Bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos

An excursion to the Bandelier National Monument is an ideal trip to explore about the ancestral pueblo people (Anasazi) and visualize their skills in the wonderful valley. The Anasazi relics here are believed to be among the two vital sites of Indian ruins in New Mexico of which the other is Chaco Canyon. Refugees from Chaco had settled on the Pajarito Plateau’s in the Frijoles Canyon leaving behind the awesome ruins today due to which the Bandelier National Monument has become one of the most thronged sites today.

Hiking along the ruins

Unlike other sites of ruins, you can grasp the most rare opportunity here to climb into these old dwellings via the ladders and become like those ancestors for a while. In addition, you can spot archaeologists discovering more structures and also supervise a real Kiva. All these activities along with park’s beauty as well as strangely accessible old cliff dwellings make this site a must to visit! For a majority of the tourists, their trip in this Bandelier National Monument starts by following the Main Loop Trail from the Visitor Center, which takes one to the archeological sites. There are more trails around that are of all levels and are meant for bird watching and backpacking. During the summer, regular guided walks, craft workshops, interpretive talks, and evening programs, are organized here.

For a casual tourist, the main attraction is obviously the Frijoles Canyon where there are a plethora of ancestral pueblo homes, rock paintings, kivas (ceremonial structures), and petroglyphs. A few of them were on the canyon floor; while the rest are in the canyon wall. As you follow the 1.2-mile, paved ‘Main Loop Trail’, you will come across all these ruins. If you go further this loop, an extending trail takes one to Alcove House (Ceremonial Cave) holding a reconstructed kiva entered through a ladder. As you pass on the canyon, check out for Tyuonyi pueblo as well as its nearby edifices like the Long House supported by the canyon walls and the Talus House. The former is a round site that was once 3 storeys tall. Also look for the Rainbow House ruin that is half a mile down the canyon, three kivas, and cliff dwellings.

More attractions

There are more primitive trails that take you into the backcountry where smaller archaeological sites, waterfalls, and canyon/mesa country. Hikes here are short less than an hour and offer multi-day backpacks. For an overnight trip, permit from Visitor Center is mandatory. However, note that a few backcountry sites are damaged or sunken the by Cochiti Lake. In the isolated Tsankawi unit close to the town of Los Alamos, you can take up a trail to observe the excavated sites and petroglyphs along with the home as well as school.

In the upper levels of the Bandelier National Monument, you can enjoy Nordic skiing via some small trails accessible via the New Mexico Highway 4. But, do not expect good snowfall every winter.

Best time

Late spring and summer is very busy time facilitating long queues for a parking place (30-minute wait). Early spring and fall are cooler and recommended.


There is only one campground called the Juniper Canyon. Operating from March to November, this follows the principle of first-come, first-served basis. A group camp is also offered on reservation.


Carry lot of water here. Even though the walk is short, you will be at the 6,000-foot altitude where air is dry making you thirsty very quickly. Also, sunscreen as well as hats are required.


Bandelier National Monument is at a distance of 48 miles from Santa Fe.

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