I’ve been to quite a few national parks and monuments over the years and each one never ceases to amaze me with their original landscape and unique features. This is true of Bandelier National Monument, which we visited last summer while staying in Santa Fe. You may not initially recognize the name of this southwest hot spot, but I bet you recognize a common photo that is taken while on a visit:
Look familiar? Bandelier is a happy 45 minute drive northwest of Santa Fe, NM, just south of Los Alamos.
The monument preserves the homes and territory of ancestral Puebloans; most of the pueblo structures are dated between 1150 and 1600 AD. This land was marked as a National Monument in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson and named for Adolph Bandelier, a Swiss-American anthropologist who researched the cultures of the area and supported preservation of the sites. A lodge was built during the 1920’s and 30’s, along with other structures. Theses buildings constitute the largest assembly of CCC-built structures in a National Park area that have not been altered by new construction.
If you visit the park between May and October and are there between the hours of 9 AM and 3 PM, you MUST take the shuttle bus into the park to visit the main area of the park.
Park at the White rock Visitor Center and pay the park entrance fee ( I believe the entrance fee is $10 per person when you take the bus in…We were lucky enough to be traveling with family that had a park pass…) There is no additional cost for the free shuttle.
The shuttle bus was fine-not my first choice though. IF you can plan ahead, try to go before 9 AM or after 3 PM so you can stay in your own car and have a bit more freedom. (Lighting for photos, of course, will be a lot better too!) During the summer it is hot, so take plenty of water!
The bus dropped us off at the park visitor center, where the Main Loop trail is. You can pick up a little booklet/map for a few dollars in the center, which will tell you the history of the area and note points of interest along the trail.
Frijoles Canyon is the main stop where the bus will drop you. The trail we followed was well-maintained and an easy walk to many of the ruins. There were quite a few stairs which led to higher ground with nice views.
Frijoles Canyon contains a number of ancestral pueblo homes, kivas (ceremonial structures), rock paintings and petroglyphs. These things, along with basalt and obsidian artifacts and construction techniques, indicate that its inhabitants were part of a regional trade network that included Mexico.
After taking the Main Loop Trail, we had a decision to make: turn back toward the visitor center or continue another half mile each way (1 mile round trip) to the Alcove House. We decided to walk across a tiny creek and through the trees (the shade was nice!) to the base of the hillside below the Alcove House.
We climbed the ladder and walked a bit of the trail, but decided to turn around. It was very hot mid-day and the trail was extremely narrow and high. I think we were all a bit worn out from the heat! I imagine this trail would be extremely nice at 7 AM-and a lot less crowded too. 😉
After all the times we’ve been to Santa Fe, I’m rather shocked that we had never been here before! I’m so glad my in-laws suggested it. If you’re hanging out in Santa Fe for a few days, you ought to consider this day trip.
Here are some tips and links if you plan on visiting the area:
• It’s about 5 hours from Amarillo to Los Alamos, and if you’re in Santa Fe, Los Alamos is only 45 minutes away.
• There are a few campgrounds in the National Monument. Apparently their sites rarely fill up, and it’s only $12 to pitch a tent! You can get info about camping here: https://www.nps.gov/band/planyourvisit/camping.htm
• There are other trails in the park, which you can learn more about here: https://www.nps.gov/band/planyourvisit/short-trails.htm
• Dogs are not allowed on any of the trails
• Go early in the morning to avoid the summer heat; take your own car before 9 am or after 3 pm to enter the park in your own vehicle.
• Check out a previous post about this trip with tips on where to eat, among other things, in SANTA FE.
• As far as I can decipher, the park entrance fee is $10 per person when taking the shuttle bus. There’s no additional fee to take the bus. If you visit before 9 am or after 3 pm, the entrance fee per vehicle (non-commercial) is $20; $15 for motorcycles and $10 for bicycles/pedestrians.
• Other places of interest in the area are Valles Caldera and Jemez Springs.