Bandelier National Monument
Bandelier National Monument is one of the Southwest’s most important archeological sites, protecting cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, and over 33,000 acres (13,355 hectares) of rugged desert. One of the National Park Service’s first protected areas, the monument was established in 1916 and the site holds evidence of life dating back 11,000 years.
Begin your exploration of Bandelier National Monument at Frijoles Canyon. There, the main loop trail takes you to the park’s top archeological attractions—ancestral Pueblo dwellings set into the cliff walls. You can get a closer look at the dwellings by climbing ladders and stone walkways to the ancient openings. While the ancient structures are the park’s main attraction, the surrounding wilderness is home to 70 miles (112 kilometers) of trails, two campgrounds, and endless backcountry camping opportunities. Throughout the summer, the park’s main visitor area is accessible only by shuttle bus and guided hikes are offered daily.xa0 Visitors traveling from Santa Fe can also visit on a guided tour that includes round-trip transportation.
Things to Know Before You Go
- There is tent, RV (no hookups), and backcountry camping within the park—some areas require reservations or permits.
- The visitor center and some parts of the main loop trail are wheelchair and stroller accessible.
- Visitors with a vehicle handicap placard can skip the otherwise-mandatory shuttle and drive straight to the visitor center.
- Some of the park’s trails have been destroyed by flooding, so check at the visitor center before planning a hike.
- Learn more about the history of the area at the park’s museum and enjoy Southwest cuisine at the restaurant.
How to Get There
From Los Alamos (the closest town to the park’s visitor center), take Highway 501 West to Highway 4 East. Follow signs for the park. If visiting from Santa Fe (an hour drive away), book a guided tour that lets you skip the hassle of driving.
When to Get There
Summer is peak season, but if you want to avoid the crowds (and the mandatory shuttle from White Rock) visit late fall through early spring. You won’t have access to ranger-led hikes or the park’s restaurant, but you can enjoy the park at your own pace.
Camping at Bandelier National Monument
There are three options for camping at Bandelier National Monument. Juniper Campground is designed for small groups and sites are available on a first-come-first-served basis. In contrast, Ponderosa Campground is suited for large groups and requires reservations—book well in advance. Backpackers can camp for free in the Bandelier backcountry, but permits are required.
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