Last Updated on: 17th April 2023, 01:02 pm
Visiting Camel Rock wasn’t high on my Santa Fe to-do list. I assumed (wrongly) that it would require a hike or long detour to get to it.
Since we weren’t doing any hiking on this trip as it was our first road trip as a family of four, I didn’t put it on our itinerary. I had no interest in dragging a three-month-old to the end of a long hike to see some rocks that resemble a camel.
So I was understandably delighted when I spotted this natural oddity on the side of the highway on our drive from Santa Fe to Los Alamos.
And even though we got a good look at it from the road, we decided we needed to stop and visit it on our way back from Atomic City.
Here’s what you need to know to visit Camel Rock. In my experience, a quick stop at this Santa Fe roadside attraction is time well spent!
Read next: Our Santa Fe Trip Budget
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Santa Fe Vacation at a Glance
Heading to Santa Fe and don’t have time to read this whole piece? Here are some quick recommendations for your trip!
Popular Santa Fe Tours
Where to Stay in Santa Fe
Inn at Santa Fe (Budget)
El Rey Court (Mid-Range)
Marriott Courtyard Santa Fe (Mid-Range – We Stayed Here!)
Hotel La Fonda (Luxury)
Discover Cars (for road trips and independent day trips)
Odds and Ends
Lonely Planet Southwest USA (I use this!)
Route 66 guide (I use this!)
Get a travel insurance quote with Safety Wings (I use them!)
Camel Rock Travel Guide
Here’s everything you need to visit this roadside attraction!
What is Camel Rock?
Camel Rock is a natural rock formation made from pink sandstone. According to Geology.com:
Sandstone is a clastic sedimentary rock composed of sand-size grains of mineral, rock, or organic material.
Clastic means that the rock is formed from smaller, broken pieces of older rock.
Over time, Camel Rock was weathered and took on the shape of a camel sitting in the desert. Because of the pinkish-tan color of the sandstone, its coloring also looks like a camel.
The sandstone formations themselves measure 100 feet long and 40 feet high, so the camel strikes quite an imposing figure on the side of the road.
How to Get to Camel Rock
Camel Rock is located in Humboldt County about 15 minutes north of Santa Fe, NM, along Highway 84 West.
Camel Rock is visible from the road, located on the west side of the highway. As you drive, you also get a beautiful scenic view of the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Driving Directions to Camel Rock
From Santa Fe, leave town on Highway 84W. The drive is about fifteen minutes if leaving from somewhere centrally located in Santa Fe, like the Santa Fe Plaza.
As you leave town, you’ll pass the Santa Fe Opera, the town of Tesque, NM, and signs for the Tesque Pueblo.
Take exit 175 from US-84 W. Turn left onto Camel Rock Road, then turn right onto US-285 Frontage/US-84 Frontage. You will see a parking area to stop in.
Address: 285 Frontage, Camel Rock, Santa Fe, NM 87506
See Camel Rock on the Way to Los Alamos, Bandalier, or Taos
Since Camel Rock is located on Highway 84W, this means that it’s a very convenient stop along several popular Santa Fe day trips, including Taos, Los Alamos, and Bandelier National Monument (one of New Mexico’s national parks).
It is located along both the High Road to Taos (along with Chimayo and Truchas) AND the Low Road to Taos (along with wineries, ranches, and the town of Espanola).
So whether you choose to take the high road or low road to Taos, you can make Camel Rock your first stop out of Santa Fe!
However, it is NOT situated along either the faster route or the Turquoise Trail to Albuquerque from Santa Fe.
Pro Tip: If you plan to use Google Maps to navigate to Camel Rock (or anywhere outside of the big cities in New Mexico), make sure you have the maps downloaded offline in your mobile app before you go.
It’s common not to have service between cities (or even in some New Mexico towns).
Map of Camel Rock
How to Visit Camel Rock & What to Expect
Once you arrive at Camel Rock, visiting is very straightforward. There are no fees are tickets to get into the attraction.
Instead, you’ll find a free parking lot located on the frontage road. There are picnic tables, making this a great rest stop for a long road trip.
There’s no information available about Camel Rock itself, but you’ll find several informational signs in the parking lot, which are labeled “Official Scenic Historic Marker.”
The most prominent marker is about the Tesuque Pueblo. It states that:
“The name Tesuque is a Spanish variation of the Tewa name Tetsugeh, meaning “narrow place of cottonwood trees.”
The small Tewa-speaking pueblo of Tesuque was established before 1200 and was first visited by Europeans in 1591.
It is one of the most traditional of the Tewa-speaking pueblos and played an important role in the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, which drove the Spanish from New Mexico.”
There is also a map with points of interest that include nearby pueblos, an overview of Tesuque Rain Gods, and a sign about the accomplishment of women from New Mexico.
You can stay in the parking lot to read the signs and snap a pic of Camel Rock and go, or you can take the short hike to the base of the camel.
Camel Rock Hike Details
While the view from the road is my favorite view of Camel Rock, it’s also fun to walk the short Camel Rock hike (very, very short) to get a closeup of what the rocks look like from the front.
Upon closer look, I think that Camel Rock looks like E.T. when you are just taking in the “head” and “neck.”
The walk is so short that I can’t find a measurement for the distance from the parking lot to the fence in front of the camel.
My best guess is that the entire walk barely counts as a hike and is less than 0.2 miles out and back (total). However, I did not physically measure it myself.
The short walk is paved the entire way. There is a slight incline, but I believe this is an accessible walk.
Camel Rock in Pop Culture
While this may not be one of the most famous American roadside attractions, it does crop up in pop culture.
Camel Rock Studios is located just across the highway. Named for the landmark, the studios are the first-ever Native American-owned film studio.
The 1955 western film The Man From Laramie was filmed near Camel Rock and in the Tesuque Pueblo. Starring the incomparable James (Jimmy) Stewart, this film is a great one to watch if are a fan of the actor. You can watch the full-length movie on YouTube.
Other movies filmed at Camel Rock or nearby include Cowboy and News of the World.
The town of Tesuque has also appeared in the finale of Breaking Bad and is home to Cormac McCarthy, as well as being mentioned in several novels like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop.
In music, Camel Rock is the name of a song and the eponymous album by Chuck Pyle made in 1995. A drawing of the figure also appears as album art.
Things to Do Near Camel Rock Monument
Most people will stop at Camel Rock on their way to Santa Fe, Taos, Los Alamos, or Bandelier. If you want to stay and explore the immediate area, there are a few nearby attractions.
If you want to visit the Tesuque Pueblo, you need to call ahead. Photography is not allowed. There are some days when the pueblo is not open to outsiders. You can find contact information for the Tesuque Pueblo here.
Most other nearby attractions are located in north or northwest Santa Fe, including the Santa Fe Opera, the Desert Labyrinth, and the Cognition Enhancer. There are also golf courses and art galleries on this side of town.
Some people will choose to combine visits to Camel Rock and El Rancho de las Golondrinas. Note that these two popular tourist attractions are thirty minutes apart and located on opposite sides of Santa Fe.
However, if you don’t have any day trips from the city planned, it makes sense to combine these as part of a driving day for sightseeing on Santa Fe’s outskirts.
Good to know: There are no official sightseeing tours or walking tours that visit Camel Rock at this time.
Where to Stay Near Camel Rock
I have several hotel options for Santa Fe listed above. If you are looking for a hotel closer to Camel Rock, the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe is only ten minutes away.
This gorgeous five-star resort hotel is a relaxing holiday retreat that includes a full-service spa, yoga studio, and stunning desert setting.
Frequently Asked Questions about Visiting Camel Rock (FAQ)
These are the questions travelers ask the most about visiting Camel Rock from Santa Fe.
What is the history of Camel Rock?
I cannot find any historical accounts of Camel Rock outside of its appearances in Pop Culture.
My take is that, since the historical markers at the site are dedicated to the Pueblo of Tesque and New Mexican Women, there might not be much to say on the matter.
What is Camel Rock made of?
Camel Rock is made of pink sandstone.
How much does it cost to visit Camel Rock?
It’s free to visit Camel Rock.
How long do you need to visit Camel Rock?
You can see everything at Camel Rock in ten to fifteen minutes.
When did Camel Rock lose its nose?
Camel Rock lost its prominent nose in 2017.
Who named Camel Rock?
I cannot find an authoritative account of who named Camel Rock.
What is the significance of the nose on Camel Rock?
None now that the nose fell off Camel Rock in 2017.
What are some other features of Camel Rock?
At Camel Rock, there is a small walking path and a fence to keep people off the rocks themselves. The parking area has picnic tables and some historical markers.
What are the rock formations outside of Santa Fe?
The most popular rock formations outside of Santa Fe, besides Camel Rock, are the tent rocks at Tent Rocks National Monument (Kasha-Katuwe). They are located southwest of Santa Fe.
There are other sandstone formations in northern New Mexico worth visiting, including Teakettle Rock in Jemez Springs.
What are other places named Camel Rock?
If you found this page and are confused because you are looking for some other “Camel Rock,” its good to know that besides Camel Rock, New Mexico, there are also:
-Camel Rock in The Garden of the Gods in the Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois
-Camel Rock at the Houda Point and Camel Rock Lookout between Moonstone Beach and Trinidad, California, near Arcata. This one is popular with surfers.
-Camel Rock in Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona
-Camel Rocks (Kamelfelsen), a rock formation on the Königstein Hill in Germany
-Camel Rock (Goreme) in Cappadocia, Turkey
Is there a second camel at Camel Rock?
Rumor has is that there is a second camel near Camel Rock that is located further into the Tesuque Pueblo.
5 Things to Bring to New Mexico
A Packable Down Jacket – everyone in our family has one. They’re light and easy to keep in your backpack or car, but they’re warm enough to make a huge difference if the weather turns cold.
A Lightweight but Durable Backpack – My Venture Pal 40L Lightweight Packable Daypack was a steal for the price. It’s survived 17 national parks as well as trips to Mexico and El Salvador!
It won’t last forever, but it has more than proved its worth so far.
A Pair of Binoculars for trips where I’m going to be looking for wildlife. I use these binoculars, and my husband has a separate pair.
A Portable Charging Bank in case my phone dies. Having a portable charger for your phone is crucial, especially in a state like New Mexico where the signal comes and goes, draining your battery.
This is a safety issue as my offline maps may be the only way to navigate where there’s no cell phone data available, as well as the convenience of being able to use my cell phone camera.
A Basic First Aid Kit to handle minor issues while you are out. Don’t let a hot spot on your foot turn into a blister, or leave a small cut open to the elements.
I keep a small first aid kit in my backpack at all times when we are on the road.
Other items to consider: a personal breathalyzer since New Mexico is a driving-heavy destination with great breweries and wineries, a pocket knife for small emergencies, a bathing suit for water sports, and a water bottle with a filter if you’ll be out hiking or in nature.
For Your Trip to New Mexico – Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
Whenever I go on a trip, I always make sure to get travel insurance!
This is especially true whenever I explore big cities (and their inherent crowds) and the beautiful (but sometimes dangerous) outdoors – so two things I always do in New Mexico!
The company Safety Wing is the travel insurance company I always look to first, and I happily recommend them!
It makes my life easier knowing if something should happen, I’ll be able to take care of it!
New Mexico Travel Resources
Here are all my New Mexico travel guides.