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Day Trip: Bandelier National Monument


Bandelier National Monument

Photo Credit: Daniel Mayer (Mav) Creative Commons

Located about an hour from Santa Fe, Bandelier National Monument is a great place to visit if you feel like taking a day trip.

Bandelier features plenty of wilderness to explore and, if you’re a hiking enthusiast, you won’t find any shortage of trails. The centerpiece of the monument is a series of archaeological sites. There have been people living in the area for more than 10,000 years and it’s full of history.

While you’re there, you can see petroglyphs, wildlife and the Ancestral Pueblo, which was occupied until the mid-1500s.

The descendants of the people who called the Ancestral Pueblo their home moved to Cochiti Pueblo and San Ildefonso, according to the National Park Service.

What to Do

If you want to keep your adventure a bit more laid back, you can explore the site on the Main Loop Trail. It’s a short hike, just over a mile, that takes you from the Visitor Center to Frijoles Canyon. If you have a physical disability that prevents you from taking one of the more extreme hikes, there are parts of this trail that are accessible.

You can also explore the Tsankawi section of the park. This is a great hike to take if you want to see petroglyphs. Keep in mind that you’ll have to do some ladder climbing on this hike, so it’s not for those who can’t handle physically-demanding outdoor adventures or for those who are afraid of heights.

If you want to really get into the backcountry, this destination won’t disappoint. There are plenty of trails—over 70 miles of them, in fact—and you can go out on multi-day adventures, spending the night in the park. You’ll need a permit to do so, but if you want to really explore what New Mexico’s wilderness areas have to offer, it’s one of the best places to do it.

The Rangers will take you around the park, as well, on the Main Loop trail. You can even do it at night on the Nightwalk. You’ll have to call to reserve a spot for the Nightwalk.

Be Aware

This area was damaged during a fire in 2011, which impacted the condition of some of the trails. Be sure to check on the condition of the trails before you head out, as some of them might be closed for safety reasons.

While You’re There

  • Don’t feed the wildlife.
  • Stay on the trails.
  • Watch the weather; flash flooding is a hazard.
  • This is a high-elevation area; people with breathing problems should exercise appropriate cautions.
  • Wear sturdy shoes, the trails can be rugged.
  • If you get to a point where obstacles prevent you from continuing on, turn around.
  • Check at the Visitor Center for trail conditions and closures before heading out.

More information

The best source of information on Bandelier is the National Park Service. Check out their page at: