Bandelier National Monument

Whew, this past week has been a reminder of a few realities of our brand of RV/motorcycle travel: there is never enough time to see everything, do everything, share the things that you have seen and done, or adequate internet access. 🙂

One week ago, we were in lovely Santa Fe, at an even more lovely RV park, Santa Fe Skies, that I wrote about here. My last post covered a wonderful Day in Taos, and next on our list was a monument that we missed the last trip to the area, Bandelier National Monument. Bandelier is about an hours drive from Santa Fe, in White Rock near Los Alamos National Laboratory, and it is a remarkably well-preserved example of an Ancestral Puebloan community thought to have been occupied from the mid-1200s to mid-1500s.

There is an excellent visitor’s center, and the staff and volunteers are very helpful in suggesting activities appropriate for your timeframe. We chose the Main loop trail, a 1.2-mile hike to a canyon floor village, Tyuonyi, and nearby cliff dwellings, then extended our hike another half mile into Frijoles Canyon to see Alcove House, a ceremonial cliff dwelling reached by climbing a series of 4 long wooden ladders. Yes, it was worth it!

Starting the hike with interesting cliff walls

Tyuonyi village on the Canyon floor housed around 100 people in 400 rooms at its peak population

The Ancestral Puebloan people relied on the year-round flow of Frijoles Creek to support their agricultural lifestyle, cultivating corn, beans, and squash on the Canyon floor, but were also impacted by seasonal floods raging through the canyon.

Jerry investigating one of the cliff rooms

The pink rock of the Canyon wall looks like sandstone but is actually volcanic ash from the Jemez Volcano which erupted over a million years ago. The ash was compacted over time into a soft crumbly rock called tuff. This soft rock made excellent building material and the Ancestral Pueblo people used tools to enlarge natural openings in the cliff face, and then to constructed stone dwellings in front of the openings.

A 1920s reconstruction of a cliff home

The lower walls of the cave rooms were usually plastered while the ceilings were smoke-blackened to harden the crumbly volcanic tuff.

Cave room up close

Looking back from the cliff homes down to Tyuonyi, and your author

Long House included multi-storied dwellings along the cliff base

Another view of Long House

Above the top row of roof beam holes in Long House were many petroglyphs, which were once considered simply “rock art”, but now are recognized to have much deeper meanings to the people who carved them. Unfortunately, they did not translate very well to photographs, with a couple of wonderful exceptions.

The best example, a frequently appearing symbol of spirals

A petroglyph of a macaw, providing additional evidence that the Puebloan people had interaction with peoples from Mexico and beyond

A pictograph, on the other hand, is a painted design, and this example was fortunately preserved for 600+ years.

This pictograph was part of the back wall of a second story dwelling

And then on to Alcove House! A lovely shady walk to…4 sets of ladders, totaling 140 feet. 🙂

First ladder. It wasn’t as bad as it looks!

Second ladder…

Third ladder…

Catching our breath inside Alcove House! Ceremonial round Kiva on the left

A better view of the underground kiva with access through roof entry

And the million dollar view up Frijoles Canyon from Alcove House

So you might be wondering what happened to the 4th ladder! Well, I thought it might be fun to see it from another perspective. 😲

Heading down, backward!

My love and hiking buddy 💕

A last look up at Alcove House before the hike back

One of our favorite aspects of some parks. 🏍

Dedicated motorcycle parking!

And our reward, back in Santa Fe:

Margaritas on the plaza

Thanks for visiting Bandelier National Monument with us! I hope you find your way there one day.

12 thoughts on “Bandelier National Monument

  1. Such wonderful travels you have! Great pictures too. I can’t imagine life without traveling. It’s so exciting to see new places and experience new things. And there’s still so much of this country I haven’t visited. I’d love to go to New Mexico someday. Such interesting landscape and architecture.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Carrie! We are so grateful to be retired and able to travel. We’ve always traveled, but now we aren’t constrained by the typical short American vacation. I agree I can’t imagine life in one place either. The whole Southwest is beautiful, varied, unique, fascinating, and magnificent. 🌞

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a beautiful day for a hike!! Love the monuments and those are so cool you can go in. There’s another one in New Mexico – Gila Monument- a nice hike up to the dwellings and back down. So interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am having so much fun reading these and experiencing these adventures through you, Lynne!! This is great information and to the point! Love it!
    Continued fun excursions and safe travels! We will get together when y’all return!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. […] with motorcycle world travelers in Santa Fe,  a stop in one of our favorite towns, Taos,  Bandolier National Monument, and El Malpais National Monument. I did a great job of blogging about these iconic […]


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