About 2 hours outside of Gallup, NM lies the family owned and operated Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano. Approximately 10,000 years ago, the Bandera Volcano erupted, spewing ash and cinders into the air as far as 20 miles away. It left behind one of the best preserved cinder cones. It created 17 miles of lava tubes, most of which have collapsed, but those that remained became caves. These caves, because of the insulation of the cooled lava, never see the temperature rise above 31 degrees F.
The admission rate, which you purchase at the gift shop/museum, is fairly reasonable. It is $12 for anyone 13 and up, $6 for children 5-12 and anyone under 5 is free. You get access to the museum as well as both trails. The trail to the caldera is approximately a 1/2 mile, climbing up the side of the volcano. It can be a bit steep, but the view is worth it.
This is a former lava tube that is partially collapsed.
The caldera is huge, sloping steeply down from the path.
After we returned from the volcano, we headed down the Ice Cave path.
There are 69 not exactly equal steps down to the cave. As we descended, so too did the temperature.
It is estimated that the ice has been growing on the cave floor for over 3400 years, based on artifacts found.
You can see the minerals and ice from water seeping through the ground on the ceiling of the cave.
You could get through the volcano and cave in probably an hour, but the scenery up the side of the volcano is amazing and there are benches scattered up the path to sit and enjoy the view. And the ice cave is a welcome treat on a hot day.