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Bandelier National Monument: Travel Back in Time

What to do when the wife is in a conference in Santa Fe?  Abscond with the rental car and take a little trip around northern New Mexico, that’s what! 

It was sort of a last minute idea, so I looked at a map to see what I could do in a day.  Two towns, and a national monument sounded feasible, so I dropped her off and I headed out.


First stop – Bandelier National MonumentAbout 1 hour northwest of Santa Fe is the up close and personal look at the cliff dwellings of the Pueblo Indians.

At almost 37,000 acres Bandelier became a National Monument on February 11, 1916. Unlike some of the cliff dwelling national monuments such as Tonto (near Globe, Arizona) it is not necessary to walk up steep hills to get a closer look. 


Bandelier National Monument - Wooden Ladders access alcoves (cavates) where cliff dwellers lived - Photo by Roger Gillespie

Bandelier National Monument - Wooden Ladders access alcoves ("cavates") where cliff dwellers lived - Photo by Roger Gillespie


And, with a yearly visitation rate of about 300,000, the crowds are not oppressive.


The main Loop Trail from the Visitor’s Center is 1.2 miles round trip along the canyon floor.  You should allow about one hour as you pass several excavations both on the canyon floor and in the cliffs.  It is even possible to climb wooden ladders into cavates (small alcoves carved by humans).  This is the easiest trail for families.


Bandelier - Long House  -  Photo by Roger Gillespie

Bandelier - Long House - Photo by Roger Gillespie


Petroglyphs are scattered throughout the canyon and although some shapes in the rocks are easily recognizable, you might end up scratching your head trying to figure out what they were thinking when they carved that …


I don’t get it!  Maybe it’s a … maybe if I stand on my head. No, that doesn’t work, maybe it’s a …


Maybe I should have purchased one of those trail maps for $1.00 back at the visitor’s center!



The first section of the Loop Trail is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers, after that you will encounter numerous narrow stone stairways.


Also, if you are visiting in the winter it does snow at this elevation.  The Loop Trail is the only trail that has snowed removed.



There are other short trails near the visitor’s center.  But, if you are a prepared hiker be advised that other trails do exist including a 5-mile round trip to the Rio Grande River (Falls Trail).  Or, if you’ve got some real time on your hands there is the 22-mile round trip to Painted Cave using the Dome Trail. Switchback trails, and no reliable water access, make this the Hearty Hiker Trail of the Week!  If you want to cut off some time and mileage you can connect to the Dome Trailhead off Forest Service Road 142.


Be advised: you need a high clearance vehicle to access this area (You know, one of those pickup trucks you see where you need a step ladder to get into the cab … one of those.)


But, you will cut your trip down to 14.5 miles round trip … yeah!



The visitor’s center will be under renovation beginning in mid-September 2009 for approximately 9 months.  This includes expanded restroom facilities, wiring replacement, security systems updates and fire suppression systems added. 

A temporary center and restrooms will be provided during the renovation.  The bookstore and Trading Post will remain open during construction.


New exhibits and a High Definition film have been underway for several years and will be available when the renovated center opens in June of 2010.



Summer: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. 

Winter: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

Spring/Fall: 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.




7-Day Automobile/Vehicle Permit: $12.00



From Santa Fe: 1 hour 

From Los Alamos: 30 minutes (10 miles) 

From Taos: 1.5 hours 

From Albuquerque: Approximately 2 hours 


With a yearly visitation rate of about 300,000, the crowds are not oppressive.


NEXT WEEK: Los Alamos, New Mexico (Bradbury Science Museum)

IN TWO WEEKS: Taos, New Mexico (Taos Ski Valley – Rio Grande Gorge Bridge)


Don’t you just want to wear a T-shirt with a photo you like from Traveltipsand adventures?  Take a look in our shop at our logo items.  And, we’ll be glad to have a shirt, mug, mouse pad or other item made just for you with one of our images.  Let us know which photo you want and we’ll get it made for you!

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One Response to “Bandelier National Monument: Travel Back in Time”

  1. Last minute Reise Says:

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