize S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
VallesCaldera, Public Relations Manager at Valles Caldera National Preserve, responded to this review, July 18, 2014
I'm glad you had a chance to see the Valle Grande as you passed by. Next time you're in the neighborhood plan an hour or two to come visit us. We have a one hour Magma to Magpie van tour that will give you an up close and personal look at the natural beauty of the Preserve and some of the history behind it.Thanks very much for taking the time to write your review. I look forward to your next one. -Terry
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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