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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. The monument was established to protect the amazing cliff dwellings, an incredibly well-preserved historic site. 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 Visitor’s Center

We suggest starting your journey at the visitor’s center to pick up a map and get your bearings. The museum in the visitor’s 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 visitor’s center, you’ll find a few trailheads where you can kick off your adventure.

Trails to Take

Pueblo Loop Trail

1.5 miles | 220 ft Gain | Loop Trail

  • A popular trail is the Pueblo Loop, an easy hike with an excellent payoff. Along the way, you’ll see plenty of ancient structures, 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.

Tyuoni Overlook Trail

2.1 miles | 196 ft Gain | Out & Back

  • Tyuonyi Overlook Trail can take under an hour to complete. You’ll see a circular village and the trail ends at an overlook where you peer down at ruins. Hikers noted the gorgeous scenery and liked this as a gentler hike.

Cerro Grande Route

4.2 miles | 1,223 ft Gain | Out & Back

    • The Cerro Grande Route climbs to the highest point in the Monument. Hikers note seeing only a few people out on the trail, which has lots of parking at the trailhead. The views from the summit are worth it on this trail!

Psst! Do you like hiking? See our complete guide on hiking near Santa Fe.

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. Plenty of reptile species are also 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 not to 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, rest your feet at Inn of the Turquoise Bear and grab a bite to eat at a local restaurant. 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.

Interested in history? Check out our top historic places in Santa Fe to visit during your stay.

Updated June 2024

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