Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National Monument is about an hour drive from Santa Fe, near Los Alamos, New Mexico. Mom and I love visiting new cities, eating in restaurants, and doing some shopping but we definitely prefer seeing and experiencing the outdoors and natural wonders. After our time in Santa Fe, I was ready for some nature, history, and fresh air so Bandelier National Monument was next up on our mother-daughter roadtrip.


We were lucky in that it was National Park Week and entrance was free. We both have National Park passes and both forgot them at home.  #roadtripfail

The first overlook of all of  Bandelier going into the 33,000 acre park:

Bandelier National Monument scenic overlook

Bandelier National Monument is technically at the bottom of a caldera so after a windy, steeply sloping road we arrived in the valley, known as Frijoles Canyon. Frijoles Canyon is named that because the early inhabitants grew beans here.

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Carved into the sides of the cliffs are man-made caves dating back to 11,000 years ago. A few of them were gigantic and low enough that they allow tourists to enter them.

Bandelier National Monument ladder climb

On the flat ground were the remains of a giant pueblo structure making this whole area a prehistoric city. The definition of prehistory is that which came before written history and although there are petroglyphs cared into the rocks, it is still considered a prehistoric civilization.

Bandelier National Monument pueblo remains

The park has obviously done a little bit of remodeling to this cliff dwelling:

Bandelier National Monument cliff dwellings

There were thousands of windows and doors that went on for about a half mile on this trail.  Bandelier has a few main trails with the most popular being a 1.5 mile loop that starts and ends at the Visitor’s Center. It is a good little walk but not too difficult. Mom enjoyed her jaunt around the cliff dwellings.

Bandelier National Monument prehistoric cliff houses

There are 10 “short” hikes that vary from very easy to steep climbs taking you to the top of the cliffs. A hiker could spend all day wandering in Bandelier. I opted for the Main Loop and the Alcove House (adding 1 more mile to my journey).

There were 6 deer really slowed me down. No one wanted to disturb their eating so we watched, waited and took photos.

Bandelier National Monument deer eating

The cliff houses were quite amazing.

Bandelier National Monument\

Inside a house:

Bandelier National Monument cliff house room

Mom and I got separated and for a bit I was worried she was lost forever. (My mom has a horrible sense of direction). But I found her out on the trail.


The Visitors Center shows an 18 minute movie that discusses the plants and animals of the area as well as the Puebolan people who called Frijole Valley home.

Bandelier National Monument cliffs

This valley had fairly rich soil (due to the previous volcanic activity) and water so it was a pretty good choice for living space.

Bandelier National Monument cliff houses

That’s all from Bandelier National Monument. If you find yourself in New Mexico, definitely take a day to visit Bandelier. Come early (not a ton of parking) and bring your hiking boots!


Reader question: Would you have rather lived in the dirt floor pueblo or the rock floor cliff house?

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2 Responses

  1. Chaitali says:

    Wow, this looks so cool! I had never heard of this before. That’s impressive that people were able to be so close to the deer and they didn’t run away. I guess they’re used to people there.

  2. I need to explore this part of the country! Looks amazing!

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