Cebolla Wilderness, part of El Malpais National Conservation Area, lies just across State Highway 117 from West Malpais Wilderness but offers easier traveling than the ominously raw volcanic terrain of the badlands. Cebolla shares its eastern border with the Acoma Indian Reservation, but you should avoid crossing the border without first checking with the reservation manager. Primitive two-track trails provide effortless hiking up Cebolla Canyon, Sand Canyon, and Armijo Canyon, all of which feature sandstone bluffs and sandy side washes beneath high mesas, ranging in elevation from about 7,000 to 8,350 feet. Look for evidence of past habitation, from ancient petroglyphs to the ruins of Depression-era homesteads. La Ventana Natural Arch, eroded from sandstone laid down when dinosaurs ruled this territory, anchors the northern portion of what is now primarily forested rimrock. Vertical escarpments provide excellent nesting habitat for golden eagles, prairie falcons, red-tail hawks, and great horned owls. Vegetation is juniper and piñon dominate with ponderosa pine found on north facing slopes. Of the trails that provide access to this area, La Ventana Arch Trail extends only a few hundred feet to a good viewpoint, Narrows Rim Trail goes for about 3.5 miles along the rim of the mesa with excellent views of lava flows and eding at a viewpoint of La Ventana Arch, Lobo Canyon Trail leqads to a petroglyph and is about 0.75 miles roundtrip, and Homestead Canyon Trail and Armijo Canyon Trail are both about 3.75 miles long. Carry plenty of water, as you won't find any here.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Cebolla Wilderness.
The Cebolla Wilderness is located in Cibola County 20 miles south of Grants, NM.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.
(No official title, designates New Mexico wildernesses) - Public law 100-225 (12/31/1987) To establish the El Malpais National Monument and the El Malpais National Conservation Area in the State of New Mexico, to authorize the Masau Trail, and for other purposes
From Interstate 40, drive south on NM Hwy 117 for approximately 8.5 miles from the BLM Ranger Station (17.5 miles from I-40) to the parking area on the left. The arch is visible from the road and the trail is only a few hundred feet long to a good view point.
Narrows Rim Trail
The trailhead and parking area for the Narrows Rim Trail are located at the south end of the Narrows Picnic Area 21.5 miles south of I-40 on NM 117. The trail is approximately 3.5 miles (7 miles round trip) along the rim of the mesa with excellent views of the lava flows and ending at a viewpoint of La Ventana Arch.
Lobo Canyon Trail
From I-40, drive 26 miles south on NM Hwy 117 to the Cebolla Canyon Rd. Drive approximately 5 miles (passing the Sand Canyon Rd. at approximately 3 miles) to a parking area on the right side of the road. The trailhead is on the north side of the road and leads to a petroglyph area. The hike is approximately ¾ of a mile roundtrip.
Homestead Canyon Trail
From I-40, drive 31.6 miles south on NM Hwy 117 to CR 41 (gravel, known as “the Pietown road”). Drive south on CR 41 for approximately 2.3 miles to Homestead Canyon Rd and turn left. Drive for just over 1 mile to a parking area on the wilderness boundary. The trail is a closed road 3 ¾ miles long connecting to the Sand Canyon Road.
Armijo Canyon Trail
From I-40, drive 31.6 miles south on NM Hwy 117 to CR 41 (gravel, known as “the Pietown road”). Drive south on CR 41 for approximately 3.7 miles until you reach a sign for Armijo Canyon, which will be on the east side of the road. Turn left and after approximately 1.5 miles there is a parking area at the wilderness boundary. Hike past the fence and along a closed 2-track road for approximately 3 ¾ miles long connecting to the Sand Canyon Road.
The 61,600 acre Cebolla Wilderness is made up of Sandstone mesas, canyons, and grassy valleys. Juniper and piñon dominate and ponderosa pine is found on north facing slopes. Vertical escarpments provide excellent nesting habitat for golden eagles, prairie falcons, red-tail hawks, and great horned owls. The Cebolla Wilderness is rich in prehistoric archaeological sites, petroglyphs, and historic homesteads. One notable archaeological site is the Dittert Site. Sometime between A.D. 1000 and 1300, the Dittert Site was built and inhabited by the ancestors of modern Pueblo Indian people. The Cebolla Wilderness also contains La Ventana Natural Arch, a dramatic arch sculpted through wind and water erosion in the sandstone cliffs. The Wilderness is located within the El Malpais National Conservation Area.
In general, the area offers opportunities for hiking, camping, horseback riding and wildlife viewing.
Climate and Special Equipment Needs
There are no reliable water sources in Cebolla Wilderness or in the surrounding area. Visitors must carry all the water they will need for the duration of the trip.
The trailhead for the La Ventana Arch trail, and the first portion of the trail are accessible for people with disabilities.
Safety and Current Conditions
The La Ventana Arch and Narrows Rim Trails are accessed by paved roads. All other trails are dirt roads requiring suitable clearance. Conditions of roads can change at any time due to weather. Drivers should avoid dirt roads during rain or snow. Drivers should be cautious of wash-out following rain or snowmelt.
Though camping in the Wilderness is a rewarding experience, there are no reliable water sources. Visitors must carry all the water they will need for the duration of the trip.
Dirt roads in this area can become very slick, sticky, and sometimes impassable during and after rain and snowfall. Check local weather information or contact the El Malpais Ranger station (505-280-2918) prior to travel.
Want to Volunteer for Wilderness?
Citizens who volunteer their time to steward our wilderness areas are an essential part of wilderness management. Contact the following groups to inquire about volunteer opportunities.