Photo taken looking back towards the parking area
Getting to Tsankawi is impossible without a private vehicle. It lies twelve miles from the main section of Bandelier National Monument and isn’t the easiest place to find. The park’s website gives the following directions:
“Coming from Santa Fe you'll turn from State Highway 502 to State Highway 4. Less than 1/4 of a mile past this turn Tsankawi will be located on the left hand side of the road. There are no signs for Tsankawi on Highway 4. If you get to the stoplight, you've gone too far. A large gravel parking area adjacent to the highway and a sign on the fence will indicate you've found the place.”
We followed these directions and had no problem finding the place, although even so we overshot the parking area and had to turn round. If you’re coming from the main part of the park Tsankawi is much easier to find. The website explains, “Just past the 3rd stoplight [on Highway 4], the gravel parking lot for Tsankawi will be on your right-hand side.”
Access to the monument costs $12 per vehicle. There is an honour pay post in the little hut at the start of the trail, and you display the permit in your car. The two other cars parked there when we arrived didn’t appear to have bothered, perhaps feeling it was unnecessary with most of the monument closed, but we paid – they’re going to need the funds to repair the fire’s damage, after all.
Also at the honour pay post you can get a leaflet describing the trail, with about 20 numbered points along it. According to the website these should be on sale for 50c but when we were there they had all gone, apart from a slightly tatty one which could be borrowed for free and returned to the leaflet holder after your walk. We took this, and were very pleased to have done so, as it was very informative and also helped to keep us on the right path at one point where it seemed to fork. This leaflet is available in an online format on the website, although a little hard to find, so you might like to read it, or even print some pages, before you go: Tsankawi Trail Guide.
So armed with our leaflet, let us set off on our walk. But first, a warning.
Bandelier is located 12 miles east of Los Alamos and 48 miles northwest of Santa Fe. To arrive there by car from Santa Fe, take US285/84 north to NM502 west. From NM502, take NM4 south to the main entrance of the park.