Bandelier National Monument

Just outside of Los Alamos, NM lies the Bandelier National Monument.  During the busy months (May 15-October 15), visitors must park at the White Rock Visitors Center and catch a shuttle into the park.  Seemed a bit silly to me, at the outset, but once the bus was rattling up and up the tight corners to reach the Bandelier Visitors Center, I was glad not to be behind the wheel for once.

The monument covers 33,677 acres of mountainous terrain that is also home to a huge, currently dormant caldera.  It is also home to the ground based and cliff dwellings of the Pueblo People, dating between 1150 and 1600 a.d.  It was officially made a national monument on February 11, 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson.  Over 70% of the monument is classified as wilderness.

The bus drops passengers off at the Visitors Center, where you can walk through exhibits, watch a short film or buy gifts at the book shop or gift shop.

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The main area of visitation is in the Frijoles Canyon.  This is where you’ll find the Main Loop Trail, which is what we took.

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The mountainside is peppered with caves and holes.  Many made by nature, but quite a few weren’t.  But the Pueblo People lived both in the communal long houses or up in the cliffs.

They gardened and lived in the village Tyuonyi (Que-weh-nee).  There are around 400 rooms and housed about 100 people.

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The size of the ground site is pretty impressive, even when viewed from up by the cliff houses.

Those require a bit of a climb up both stairs and ramps, as well as ladders if you want to see into the dwellings.

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The fact that they were even able to reach these areas and make them a livable space is quite a feat.  And easily defended.  If someone tried to attack, they’d pull up the ladders and be safely out of reach.

The whole area is beautiful, from its rugged cliffs, pine forests and grassy valley.

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Definitely worth the shuttle ride up and down.  Without a National Parks Pass, it is $20 per automobile, $15 for motorcycles and someone on a bike or walking in is $10.  Not bad for such a majestic sight.  While we kept to the Main Loop Trail, the more adventurous might like to try out any of the other 70 miles worth of trails in the park.  This is absolutely something to see if you’re in the Northern New Mexico area.

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