Trail Lead Coker standing in one of the arroyos, showing the unstable sides and the depth to which it has eroded so far. Courtesy/NPS
Trail crew members showing the size of one of the arroyos that now cut across the trail. Courtesy/NPS
Bandelier National Monument has announced that the trail section connecting the Frijoles Canyon Trail to the Frijoles Rim Trail at Upper Crossing has had to be closed due to severe erosion damage caused by effects of the Las Conchas Fire.
Water running down the badly burned, steep canyon wall has cut a number of deep, unstable arroyos across the trail. During this year’s rainy season they rapidly eroded to the point that the trail is no longer passable even by experienced hikers.
For backcountry travelers, this means that it is no longer possible to plan a route from Ponderosa Campground across to the Frijoles Rim Trail or Upper Alamo Canyon, and the Frijoles Rim Trail can no longer be done as a loop. It is uncertain whether it will be possible to rebuild the trail, and there is presently no estimate on how long this closure will be necessary.
Other trails in the monument have also been affected by erosion following the fire, but only one other has had to be closed. The Falls Trail from just below Upper Falls down to the Rio Grande River has been closed since a large section was completely washed away. The first big flashflood following the fire, in August 2011, left only a sheer cliff where that trail had been. This damage has increased with each succeeding high water flow.
“There are still over 50 miles of Wilderness trails available for hikers in Bandelier, as well as the shorter Main Loop Trail and Tsankawi loop for more casual walkers,” Bandelier Superintendent Jason Lott said. “We do not lightly make the decision to close trails, but these two trail sections are just no longer passable. We hope backcountry hikers will still take advantage of the other trails in the monument.”
For hikers planning overnight trips, free Wilderness permits are available in person at the monument Visitor Center during regular hours, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., seven days a week. Only the park entrance permit is required for day hikes. Pets, weapons, bicycles, and campfires are not permitted on any trails.
For more information on hiking and conditions, contact the Bandelier Visitor Center at 505.672.3861 x 517.