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Bandalier National Monument, carved dwellings into the side of a mountain
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Explore the Incredible Bandelier National Monument in NM

Of all the attractions, historic sites, and natural wonders of New Mexico, none are quite as remarkable as Bandelier National Monument. An incredibly well-preserved historic site, the monument was established to protect the amazing cliff dwellings. The dwellings, or cavates, were carved into the Frijole Canyon as early as 1150 CE. These caves were once home to the ancestral Pueblo people. Today, visitors can venture across 70 miles of hiking trails to see these dwellings up close. While there, you can also view ancient petroglyphs and pictographs. This 33,000-acre preserve is a rich, natural ecosystem. Keep reading to learn more about how you can explore the incredible Bandelier National Monument in NM.


The Visitors Center

We suggest starting your journey at the visitors center to pick up a map and get your bearings. The museum in the visitors center provides a wealth of knowledge and is brimming with tools, paintings, pottery, and other ancient artifacts. If you’d like a keepsake to remember your visit, you’ll find plenty of souvenirs in the gift shop. Don’t forget to grab a snack at the café before you venture out to explore the monument. Outside the visitors center, you’ll find a few trailheads where you can kick off your adventure.

Trails to Take

  • The most popular trail is the 1.4 mile Pueblo Loop, an easy hike with an excellent payoff. There are plenty of ancient structures to see along the way, like the Big Kiva, a sacred ceremonial site. Bandelier is popular for its cave houses, and you’ll see plenty. Just beyond the loop, you’ll find ladders leading up to Alcove House, another sacred cave that is well worth exploring.
  • IVenture further into the canyon on the Tsankawi Trail, a 1.5-mile hike about 12 miles out from the visitor’s center. Walk along ancient footpaths worn into the stone. Climb up to a well-preserved Pueblo strewn with remnants of authentic native pottery. This hike is moderate, but be ready to climb a few ladders along the way.
  • If you’re up for a challenge, take the 22-mile round trip journey to Painted Caves. While this is one of the most remote destinations in Bandelier, the scenery is incredible. Plus, you will get the chance to see some remarkably preserved petroglyphs.

As you journey across this incredible landscape, keep an eye out for the locals. Over 50 species of mammals call the monument home, including bighorn sheep, mule deer, and mountain lions. There are also plenty of reptile species to spot along the rocks, and an incredible variety of birds soaring overhead. Visitors are welcome to take pictures of the wildlife. but take care to not get too close.

Santa Fe Lodging

Once you explore the incredible Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico, enjoy the scenic drive east to Santa Fe and rest your feet at Inn of the Turquoise Bear. Our historic adobe estate provides the perfect atmosphere of serenity, relaxation, and comfort you need to wind down after a day of trailblazing. Indulge in gourmet breakfasts each morning. Pamper yourself with luxurious amenities in one of our nine unique guest rooms. And come enjoy access to the best attractions Santa Fe has to offer.

Published August 5 2021

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