Bandelier Offers Beauty, History, Great Day Outdoors

Young visitors at Bandelier climb a ladder to a cavate. Photo by Maire O’Neill/
A shady spot near the Bandelier Visitor Center. Photo by Maire O’Neill/
Los Alamos Daily Post

Bandelier National Monument offers a great day out for old and young despite Stage III fire restrictions in the area. Although the back country is closed, the Main Loop, Falls, Alcove House, Frey, Tsankawi and Burnt Mesa trails remain open. Although usually hot and dry in summer, many locals and visitors consider Bandelier to be at its best in the mornings when Frijoles Canyon is cooler and quieter.

The Bandelier Visitor Center hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and the park is open dawn to dusk. Until Oct. 17, visitors are required to take a free shuttle bus from the White Rock Visitor Center for access 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. with at 5 p.m. the last bus leaves the park. On weekdays, the buses depart every 30 minutes and every 20 minutes on weekends. The entrance fee to Bandelier may be paid at a kiosk near the White Rock Visitor Center or at the Bandelier Visitor Center upon arrival.

“Bandelier’s got seven trails open, and the campgrounds and Visitor Center are open as well. We’re planning on starting ranger guided hikes and programs at the end of June. Come out and join us,” said Joanie Budzileni, Bandelier’s Chief of Interpretation and Visitor Services.

Most visitors begin their exploration of Bandelier with a walk on the 1.2 mile Main Loop Trail, which winds its way through the excavated archeological sites on the canyon floor and back through the wooded area along the Frijoles Creek to the Visitor Center. For those who wish to visit the Alcove House, another trail leads to a series of ladders which take the visitor 140 feet up to the former dwelling place of some 25 Ancestral Pueblo people.

On the Main Loop Trail there is easy, shorter ladder-access to a number of cavates or hollowed out caves which are thought to have been inhabited in the wintertime. On ground level, the 245 rooms of the Tyuonyi Village can be seen and visitors can imagine what it was like for the Ancestral Pueblo who lived there from approximately 1150 to 1550. Along the walls of the canyon, there are many petroglyphs depicting turkeys, dogs and lightening. A trail guide available at the Visitor Center provides information on 21 numbered spots along the trail.

Among the other open trails is the 1.5 mile Falls Trail which descends 400 vertical feet to the Upper Falls. This trail has steep drop-offs and plank bridges across the creek.

The Tsankawi section of Bandelier is outside the main section of the park on N.M. 4. Visitors there can take a 1.5 mile walk along a mesa viewing cavates, petroglyphs and the Ancient Pueblo village of Tsankawi. Ladders are a required part of the trail.

Bandelier is home to a variety of wildlife including mule deer, squirrels, lizards and a number of bird species as well as bears and snakes. Visitors are cautioned not to forget that these animals call Bandelier home and advised not to harass, approach or feed them.

The Visitor Center is home to a small museum and bookstore. Park rangers are on hand to answer questions and provide information on all aspects of a Bandelier visit. A limited amount of food and beverages is available at the gift store but many people chose to bring their own and sit beneath the trees near the Frijoles Creek.

For more information on Bandelier National Monument, visit

Cavates and viga holes along the canyon wall on the Main Loop Trail at Bandelier National Monument. Photo by Maire O’Neill/