A visit to Santa Fe isn’t complete without a stop at Bandelier National Monument, one of my favorite places to explore in New Mexico. It is the home of the Ancestral Puebloans and dates back to 1100 AD. What stands out most about this beautiful place is the large canyon walls, carved out for shelter and storage by these native people.
The National Park allows you to really climb up and explore the area, so take a walk with me through this fantastic monument!
The Park’s Visitor’s Center dates back to the 1930’s (along with all the roads and trails), and is a nice place to stop and grab a drink, map and use the restrooms. The little complex is made up of several buildings, including a gift shop and a small café, and there’s a little wooded area in the shade for picnics. You can also camp here overnight with a permit.
The main hike starts from behind the ranger building and is a complete loop trail. Let’s go!
A short walk through the woods will take you to the first stop – The Talus Houses, or cliff dwellings. This is one of the coolest spots in the whole monument. The rocks have been carved into small dwellings along the canyon and a web of ancient footpaths are still used to take you up the side of the cliffs.
You can see how much of the rock has been weathered away. Some of the caves were naturally formed, others have been carved out over time.
Weathering from wind and water created foot-holes and paths along the cliffside. Some of these were used to get to lookout locations, and in other places, holes were carved purposefully, each an arms length away from the next.
Climbing up a big ladder into the caves, you can see the simplicity of living inside one of these dwellings. Smoke remnants still blacken the ceiling, and vents were carved for air circulation. Looking out of the cave are the remains of the Tyuonyi, a circular pueblo village on the Frijoles canyon floor. Historians found that both cave and pueblo would have been used around the same time.
Next stop, the Long House, on the next canyon wall. This was a huge building that was erected alongside the cliffs – today the base is all that remains.
I love the patterns made by the ruins and carved dwellings along the cliffside. Some look like faces, while others remain ominous and in shadow. Small holes along the canyon wall are where the Long House was attached to the rock, making the structure several stories high.
And soon, it’s time to leave again as we catch the last light of the day.
Bandelier is a breathtaking National Park, full of history, geography and color – as is much of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the Southwest. I never tire of the desert landscape and I hope I’ll be back to visit many more times!
Learn more about Bandelier and all of the wonderful National Parks here! Do you have any favorites that you like to visit? Share with me in the comments below!