Ice Cave

The Land of Fire and Ice - Bandera Lava-Tube

Useful Information

Location: At Bandera Volcano, on Hwy 53. 40km south west of Grants. 160km west of Albuquerque. I40 exit Grants, follow Hwy 53 west for 40km, turn left. Signposted.
Open: All year daily 8 to 1 hour before sunset. [2005]
Fee: Adults USD 8, Children (5-12) USD 4, Seniors (65+) USD 6.50.
Classification: ExplainLava tube, Explainice cave.
Light: not necessary
Dimension: T=-0.5°C, L=28,000m.
Guided tours:  
Bibliography: David Candelaria (): The History of the Ice Cave,
Address: Bandera Center/Ice Caves, 12,000 Ice Caves Road, Grants, NM 87020, Tel. +1-505-783-4303, 1-888-ICE-CAVE. E-mail: contact
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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190? purchased by Sylvestre Mirabal, a successful rancher and sheep man from San Rafael, New Mexico.
1946 ice removal from the cave stopped by the new manager David Mirabal Candelaria.


The Land of Fire and Ice is a combination of a volcano and an ice cave, both accessible by trails from the Trading Post, which is a sort of Visitors Center. The trails are wide and cinder paved. Bandera Volcano trail is 800m long and takes about 40min, to the lookout into Bandera Volcano crater 50m higher. Ice Cave trail is 400m long and takes about 20 minutes.

The Ice Cave at Bandera is a part of a lava tube, which was formed during an eruption of Bandera Volcano. The ceiling collapsed and formed a huge depression with an entrance into the cave. In winter and during the coldest time of the night, the cold air flows into the collapse and into the cave. Because of this the temperature inside the cave never goes above freezing point, it is generally half a degree below.

As the temperature is below zero inside the cave, water getting inside freezes and forms ice. The climate around is arid, which means very little precipitation, otherwise the cave would have been filled with ice rather soon. The floor of the cavern is covered by 6m thick ice. The deepest and oldest parts of this ice are about 3,400 years old.

The local Pueblo Indians knew this cave for a long time and called it Winter Lake. They mined the ice and used it to cool food. This tradition was continued, together with white settlers (who used it to cool the beer in the saloon).

The land was owned by the Mirabal and Candelaria family, who were sheep farmers. In 1946 David Mirabal Candelaria became the manager of this area, stopped the ice mining and started to develop it as a tourist attraction. At this time the remaining ice was only 4m thick, the oldest part of the original cave ice. Since this time 2m of accumulated on top.

Ice Cave is not a show cave in the common way, as the cave is not really toured. The path leads to the collapse, and a wooden staircase leads down 70 steps into the cave entrance, where a viewing platform allows a glimpse of the ice cave. The platform is just under the edge of the cave entrance. The cave is not artificially lighted, during daylight hours there is enough light form outside.

There are other lave tubes visible on the trails, all parts of the 28km long Bandera Lava-Tube. One was called refrigerator, as it once also contained ice and was used as a refrigerator.