The United States Congress designated the West Malpais Wilderness (map
) in 1987 and it now has a total of 39,540 acres
All of this wilderness is located in New Mexico
and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
El Malpais is Spanish for "the badlands," a name that perfectly describes this region of New Mexico, where countless volcanic eruptions sent rivers of molten rock and flying cinders over what is now a rough plain of three million years' worth of hardened lava. The last of the eruptions would have been witnessed by Native American residents. This volcanic landscape supports a surprising amount of vegetation. Even on terrain that one would presume to be barren, wind-deposited soil has thickened enough to support grasses, cacti, aspen, pine, juniper, and fir. One geological feature named Hole-In-The-Wall, is an area that lava flowed around, leaving an area with developed soils and stands of large ponderosa pine.
You may see elk, deer, or antelope here, and during summer a large colony of Mexican free-tailed bats migrates between some of the nearby lava tube caves. No groundwater exists, so pack plenty.
The West Malpais Wilderness is within the El Malpais National Conservation Area (managed by the BLM).