‘The White Place’ Fascinates in Northwest New Mexico

Above the north bank of the Chama river, and within sight of the Pueblo of Abiquiu, is a weird and wonderful place called Plaza Blanca.

A confluence of drainages have worked their way down through the light volcanic tuff and sandstone of the Abiquiu Formation, laid down tens of millions of years ago, to create towering cliffs and spires in shades of white to beige.

It’s a stunning place to hike. Paths lead down from the parking area but soon peter out. Follow your nose or the views or whatever else catches your attention. Each time you visit, something different will be revealed. And you’ll find rocks, lots of interesting rocks — volcanic and quartz cobbles litter the ground having tumbled from layers high in the weathering cliffs. Wildflowers bloom in spring, and small rodents and reptiles leave tracks in the soft dirt, mostly in the shelter of the scattered junipers.

Plaza Blanca features in local history. Thousands of acres surrounding the cliffs and extending to the river were included in one of the original land grants in the area; the Plaza Blanca Grant was awarded to Manuel Bustos in 1739 by Governor Gaspar Domingo de Mendoza. It must have been a landmark for Ancient Puebloan people long before that. Today the land belongs to Dar al-Islam, a religious organization which allows access to hikers and others visiting Plaza Blanca.

Directions:

Head north on US Highway 84 towards Abiquiu. Four miles before reaching Bode’s General Store, you’ll come to State Rd 554. Turn right. Just after crossing the Rio Chama, turn left onto County Road 155. Follow 155 for about 3 1/2 miles until you reach the gate to Dar al-Islam. Turn right through the gate and follow the gravel road to a fork in the road. Go right at the fork to the small parking area for Plaza Blanca.