Penitente Canyon offers visitors the chance to climb, hike and bike among a never-ending tumble of strangely shaped giant boulders, spread out through four separate canyons. The main canyon takes its name from Los Hermanos Penitentes and is symbolized by the fading, blue-cloaked mural of the Virgin of Guadalupe painted on a canyon wall. Local legend has it that the mural was painted by three men, one of whom descended sitting on a suspended tire; the inscription reads 'Consuelo y Espiritu' (Comfort and Courage).
Some 27 million years ago, one of the largest volcanic explosions in earth's history ejected an unimaginable 1000 cubic miles of ash that over time became the rock formations you see today. After the eruption the underground chamber collapsed, forming the caldera (22 miles wide by 47 miles long!) west of Penitente, where these ancient ash formations and volcanic plugs rise like spires in a haunting landscape.