Bandelier National Monument Off The Beaten Path

  • The view northwest
    The view northwest
    by Toughluck
  • Mid-Alamo Canyon (from half way down)
    Mid-Alamo Canyon (from half way down)
    by Toughluck
  • Cave dwelling below the pueblo
    Cave dwelling below the pueblo
    by Toughluck

Most Recent Off The Beaten Path in Bandelier National Monument

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    Jemez Mountains

    by Toughluck Written Jun 20, 2007

    Tired of the hot dry low country of New Mexicoa and Los Alamos? If so, take a ride up into the Jemez Mountains. The Jemez Mountain Trail loops around the south side of this extinct volcanoe. Located at the top of the mountain is a huge caldera of mountain meadows. Warm breezes temper the otherwise cooler climate in among the peaks. Scenic trails, waterfalls and tall pines offer a respite from the heat of the low lands.

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    Backcountry for the Day

    by Toughluck Updated Jan 16, 2007
    Mid-Alamo Canyon (from half way down)

    Bandelier includes over 35,000 acres of wilderness. While we think of wilderness in terms of wild animals and a landscape unaffected by human impacts, Bandeliers is different. Nearly every acres of the park is an archeological treasure. It is all protected under the Federal Archeological Resource Protection Act or ARPA. So, please leave what you find where you find it.

    If you have time, take a walk into this wilderness. Some like to make a day hike to the rim of Mid-Alamo Canyon. The trail continues down and across the canyon (500', abt 154 meters). Crossing the canyon is a limited lifetime event. Others who don't have all day, make short day hikes. Among the easier options are:
    1) Burnt Mesa. The trailhead is on SR 4, about 1 1/2 miles east of the Los Alamos turn. The trail is about 2 1/2 miles (4 km) long - one-way. You can walk this relatively flat trail towards the Frijoles Canyon rim and turn around whenever you please. The wind in the pines has a sound that still evokes warm days and solitude. Technically you don't enter the wilderness, but most of us don't know the difference.

    2) Upper Frijoles Crossing is easier to find, as the trailhead is at the junction of SR 4 and SR 501 (Ponderosa Group Campground). The trail starts off with a downward slope and then becomes switchbacks as it drops to Frijoles Creek. Once you are below the rim, you techically enter the wilderness. This is the easiest hike into a canyon as it is less than a 200 foot (60 meter) drop. It's less than 2 miles (3.4 km) to the crossing.

    my Backcountry Travelogue

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    Frijoles Canyon Water Falls

    by Toughluck Updated Dec 12, 2006
    Trail to the falls

    This is said to be the favorite trail of Robert Redford . He has a place over in the opera district of Santa Fe and is known for coming to the park to get away. The trail starts across Frijoles Creek from the Visitor Center/Musem. You'll have to walk to the east end of the parking area.

    The trail starts out on the level canyon floor, following the creek east towards the Rio Grande. Moving in and out of the shade of the trees, it's a beautiful area, less croweded than west among the ruins. You'll come to open areas along the trail and if you look towards the north face of the canyon (across the creek), you might see the 'bat cave'. No, Batman doesn't live here, just his bats.. If you're here at dusk, you might get to see the swarm leave it's roost. Warning, all bat populations have rabies , so don't get to close or under their flight path. You should be okay if you stay on the trail.

    As you continue down the trail, you'll begin to see through a narrow gap in the canyon. Look for evidence that there is a drop off beyond the gap. Do you see tree tops through the gap? Look back west up the canyon and then east down the canyon. What differences do you see? At the gap, you'll start your descent down.

    The upper falls is just through the gap. You'll pass near the top of the upper falls, then snake down to the bottom. Below the falls, the trees change and there is more brush (more water from the spray). It's a nice place to take a break, have a snack and decide if you're going on or turning back. Further down the trail is the lower falls and then after a further decline in elevation, you'll come to the Rio Grande. REMEMBER, You'll have to return back up the trail to get home. Expect to spend 4 or more hours on this walk.

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    Tsankawi Pueblo

    by Toughluck Updated Dec 12, 2006
    Cave dwelling below the pueblo

    Here's what the Park Service says about Tsankawi, " At Tsankawi you take a 1.5 mile walk along a mesa, viewing cavates, petroglyphs and the Ancestral Pueblo village of Tsankawi. '

    Well, that's not much, but it reminds me of the hikes we'd take out there. It's quiet and you're very alone. Even if there is a second car, the odds are you won't see the people. You feel as if you're the first explorers in the area. But, as we'll see, we're not (aside from the trail that guides us around the area.)

    First, we head up the mesa. It's not steep, but the trail is minimally improved. i.e., enough people have walked it to keep it free of plants. Once on top of the meas, the view opens. scattered junipers and sage block any long distances, but it is very open. After a brief walk, we begin to find large round circles of soil that is very white. I don't know why, but this means were coming into the Tsankawi Pueblo. It was a surface structure of one or two stories. It hadn't been excavated when I was last there, so there were short walls sticking out of the ground and much of the structure is gone or under the soils.

    As you continue, the trail heads southeast towards the edge of the mesa. Here you'll have the best views. We leave the mesa by ladder and toe holds, just like the Pueblo Indians who lived here. Immediately we're in the 'cave' community. I haven't heard if there were structures built onto the front of these caves, but unlike the Cave homes in Frijoles Canyon, there is little ruble to show where the stones went, so I don't think these were improved. {see the picture}

    After finding our way through the maze of trails in the cavates, we return to the juniper forst (taller here below the mesa) and slowly pass around the mesa and back to our car.

    Take your time, take water and a lunch. It has all the wonders of Frijoles Canyon without the crowd.

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    Tyuonyi Overlook on Frijoles Canyon

    by Toughluck Updated Dec 7, 2006
    The view northwest
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    It's about a mile round-trip and you have to return the way you went. It starts at the campground by the amphitheater. Take some water. The walk is on the mesa top, it's mostly juniper and sage brush. As nears the next higher shelf, there are a few firs and pines. This area has more birds about. The loop section is the same in either direction.

    As you approach the overlook, the ground becomes rockier as more of the soil has been stripped off. The overlook is just ahead and you'll have to step carefully as the rock is broken up (it has been solid and sturdy - but don't twist and ankle). The view grows before you of the lower Frijoles, then the far south side, until you're on a point with the canyon on three sides. There is a wall to keep you back.

    Below to the left is the Frey Trail winding down the cliff face. Below in front is Tyounyi, thus the Overlooks name. It the trees beyond the pueblo is the Visitor Center. To your right is Frijoles Canyon (below - you won't see it) are the caves and trail. The Frijoles River comes down the canyon to the right and behind you.

    It was here that we stood and saw a speck coming towards us from across the canyon. It was a small black object. It grew larger as it neared until is was a small bird. I'd swear that it was beating it's wings as fast as it could and had a look of panic on it's face. It was one of the small birds that you'll see among the junipers, never more than a few feet of the ground. I'd bet it was flying north along the other side of the canyon, when it noticed there were no trees around. So, it looked down for a landing spot to see where it was, when it found the ground had disappeared, or was that it way, way down there? At that point, panic set and and off it went straight ahead looking for a tree. It did reach the junipers on our side of the canyon and disappeared. I don't think I've ever seen a bird that scared.

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  • Backcountry, Anyone?

    by jsb15 Written May 31, 2005
    Sunrise in Bandelier

    While the anasazi ruins are the main attraction at Bandelier, visitors should definitely look into hiking a bit more extensively around the park. Pick up a permit and head into the backcountry for an overnight stay...
    You can hike past the ruins deep into Frijoles Canyon and up onto the tops of mesas, which are prime areas for watching a sunrise or sunset. The canyons are lush and provide shade and water.
    If you plan on seeing the stone lions shrine, go for the journey and not the destination, for they disappointingly look like two slabs of rocks with tails.

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