Skip to content

Bandelier National Monument Hiking Trails

Pueblo House Bandelier National Monument
Pueblo House Bandelier National Monument


The Bandelier National Monument has an infrastructure that enables many types of people to enjoy one of the United States Archeological wonders. A true family-friendly environment with paths that wheelchairs can even enjoy. Walking up close into and around the ruins does require more mobility but the site can be broken down into different trails and allowing the person who wants to visit different aspects of the park to do so on separate trips over time. The main loop trail is the main attraction, and making it to the Alcove Cave would be the most difficult due to very large tall ladders. In this article, I will lay out the park according to each of the sections and show what each area looks like with photographs and videos. The National Park Service website of the monument can be found here, and if you do want to hike the park there is a good map for sale in the gift shop. The free maps and information are great for the Pueblo Main Loop Trail and maybe the Alcove House, but the rest will need a great map. So enjoy the great fresh air, and have a great time exploring the park.

The mud and brick runes of the Pueblo people of Bandelier National Monument.
The mud and brick runes of the Pueblo people of Bandelier National Monument.


Is there a campground?

Yes, there is a campground within the park.

How much does it cost to camp in the park?

$12 dollars per night or $6 if you have America The Beautiful Pass.

Video of Bandelier National Monument Pueblo Main Loop Trail

This is the first video in the series that will cover several of the trail’s with various difficulties. This video covers the top two locations being the Pueblo Main Loop Trail and the trail to the Alcove House. In this video, I show the great walkways and railings along the cliffside area of the dwellings. Enjoy the video and make sure to like and share the video.

The Visiter Center Of Bandelier National Monument

The visitor center is very well laid out and blends well into the surrounding of the overall monument. There is a central location with picnic tables, and garbage receptacles for trash. The building consists of the main visitor center, small museum, gift store, small cafe, and yes (Elk Burgers) along with other items to cover a little bit of everyone’s taste buds. There is an outside and inside dining area, and some very nice grounds just for resting and recouping from the many hikes. The who work inside are friendly, and try their best to be helpful. I have spoken to the park rangers and received inside information on water locations for long hikes, and tips for planning for your hike.

The outbuildings are designed to fit into this unique environment.
The outbuildings are designed to fit into this unique environment.

The buildings are very well done and provide offices, and housing for the park staff. They are not the only buildings but these stood out during the visit. There are larger homes in other areas of the park as well for others that live there year-round.

Park facilities include gift stores and small homes for staff.
Park facilities include gift stores and small homes for staff.

I found the flowers planted around the buildings to also be enjoyable and since I like photography this provides many opportunities for us to get photographs for many other useful reasons.

the midnight sky over bandelier national monumenr
Here you are able to see the star systems very clearly.

Evening in Bandelier National Monument

If you decide to stay overnight you can experience the wide-open sky and the evening stars. The clouds move over quickly so expect to see the milky way, and other stars or planets.

mood rising in the tree in bandelier national park
Great scenes within nature at night with the moon rising and the coyotes singing in the moonlight.

Nature and Rock Formations

rock formations of Bandelier National Monument
Amazing Rock formations of the Bandelier National Monument.

The rock formations are an amazing site and are a tremendous opportunity for exploration, nature watching, and photography opportunities. You will see animals like coyotes at night looking over the edge down on you, and hawks flying above looking for food.

The sweet smell of pine trees blowing in the wind
The sweet smell of pine trees blowing in the wind

Outside of the main attraction, the Bandelier National Monument has several trails of interest with different difficulties. The rock formations around the park provide a tremendous amount of photography opportunities and an enjoyable nature experience.

woods of the main loop trail Bandelier NAtional Monument
The smell of pine trees around the area around the main loop trail.

The walk right out from the visitors center will take you into a park-like setting. From birds to small animals, and butterflies this area has its own charm and is a nice walk to relax in.

Cactus Flower In bloom with Bandelier National Monument and park.
Cactus Flower In bloom with Bandelier National Monument and park.

Within the area of the main loop trail, there is a wooded area just beside the pueblo ruins of this trail. There are benches and toilets deeper along the trail, and along the way, you will find beautiful plants. tree, and flowers.

Rock formations
Rock formations provide unique viewing opportunities and the pleasure to relax in the shade of the mountain.

You can see from this picture the porous holes that make up the cliffs. This porous material can be easily carved into, and that is why the Pueblo people chose to do so.

Exploring The Pueblo Main Loop Trail

As you approach the Pueblo runes you will first see the cliffside that the home was carved out of. The rock is compressed ash that provided these peoples an opportunity to combine pine logs for roofing and ladders that enabled a safe living arrangement from wild animals and other tribes in the area.

Pueblo Runes for holding water
Pueblo Runes for holding water and growing food.

In front of the cliffs, you will find areas that appeared to be used for growing crops. The circular runes appear to be large cisterns for holding water and growing more food. Water storage in this area would always be a concern to any group of people, and the Pueblo are similar in this way.

Pueblo Cliff dwellings.
Overview of Pueblo Cliff dwellings.

If you look at this particular shot you get the sense of a small house, and inside there are black smoke marks on the ceiling. So a small home with indoor heating, but from a more primitive standpoint.

entry into an old pueblo house
Pueblo home was carved to create cave dwellings.

You can climb this ladder and look inside, and see the areas from within that had small fires I assume for heat or maybe some inside cooking. It’s very interesting, and a great exercise to try and put yourself into another world from the past.

pueblo cliffside dwellings
The combination of mud brick and carving the underside of the cliff face.

I found this unique area interesting from an anthropology standpoint, and try to imagine what the people from the past might have been thinking when they originally built this storage facility with pine poles and mud brick.

walking along the cliff dwellings of bandelier national monument
The main loop trail allowing access to various aspects of the main loop trail.

As you walk along the trail is important to consider the time of year and time of day. I have taken this trail during the early morning and the late afternoon. Each time allows one to experience the trail in a different light giving a different experience. The midday timeframe can begin to get warmer so be prepared to have water with you.

The Alcove House

This section of the trail becomes more difficult but it is doable for the average person as long as heights are not an issue. Several long and tall ladders will need to be used to access this section of the trail that is embedded into the mountainside.

warning sine to the alcove house
Warning sign about the upcoming ladders for the climb into the Alcove House.

This particular warning sign is what you will see once you end the Main Loop Trail, and begin your ascent towards the Alcove House and trail. The 1/2 mile walk is nestled with the trees and provides an inviting site along with the smell of pine trees and the songs of birds to guide you to the beginning of your climb.

view of the bottom beginning of the ladder climb
A view of the beginning base of the Alcove House portion of the trail.

When you walk along this narrow trail up the mountainside you will notice that the porous material has slowly carved into this trail, and made it more possible to walk here.

tall ladders get you above into the cliffside dwellings
The height of the trail is more to do with climbing four large ladders.

The view downwards from the top of this ladder tells you exactly what to expect, and yes it’s tall. There were four of these ladders with various heights and difficulties.

view of alcove house in Bandelier
View of the Alcove House from below.

I think from how this small open cave looks I can see how this would be a special place for ceremonies for celebrations and the elders, or for reasons we don’t yet understand.

final ladder in the alcove house bandelier national park
Final ladder to the Alcove house.

There is a sense of mystery when you enter this last portion and climb the last small ladder. I can understand while these ancient people liked this open-air cave, and found it to be somewhat spiritual in nature.

The Alcove House of Bandelier National Monument

alcove house bandelier national monument
View from inside the Alcove house.

If you are inside the Alcove House looking outwards this is what it will look like. There is a sense of darkness, and a small light portal looking outwards.

The Falls Trail

bandelier national park falls trail
Falls Trail Sign

The Falls Trail Video

falls trail information board
The entrance of the trail has some more information to get you started.

When looking at this sign please pay attention to the markers that are displayed along the trail. That will help you understand how far you have to go to get to the falls, and the distance left when returning from your hike.

walking along the falls trail in bandelier national monument
The trail has sharp cliffs on one side so stay on the trail.

It should go without saying that staying on the main part of the trail is safer than looking over the edge of a crumbling cliff. So be careful and keep safety first at all times.

End of the falls trail,
End of the trail, and if you could go further you would enter a lush valley.

There appears to be an older portion of the trail that is no longer used, and very damaged. Don’t go any further, but take notice of the green valley below.

View of the falls bandelier national monument
View of the falls you will find at the end of the trail. Less water during the summer months.

This trail has a very nice ending, but I think earlier in the year or just before winter started this waterfall would be much more active. The trail is a walk down in elevation to the base of the small canyon, and then you must walk back up towards the visitors center.

Bandelier Top Of Canyon Trail

Cactus flowers blooming on the high plateau.
Cactus flowers blooming on the high plateau.

During the late spring, you will find many of the different cactus blooming with very striking colors. There are several different species of cacti plants and they do bloom at different times of the spring, and summer.

Top view of the Pueblo Main Loop Trail from above.
Top view of the Pueblo Main Loop Trail from above.

This particular hike is not very difficult but the sun can beat down on you. Be sure to have sunscreen and extra water for this short hike. This overview area provides and a great view of the visitor center area and runes from above.

runes of the Anastasi Peoples bandelier national monument
Hiking amongst the runes of the Anastasi Peoples

Just walking along this trail, and to my surprise, there were several areas of runes. There are some plaques providing limited information, and it’s an interesting environment where they lived. They seemed to have existed at some point when the Pueblo people were down below so I’m sure trade and future were exchanged.

Runes of a central community-dwelling of the Bandelier National Monument
Runes of a central community-dwelling of the Bandelier Parks Anastasi peoples.

In conclusion, the Bandelier National Monument is one of the best-kept parks of the National Park system here in the United States. I found some of the paths to be disabled-friendly and easy to walk with canes. There are several different trails with various amounts of difficulties for each person to explore according to their abilities. I highly recommend this park and have visited this location several times in order to get the pictures, videos, and to write the material. Please share this article and help us reach more people interested in learning about the National Treasure. This park is sometimes referred to as Bandelier National Park and Bandolier National Monument, and they are all the same place. So if you get a chance please visit New Mexico, and take a look at what the Pueblo People of Bandelier National Monument or Park created long ago.

We write about several National Parks and National Monuments. lease take the time to read about the other locations for hiking and exploring the National Parks of the United States.