National Monument: Bandelier in New Mexico | Reader's Digest

National Monument: Bandelier in New Mexico

from Off the Beaten Path | 318
Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico© 2009 Sally King/NPS PhotoA wooden ladder leads to a cavate, a space excavated from rock.

Hwy. 4, Los Alamos, New Mexico

The road to Bandelier takes you through some of the most spectacular country in New Mexico, offering enormous vistas of mountains, mesas, cliffs, and canyons. The monument itself covers nearly 50 square miles, almost all of it undisturbed wilderness.

Some 70 miles of maintained hiking trails lead in and out of steep-walled canyons, bringing you to pueblo ruins, cave rooms hewn from rock cliffs, petroglyphs and pictographs, waterfalls, and scenic overlooks.

An easy self-guiding walk described in a pamphlet leads from the visitors center along the floor of Frijoles Canyon to the ancestral pueblo where the Anasazi people once farmed. A somewhat steep fork in the trail takes you to cave rooms and dramatic rock formations. From here one has a magnificent view of the valley and a stream lined with cottonwoods and box elder maples that turn a brilliant yellow in the autumn.

A popular summer activity is a bat walk, a tour of the bat cave at Long House, led by a park ranger. The Mexican freetail bats, seamlessly navigating the dark, are a unique, unexpected beauty. Also in the summer are one-hour night walks—silent pitch-black journeys through the archaeological sites behind the visitors center.

A much longer, more demanding trail takes you down-canyon to two beautiful waterfalls and eventually to the Rio Grande as it courses through White Rock Canyon. The great variety of trees, shrubs, and flowering plants adds to the appeal of Bandelier. The monument is at an altitude of 6,500 feet, and the terrain is fairly rugged, so take it slow.

Permits are required (free at the visitors center) for backcountry hiking, horseback riding (bring your own steed), and cross-country skiing. Be advised, though, that there are strict no-fire regulations in the backcountry, and during peak fire season in the summer, access may be limited.

Open year-round except holidays. Admission charged.

www.nps.gov/band

(505) 672-3861, ext. 517

Did you know?
The ancestral Pueblo people lived in the area of Bandelier National Monument for approximately 400 years, between 1150 and 1550 B.C. Thousands of years before that, hunter-gatherer groups traversed the land in search of food.