Valles Caldera


Just 20 miles west of Santa Fe, across the Rió Grande, Los Alamos is situated in the foothills of the Jemez Mountain range, at 7,300′ the same elevation as Santa Fe. Ten miles further west of Los Alamos is Valles Caldera, now a National Preserve and the oldest of only three caldera-type volcanos in the U.S.; the other two being Yellowstone, WY, and Long Valley, CA.

Valles Caldera was formed 1.25 million years ago by massive eruptions that spewed a volume of debris estimated to be 300 times that of the 1980 Mt. St. Helens’  eruption. Valles Caldera’s most recent eruption was much smaller, occurring approximately 65,000 years ago.

The north-south Jemez Mountain range runs parallel to the Sangre de Christo Mountains, and is the southern end of the Rocky Mountains. The highest point, Chicoma Mountain (11,511′), rises dramatically above the west side of the Española Valley; its impressive 1,400′ south face overlooks Valles Caldera.

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