Bandelier National Monument Review

Bandelier National MonumentImagine a place that has been preserved for centuries that still shows the rich history and culture of the people that used to inhabit the area and you have, in a nutshell, the Bandelier National Monument. Located just outside of Los Alamos, New Mexico, the monument spans over 33,000 acres and was home to the Ancestral Pueblo People, whose presence in the area is documented at over 10,000 years; this area makes for one of the most historic places to visit in New Mexico, and attracts thousands of visitors each year.

The Bandelier National Monument starts with a visitor center, made in the traditional adobe style and dating back to the 1930’s. Inside the center is a museum with exhibits of pottery, tools and artifacts as well as life size dioramas depicting the history of the region. Woodwork, tinwork and local artwork are also on display and there are short films to go along with the displays.

No New Mexico travel guide would be complete without this monument, and once you get onto a trail and start to see the gravity of the area you will see why. Taking the Main Loop Trail from the visitors center, you travel past pueblo homes, kivas—ceremonial structures–, rock paintings and petroglyphs. There are ladders along the trail that you can use to better see some of the Anasazi cliff dwellings up close as you go along the 1.2 miles of the trail which also houses some of the best archeological areas in the park.

The Bandelier National Monument only has three miles of road within its boundaries, but it boasts 70 miles of hiking trails, and there is a one mile elevation change within the park that is over 70% wilderness.

Visitors taking the Falls Trail take a trip through 2.5 miles that descends 700 feet, showing off more stunning architecture as well as two waterfalls. The lesser known Upper Falls Trail follows the river from the visitor center to the Upper Falls, this trek is easier than some of the others and is partially shady, which is a blessing if you happen to go in the height of the day’s heat. Sweeping views make it all worth it though, as the river winds around the beauty of the area.

People visiting the Bandelier National Monument find it an easy day trip from Santa Fe, but the park also provides campsites for those wishing to extend their stay. There are several small campsites that have amenities or visitors can choose to go into the backcountry to camp; the closest backcountry campsite lies just 2 miles from the visitor center. Picnic areas are also conveniently located throughout the area.

With its location just outside town, the Bandelier National Monument is ideally situated near plenty of Los Alamos hotels, restaurants and other attractions, making this area of the state a great one for tourists. Enjoy the history of the area as you marvel at the fascinating structures that have stood the test of time.