Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano – Grants, New Mexico - Atlas Obscura
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Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano

Grants, New Mexico

A frozen oasis lies beneath the scorching New Mexico desert. 

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The Bandera Volcano Ice Cave, also known as the Zuni Cave, is a lava tube cave formed by the nearby Bandera volcano more than 3,000 years ago. The landscape surrounding the cave bears the scars of its volcanic past. As such, it is affectionately known as New Mexico’s “Land of Fire and Ice.”

The cave’s shape and shade ensure the temperature never rises above 31 degrees Fahrenheit. The green color of the ice comes from arctic algae, which feed off the moisture of the ice and the narrow rays of sunlight that find their way inside the lava tube. The Zuni mined the ice for their own purposes, as did Spanish and American settlers.

As visitors descend the steps into the ice cave, the temperature drops rapidly to a comfortably cool temperature. Just like the icy lake within, time seems to stand still. The volcanic rock that insulates the cave also deafens the noise of the world above. 

Know Before You Go

The cave is privately owned and operated. Admission is $12 for adults and $6 for children. The admission fee also grants access to the Bandera volcano crater and a small museum. The loop trail, which covers both the volcano and the ice cave, is exposed to the sun and is covered in sharp volcanic rock. Make sure you bring water, sun protection, and closed-toed shoes to mitigate these issues.

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