Traveling with Kids: Valley of Fires Recreation Area

Our family recently visited Valley of Fires Recreation Area while on vacation to the Southwest. Traveling with kids always presents unique challenges. But we found that Valley of Fires in New Mexico was exciting not just for our two children, but for me and my husband as well.


Near Carrizozo in the Tularosa Valley of Central New Mexico.

Cost Per Day:

  • $5 per car carrying two or more
  • $7 to camp
  • $12-$25 for RVs, shelters, etc.


  • Visitor's Center with literature and gifts.
  • Paved trail with interpretive displays.
  • Picnic tables and restrooms.

What We Liked:

  • It is one of the first outdoor recreation spots you'll reach coming into New Mexico from the East or Northeast. It came at just the right time for us – when we really needed to stretch our legs.
  • The path is exciting, but not dangerous. I could let our three year old get a few yards ahead without fear and they could safely jog and skip.
  • The abundant, shiny hunks of black lava are unlike anything most people have seen. The kids are amazed and curious, but so are parents.
  • There is a lot to learn at every level. Parents can delve into the ecology of the terrain and the complex geology. For kids, there are simple lessons to learn through observation: the unique adaptations of desert plants, the ripples in the rock that show how it was once liquid, the animals and bugs scurrying into cracks and holes in the lava.
  • The scenery is gorgeous. The whole Tularosa Valley is spectacular before and after Carrizozo. You definitely want to take a look up from the path once in a while and appreciate the beauty of the whole area.

What We Didn't Like:

  • Although the picnic shelters were very nice, the restroom stalls didn't have flush "potties", sinks, or hand sanitizer. Everything was clean, however, and well maintained. Acceptable for what is was, but expect to be changing diapers in your car and pack Purell.