The Bandelier National Park is a 33 677 acre United States National Monument near Los Alamos, New Mexico. The monument preserves the homes and territory of the Ancestral Puebloans of in the Southwest. It contains some of the most unusual and interesting ancient ruins in the Southwest including petroglyphs and pictographs. The monument is a short drive from the scientific research town of Los Alamos and about an hour drive from Santa Fe.
Bandelier National Park- Quick Facts
Address: 15 Entrance RD
Los Alamos, NM 87544
Hours: Bandelier National Monument is open year round.
Visitor Center Hours: 9 AM – 5 PM. Visitor Center is closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day and closes at 2 PM on Thanksgiving Day
Park Trails Open Dawn to Dusk 365 Days/Year
How to get there: From October 18 until May, visitors can access Frijoles Canyon, the park visitor center, and the main archeological sites using their personal vehicle. Visitors can visit Frijoles Canyon from sunrise to sunset. Just be sure to leave before it’s dark. The rest of the year you have to take a shuttle bus from White Rock.
Cost: $25 per vehicle, $20 per motorcycle, and $15 per person. A Bandelier annual park pass will cost $45.
The following are affiliate links. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Thank you for being part of Hubbard Family Travels
How to Explore Bandelier National Park
On a recent trip to Santa Fe, our family decided to check out the Bandelier National Monument. It is definitely worth the drive from Santa Fe to the Los Alamos area and out six year old daughter really enjoyed climbing into the caves and exploring the rugged mountainside.
There are several trails available to explore at the Bandelier National Park but a nice, kid-friendly one with great views and access to the ancient ruins is the Main Loop trail.
The Main Loop trail is a 1.2 mile loop trail through the archaeological sites. Most visitors spend about 45 minutes to an hour completing this hike. Wooden ladders along the trail allow you to climb into the cavates (small human-carved alcoves). As you explore the rock formations and caves you can view petroglyphs carved into the rock face.
We arrived at about 4:15 in early November. We were warned by the park rangers that we should try to get through the trail quickly so that we would be back at the visitor center before it got too cold and dark. The views of the Frijole Valley where the trail is located is breathtaking.
It took us about an hour to make it through the trail. We stopped and explored at all of the areas with ladders that allowed access to the caves.
Bandelier National Monument With Kids
Although we found the hike quite easy (including our six year old) those with mobility issues should be aware that the entire trail is not accessible.
The first section of this trail is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers; however, the second part contains areas with numerous narrow stone stairways. In winter, this is the only trail on which the snow is removed.
If you are hiking with a baby then I would recommend you put them in a carrier rather than use a stroller. You have the option to bypass the steep, narrow parts of the trail if you use a stroller or are in a wheelchair (or can’t hike up the steps) but you also will not be able to get close to the caves.
Can you Hike Bandelier National Monument and The Tent Rocks on the Same Day?
If you are looking at a map, Bandelier National Monument and the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument looks very close together. The problem is there is no direct road between them so you will have to drive all the way through Los Alamos and past Santa Fe to get to the Tent Rocks from Bandelier.
On one of our first days in town we made the mistake of thinking we could do both right after one another and then head into Los Alamos to check out the town after. To travel between the two monuments will take about an hour and half depending on where exactly your travels are taking you. I would recommend splitting them up into two separate day trips.
What Attractions are Near Bandelier National Park?
Before or after your trip through the National Monument and Frijole Canyon, I recommend a quick stop into Los Alamos to check out the Bradbury Science Museum.
Los Alamos is recognized as the development and creation place of the atomic bomb, the primary objective of the Manhattan Project by the Los Alamos National Laboratory during World War II. On July 16, 1945, the world’s first atomic bomb was detonated 200 miles south of Los Alamos at Trinity Site on the Alamogordo Bombing Range.
If you are interesting in the science behind nuclear bombs and history then you will want to visit the Bradbury Science Museum and another bonus? Admission is free.
Bandelier National Monument FAQ’s
Bandelier was designated by President Woodrow Wilson as a national monument on February 11, 1916, and named for Adolph Bandelier, a Swiss-American anthropologist, who researched the cultures of the area and supported preservation of the sites.
Dogs are allowed in the parking areas, picnic areas, and campgrounds, but not on the trails. Pets are not permitted on any park trails. Pets are not permitted on the shuttle to White Rock. Pet dogs are only allowed in areas of the monument that vehicles are allowed.
The Main Loop Trail, which is paved, will take about 1.5 hours. For those that want a bit more, there is the Alcove House Trail or the Falls Trail, which would add an additional 1-2 hours
The park’s elevations range from about 5,000 feet (1,500 m) at the Rio Grande to over 10,200 feet (3,100 m) at the summit of Cerro Grande. The Valles Caldera National Preserve adjoins the monument on the north and west, extending into the Jemez Mountains.
Have you visited Bandelier National Park? Let me know what you thought!