Despite its unabashed commercialism (announced by its many somewhat-over-the-top, retro-style billboard advertisements), this roadside curiosity, set squarely on the Continental Divide, easily merits an hour of your time—the short trail from the 1930s trading post (now the gift shop) just off NM 53 affords unusual vistas of blackened lava fields and gnarled juniper and ponderosa stands. It's about a 20-minute moderately strenuous jaunt up to the 1,200-foot-diameter crater
of Bandera Volcano, which last unleashed a torrent of lava 10,000 years ago. An even shorter walk leads to an old wooden staircase that descends 100 feet into the bowels of a collapsed lava tube, where the Ice Cave never rises above 31°F year-round and has a perpetual floor of blue-green ice. The ice remains year after year because of the combination of the air flow patterns in the lava tube and the insulating properties of the lava itself.