Walatowa Slot Canyon

Useful Information

Location: Walatowa Visitor Center, 7413 Hwy 4, Jemez Pueblo, NM 87024.
(35.6494, -106.7184)
Open: All year daily 9-16, weather permitting.
Fee: Hiking Permit USD 9.
Groups (2+): Hiking Permit USD 7.
Groups (4+): Hiking Permit USD 4.
Classification: GorgeGorge
Light: n/a
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Pueblo of Jemez Welcome Center, 7413 NM-4, PO Box 280, Jemez Pueblo, NM 87024, Tel: +1-575-834-7235, Tel: +1-505-494-1960. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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Walatowa Slot Canyon is located west of the Jemez Mountains, which reach more than 2,000 m asl and are covered with verdant Ponderosa forests. But the hills around the gorge are barren, below 2,000 m they are arid as they are in the rain shadow of the rocky mountains. The rocks and the soil are red, the rocks are reddish sandstones coloured by oxidized iron. The soil contains colonies of algae, cyanobacteria, and fungi that build structures in the dirt. Thiy socalled cryptobiotic soil take long periods of time to form and as they are just dirt, they are easily destroyed. To protect them visitors are advised to stay on the trails.

The hills are named after the Jemez people, pronounced “Hay-mess” or traditionally as “He-mish”, which live in this area. They are a federally recognized American Indian tribe with 3,400 tribal members. The small village Jemez Pueblo at Highway 4 is their home, and they actually call this village Walatowa which translates this is the place. While the village is officially renamed Jemez Pueblo, the name Walatowa is officially used for the slot canyon.

On highway 4 2.5 km north of Jemez Pueblo is the Pueblo of Jemez Welcome Center. There is a museum about the local history, culture, and the geology of the area. It is also the trailhead for the 2.4 km long Red Rocks Trail to the canyon. And it sells the mandatory hiking permits. There is a risk of flash flooding in the canyon, so check the weather report at the Visitor Center before you go. Visitor Center, gift shop, historic museum, convenience store, and many other venues are operated by the Jemez Enterprises, which is a company owned and operated by the tribe for its members.