History and Stats
Humans lived in the area at least as far back as 10,000 years ago. The structures date as far back to the mid-12th century, and Pueblo people would continue to live and build there until the end of the 16th century. Spanish settlers would arrive in the area in the 18th century to find the settlement abandoned.
The area would later be studied by Adolph Bandelier, who first saw the settlement at Frijoles Canyon in 1880. The anthropologist was an early proponent of preserving the site, exclaiming, “It is the grandest thing I ever saw.” President Wilson would later declare the site a National Monument in 1916, naming it after Bandelier.
The 1930s would see the park infrastructure expanded by a massive effort on the part of the Civilian Conservation Corps and stands as one of the largest sites in CCC history. Park boundaries would be expanded in 2014, bringing it to its current size.
Date Founded: February 11, 1916
Size: 33,667 acres
Elevation: 5,000ft at the Rio Grande, 10,000 at Cerro Grande
Rainfall: 19in, 42in of snow
Visitors: ~200,000 a year
Open: Year-round, dawn to dusk, however, the Visitor Center closes on January 1, closes early on November 25 and closes December 25.
Fees: $20 per vehicle, $15 per motorcycle, $10 per pedestrian or cyclist. A one-year pass is also offered for $40. *We will note that these fees are covered completely by the America The Beautiful Pass, which applies to over 2,000 different sites. Commercial vehicles for tours are subject to a higher fee.
“To preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.”
The focus of the park is the anthropological and archeological importance of the former Pueblo settlement. The Visitor’s Center explores the history of the region, including the Civilian Conservation Corps teams that built the original facilities and the road leading down to them. The Monument works closely with local tribes and state and federal agencies to maintain the area and ensure that its history is given appropriate context in today’s world.
The centerpiece is the former settlement of Tyuonyi. Both buildings on the floor of the valley and the cliff dwellings are part of a trail leading through the former Pueblo town. Hikers are encouraged to climb replica ladders to see what life was like inside the cliff dwellings, while at the end of the trail, there is an excavated kiva high up within the cliff face.
The Visitor Center offers a museum, and theater featuring a film on Bandelier. There is also a gift and bookshop as well as Rangers on duty to provide answers or backcountry permits. The settlement of Tyuonyi and the nearby Long House are presented as an interactive exhibit as part of an extended self-guided tour.
White Rock is the staging area for the shuttles to and from the park during high volume time slots, and only a 30 minute drive away. Los Alamos is also nearby.
Bandelier offers both group sites and smaller sites close to the Visitor Center, but also allows for backcountry camping. Permits are available at the Visitor Center, and the nearest backcountry camping zone is 2 miles away from the headquarters.
There are multiple lodging options in both White Rock and Los Alamos in a range of pricing options.
Novice to Advanced. The sites near the Visitor Center are still a short hike up a cliff, and proper footwear and water are a must. We recommend outfitting with an Intermediate experience in mind. Backcountry camping should only be undertaken by those with extensive outdoor skills and with thorough preparation. More information on backcountry camping can be found here.
Guided tours, cultural and craft demonstrations and astronomy are all a part of a changing curriculum. More information on programming can be found here.
The Fall Fiesta, a community event that celebrates the area and Pueblo culture, happens every year. More information can be found here.
This was one of the most engaging and enchanting hikes we’ve taken, and certainly a singular experience. We didn’t plan very well for the lack of cell service, a lesson we’ve definitely learned at this point. In the future, we would definitely opt to stay in camp for the night, as some of the roads are more appropriately referred to as cattle trails. The surrounding area is incredible, and we would gladly come back. The former settlement has a serenity to it that rises above even the most mindless or disrespectful of tourists.
Things we’d like to try next time
We would definitely like to camp inside the park and see more of Valles Caldera, and other sites nearby. Ranger programming is always a good thing. The Fall Fiesta looks like an amazing time. Finally, the hiking options all looked great, and there were a number of options. More information can be found here.
- Abert’s Squirrel lives in the area, a grey cousin to the more common Red Squirrels of North America, and features pointed ears with long tufts.
- If you pay close attention, you can see multiple glyphs and pictograms etched into the cliff face, as well as the remains of paint.
- Though archeologists have an accurate count of the rooms in the Long House, this number only refers to the ground floor, leaving the final tally, and ultimately, what the settlement looked like, largely to speculation.
- From May 14th to October 15th, you are only permitted to drive personal vehicles down to the Visitor Center before 9am or after 3pm, unless you have specific business in the park. There is a regular shuttle that runs from White Rock to the Visitor Center. More information can be found here.
- 70% of the Monument is wilderness, and GPS and cell service in the area overall are spotty. Come prepared with a map or a pre-downloaded route.
Have you camped or hiked at Bandelier? Abert’s Squirrel: great squirrel or greatest squirrel? Did you climb the ladders to see the kiva? Did we miss anything?
Read more about our experience at the Bandelier National Monument here.