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Anytime we travel, I’m always on the lookout for places where my son can run free, play, and burn off some excess energy. You know: the type of place where he can have fun and I don’t have to worry about him disturbing other people or breaking anything. Well, in southwest New Mexico, I found the perfect place–City of Rocks State Park. It truly is a desert playground for kids of all ages.
What is City of Rocks?
City of Rocks is one of the most unique state parks I’ve ever seen. Basically, it is a large collection of huge rocks clumped together haphazardly in the middle of the desert. The rocks were created from volcanic lava millions of years ago. They have been formed and shaped by the wind, rain, and other elements ever since. Some of the rocks stretch 10 feet or higher into the air.
Where is it?
City of Rocks is located in southwest New Mexico. It is approximately 40 minutes from Silver City by car. (Check out what to do and where to eat in Silver City.) From Silver City, head southeast on Highway 180. After going through the small town of Hurley, look for the signs for the park. You will actually turn left on Highway 61 and then drive a few miles before turning into the City of Rocks State Park.
Reasons to Visit
Now, in all honesty, City of Rocks is not a big or significant enough of a place to justify being the center or focus of your entire trip to New Mexico. It’s more of a great detour or side trip kind of place. So, if you are going to be visiting the southern part of New Mexico anyways or if you will be passing through the area, consider adding a stop to your itinerary. Here are a few of the reasons to visit and things to do at City of Rocks:
There are numerous campsites available at City of Rocks. Some can be reserved in advance, while others are available on a first come, first serve basis. Some have water hookups, while others are for self-contained camping. There are bathroom facilities at the park.
Hiking & Climbing
Like I alluded to at the beginning, this is the ultimate desert playground for kids. Those who are kids at heart will also love it. It doesn’t have hiking in the traditional sense, but there are trails that go around the perimeter of the park. These are extremely easy, flat, and short. You could even do these with a stroller if you wanted. For more interest, you and your kids can create your own trails by hiking through the middle of the rock formations. Kids will also love spending hours climbing up, over, and under the rocks. My son enjoyed playing army and hiding behind the various rocks.
Because City of Rocks is out in the wide open desert, it is a perfect place for stargazing. Located throughout the park, you will find plaques describing various stars, planets, and other astronomical phenomenon.
Due to the constant breeze and openness of the area, City of Rocks is a great location for flying kites. Let your kids bring their kites (or stop at a local store and pick one up) and enjoy watching them soar over the rocks.
There are picnic tables scattered around and between the rocks. Many of them are at campsites, but if the campsite is empty, you can use the table for your picnic. So, if you are planning to spend the day playing, pack a picnic and treat your kids to an outdoor lunch at the same time.
The Details of a Visit
City of Rocks State Park is normally open from 7 am to 9 pm. Currently, with the restrictions from the COVID-19 virus still in place, the park is only open for day use from 7 am to 4 pm. Admission to the park is $5 per vehicle for day use and $8-14 per night for camping, depending on the type of campsite you get. Please pay at the self-serve post before entering the parking lot. For more info, see the New Mexico State Parks website or stop at the visitor’s center upon your arrival.
City of Rocks State Park in southwest New Mexico is the perfect desert playground for kids, young and old. If you will be vacationing in or near the southern part of New Mexico, it is definitely worth you time to add in a stop at this amazing park. Your kids will love playing and climbing on the rocks by day and wishing upon the stars at night. For more things to do in southwest New Mexico, see our posts on the Gila Cliff Dwellings, tips for visiting the cliff dwellings, and hiking the Catwalk. Happy travels!