I always hate to bring this up as mentioning the need to tread gently and respectfully to VT members is sort of preaching to the choir. Unfortunately vandalism, theft of artifacts and damage to fragile ecological sites is such a problem for our National Parks that they can use all the help they can get. Many thousands of ancient, sacred archeological ruins and burial sites are scattered across America's Southwest. Constant wind, rain and ice erosion often uncover bones and artifacts that provide valuable clues about the people who once lived there so it's important that they're left in place for study by trained archeologists, or to be re-buried by tribal descendants according to their customs.
Some well-meaning visitors retrieve artifacts and turn them in to park officials - thinking they're doing a good deed by keeping them out of the hands of thieves. Others unknowingly climb or sit on crumbling walls because there's no sign telling them not to, or they're non English-speaking and can't read posted warnings.
A good rule of thumb if you run across an artifact is to make a note of where you saw it, what you think it might be, and report it to one of the rangers. They'll be grateful and will send someone to record the find and retrieve it, if necessary. Politely show others who may not understand that they shouldn't be sitting, walking or climbing on something fragile. And by all means if you see anyone willfully defacing or vandalizing park property, find a ranger immediately and turn the culprits in!!!
On a warm sunny weekend afternoon, the lines of cars waiting to get into the park can extend more than 2 miles from the gate. Because the parking lot in the canyon is so small, it will not hold many vehicles and will fill up quickly. If you don't have much time or don't want to wait, come later on weekends or any weekday. But if you'd like to experience a unique local custom, come during the busy hours.
You see, there has been a unique tailgating practice at Bandelier for years. When the incoming traffic exceeds the outgoing traffic, cars wait on the highway outside the park for the next slot to open. One car leaves the parking lot, another is allowed to enter. It's kind of like waiting in line for a movie. So what do those who wait do? They have an informal party. Engines will be turned off and trunks opened. You'll see people sunbathing on their hoods. Kids siting on the tailgate, having drinks or even lunch. People talk, meeting their neighbors in line. Often there will be extended families either together or spread out in the traffic.
Oncoming traffic is slow, so while there are risks, it's minimal for cars stopped on a public road. The Rangers occassionally will announce the wait for your part of the line. It sounds unreal, and I wouldn't expect anyone to enjoy it. But ----- Few get out of the line. Many say that they're just fine and having a good time.
I do expect that the county or the will have to discourage it at some time. So, it may be a dying custom or a custom already gone by the time you arrive.