Western Trips

Western Trips

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bandelier National Monument / New Mexico

Bandelier National Monument is a fascinating site. Named for Adolph Bandelier, a 19th century anthropologist, this is where native Pueblo Indians had permanent settlements as far back as 1150 AD. Humans are thought to have been in the area over 10,000 years ago. Located just a few miles south of Los Alamos, New Mexico, the monument is an excellent example of old cliff dwellings. It's believed that by about 1550 the cliff dwellers moved to pueblo settlements along the nearby Rio Grande.

See the Ancient Wonders at Bandelier

bandelier national monument
The monument features kivas, petroglyphs and rock paintings as well as many fun hiking trails. The museum features native pottery, tools and other ancient artifacts.

There is a great deal of wildlife at Bandelier. Deer and elk are abundant.  Black bears and mountain lions are also present but are rarely seen by visitors. During winter months there is also the opportunity to Nordic snow ski on several trails in the upper elevations of the monument. Bandelier offers over 70 miles of hiking trails within it's 33,000 acres. Camping is also available at three different campgrounds.


The area was named a National Monument in 1916 during the Woodrow Wilson administration. The structures at the site are from the era of the Civilian Conservation Corp during the time of the Great Depression. You can also see several pastel artworks from Helmut Naumer Sr. and the Works Progress Administration, another New Deal Agency from the depression years. Bandelier is constructed in a rustic style which is an excellent example of the construction during the time of the Civilian Construction Corp years.

Bandelier Ranger Programs

bandelier cliff dwellings
During the summer months there is a weekly evening ranger program that takes visitors on a magical walking tour past the cliff dwellings. The tour begins at sundown and the group has a chance to see the cliff dwellings as they would appear at night time, lit with fires and the sound of Pueblo Indian chants. It's a fun and educational experience of which I have been on. There is only a limited amount of visitors allowed on each tour so it's a good idea to phone the National Monument and make a reservation in advance.

If you plan an extended stay in the northern new Mexico area you also may want to check out the river rafting opportunities. There's water for all skill levels and I assure you you'll get some great looking pictures from the river.

Be sure to bring your camera because as you can see from the pictures here, Bandelier offers a great many picture taking opportunities. In addition to the numerous hiking trails and dwellings you will also have a chance to peruse their bookstore which offers many one of a kind books.

Visiting Bandelier National Monument and Northern New Mexico


bandelier national monument kiva
If you are in the Santa Fe, NM area, Bandelier National Monument makes a perfect day trip. Also, beginning in 2011, Bandelier has a new high tech theater where you can view a stunning 14 minute film about the monument and the scenic surrounding area. The film was shot during different seasons of the year and some were taken by helicopter.

You would also want to stop at nearby Los Alamos and visit the Bradbury Science Museum. The museum has some amazing interactive exhibits that make it both a fun and educational experience.

If you have a longer stay in northern New Mexico you may want to try river rafting. There is water for every skill level and I guarantee you'll be able to snap some great pictures during your trip.

The sites below will give you all the information you need to plan your visit to Bandelier National Monument. I would highly recommend you consider adding this to your summer trip agenda.

Bandelier National Monument is about a 44 mile scenic drive northwest of Santa Fe New Mexico.

Also see our Western Trips photo articles below:

Historic Jemez Springs

A Visit to Los Alamos


Get your New Mexico vacation guide at  www.newmexico.org/guide

(Article and photos copyright Western Trips)

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