Bandelier National Monument
Updated: Aug 6
Bandelier National Monument is nestled in the mesas and canyons of northern New Mexico, about one hour away from the beautiful city of Santa Fe. Established in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson, Bandelier National Monument is now home to 33,677 acres of protected American land. This area was previously occupied by the Ancestral Pueblo People in AD 1150 to 1550, where they lived and built impressive structures alongside the Frijoles Canyon. The park consists of many short hiking trails for both the casual day tripper and the motivated explorer.
The Main Loop Trail - 1.2 miles
The Main Loop Trail is a great way to see what archeological discoveries Bandelier National Monument is known for, in less than an hour! The main loop takes you past the Big Kiva, Tyuonyi, Talus House and the Long House.
The Main Loop Trail has many areas with narrow pathways and stone mazes perfect for snapping memorable pictures.
The Ancestral Pueblo People carved small rooms, known as cavates, into the sides of the Frijoles Canyon. These apartment like rooms were living spaces that provided safety and shelter for Ancestral Pueblo families. Wooden ladders along the trail allow visitors to climb into cavates. Inside, the walls are plastered and the ceilings are black. Along the cliff dwelling walls look out for carved drawings, called petroglyphs, carved by the Ancestral people.
The Alcove House - 1 mile
About halfway through the Main Loop trail there is a decision to make: take the beautiful nature trail back to civilization OR take a thrilling detour to the Alcove House. The Alcove House Trail adds an additional mile to the Main Loop Trail for a total of 2.2 miles. Definitely worth the journey, incredible canyon views can be seen from this ancient loft, which was once the home of 25 Ancestral Pueblo People.
Not for the faint of heart, the journey up to the Alcove house can be daunting. There are four wooden ladders and a series of steps to reach the site, which is 140 feet above the canyon floor. Don't worry if you can't make the climb! Before the first ladder there are benches to sit on to take a rest, gather your thoughts, or read a book while you wait for others. Once you've made it up to the site you'll walk into a giant cavate, carved into the canyon rock hundreds of years ago. The enormity of the Alcove House will take your breath away. You can see holes in the floors and walls where wooden supports used to be, along with the reconstructed kiva located towards the center of the room.
After the descent down, enjoy walking through the forest, following the winding path back to the Visitor's Center. You'll walk past the Cottonwood Picnic Area, with plenty of picnic benches it is a perfect place to break out some fresh fruit and homemade sandwiches after the hike. If you're still feeling spunky after the Main Loop and Alcove House, check out the Upper Falls Trail. This trail is 1.5 miles long and descends 400 vertical feet to the magnificent Upper Falls. Frijoles canyon is definitely an adventure waiting to be discovered.