Bandelier National Monument
Sometime in the late 1100's a people we refer to as the Rio Grande Anasazi came into this canyon carved deep in long- solidified volcanic lava. They found an oasis of sorts, a year- round stream and fertile soil and they gathered into a community and they probably stayed here for 400 years...
Chris Judson is a National Park Ranger. "There might have been 400 or 500 people living in the canyon. People that were farmers, they were weavers, they were potters. They're known as the ancestral Pueblo People. They are the direct descendants of the present day pueblo people that are in New Mexico today."
Bandelier National Monument holds some of the more significant remains of the Rio Grande Anasazi and scientific study here goes on almost continuously. Bandelier is also one of the more visual sites in terms of what the visitor can see and touch. Or think they can touch, some come looking to feel vibrations from the past.
"And the site here, especially the ones up along the base of the cliffs, are fun to climb into, the ones that have the ladders and the trail goes to. And it's within a distance that people can go in a family, the whole loop is only about a mile each way."
The ruins trail loop that goes up along the cliffs is mildly strenuous and there are places where if you are a...BIG... person, you might have to go back the way you came.
Bandelier gets about 400,000 visitors a year and they don't have a lot of parking space, so there are times when they will simply not let you in. In the summer months, try coming very early or after 4 in the afternoon.
Just about the time Coronado was coming into what is now Arizona and New Mexico, these sites were being abandoned. All over the 4-corners region of the southwest the Anasazi were, for all practical purposes...going away. They were the last of pre-history here, people who had never seen a horse or a cow or heard the sound of gunfire. They took a certain innocence with them and left this behind...
Bandelier is 46 miles west of Santa Fe, New Mexico, but you actually have to travel north out of Santa Fe on highway 285 to Pojoaque (po-wall-kay, if you want to sound like a native), then west on NM 502 and then back south on NM 4. From the entrance station, you drop steeply down to monument headquarters in Frijoles (that's beans in Spanish) Canyon.
Parking spaces are very limited. When the parking lots are full, they stop letting you in. Go early in the morning are late in the afternoon.
There are picnic sites along the small stream that runs down Frijoles Canyon. On the mesa to the north is a first-come, forest served camp ground. No RV hookups. There is a curio store and snack bar at monument headquarters. Nearest hotels and motels are in Los Alamos, about a 45 minute drive from the monument.