The Bandelier National Monument preserves the ancient dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people. It is a 33,677-acre monument in New Mexico and covers parts of the Pajarito Plateau on the slopes of the Jemez volcanic field. One of the most notable Ancestral Puebloan sites is Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde, Colorado - it is the largest cliff dwelling of the Ancestral Pueblo.

The Ancestral Pueblo had a very interesting and intense history, fortunately, we know quite a lot about it today. One can learn about the history of Ancestral Pueblo at the Pecos National Historical Park in New Mexico just south of Santa Fe. The land that is now the United States has a long and storied history that is easily forgotten.

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About The Monument And The Ancestral Pueblo

The Ancestral Pueblo lived at this site from around 1150 AD to 1550 AD. After living there for over 400 years the land was no longer able to support the people coupled with severe drought and social unrest. They abandoned the site and moved to pueblos along the Rio Grande.

The park offers more than the several thousand ancestral Pueblo dwellings that it preserves. It is also known for its impressive mesas, petroglyphs, and sheer-walled canyons. Over 70% of the monument is wilderness and with the monument's one-mile change in elevation, it provides a range of life zones and wildlife habitats.

  • Designated: In 1916 As a National Monument
  • Named: Named After Adolph Bandelier - A Swiss-American Anthropologist Who Researched the Site

The Ancestral Pueblos carved their homes from the volcanic tuff and planted crops in the mesa top fields. The three stables, corn, beans, and squash, were central to their diet and they supplemented their diets with hunting dear, squirrels, and rabbits as well as foraging native plants.

  • Diet: Stables Of Corn Beans, Squash As Well As Hunting And Gathering

Related: Interested In Visiting Carlsbad Caverns National Park? Here's Why You Should Go

Hiking Trails In The Bandelier National Monument

  • Hiking Trails: Over 70 Miles or 110 Kilometers of Hiking Trails are In The Monument

Most visitors begin their exploration of the Bandelier National Monument by walking the easy Main Loop Trail. This is a short 1.2-mile long loop trail from the Visitor Center to nearby excavated archeological sites in Frijoles Canyon.

  • Start: Start with The Main Loop Trail
  • Accessible: A Portion of the Main Loop Trail is Accessible
  • Talus House: Is A Reconstructed Pueblo Building On The Main Loop Trail

Another trail is the Falls Trail. This is a 3-mile round trip leading down the canyon from the Visitor Center to the stunning Upper Falls.

Over in the Tsankawi section of the park, one can enjoy a 1.5-mile mesa-top walk with viewing areas, petroglyphs, and a large but unexcavated Ancestral Pueblo village - not to mention the sweeping panoramic views. Note that the trail includes 4 ladders.

Tsankawi is a detached part of the monument and is located near the town of Los Alamos. It also has some excavated sites as well as petroglyphs.

  • Tsankawi: A Detached Park Of The Monument
  • Petroglyphs: Petroglyphs Can Be Found At The Tsankawi Unit

For those keen on a longer hike, consider the Bandelier backcountry with its full-day and even multiday overnight backpacking trips. Most of the 70 miles of trails here are officially designated Bandelier Wilderness and free permits are required for camping (available at the Visitor Center).

Related: This New Mexico Park Is Home To More Than Just Hiking, Here's Where You Can Go Dune Sledding

The Ancestral Pueblo Ruins

While the wilderness is spectacular, most people will likely be visiting the monument for the Ancestral Pueblo ruins here. One of the main sites of interest in the canyon is the Tyuonyi pueblo and the nearby buildings like Long House. Tyuonyi is a circular pueblo site that was once one to three stories tall. The Long House is supported by the walls of the canyon.

  • Shuttle Bus: During The Busy Season There Is A Free Shuttle Bus From White Rock
  • Age: Tyuonyi Dates From the Pueblo III Era (1150 to 1350) to the Pueblo IV Era (1350 to 1600)

The age of this site has been well dated with tree-ring methods of dating. It seems the last construction in the canyon took place close to 1500 (the population likely peaked around then too). The Ancestral Pueblos seem to have relocated to the Rio Grande Valley at the same time as the population density was the highest.

As one follows the other more rustic trails into the backcountry, one will find many smaller archeological sites. If this is confusing there are maps of the trails and the sites of interest on the National Park Service's website.

Frijoles Canyon, Tsankawi, and all park trails are open to recreation from dawn to dusk.

  • Visitor Center Hours: Open From 9.00 am to 5.00 pm Daily
  • Admission Fee: $25 Seven-Day Admission Per Vehicle

Next: New Mexico Really Is The 'Land Of Enchantment' And It's Easy To See Why