Bandelier National Monument

An hour’s drive northwest from Santa Fe is a place where humans lived centuries before the state of New Mexico and its cities existed. I hiked through the wild landscape and ruins of Bandelier National Monument with my cousin and his partner in 2014. Although I didn’t detour there again on this recent road trip to Santa Fe, it seemed appropriate to include it here.

Ancestral Pueblo people began building settlements in Frijoles Canyon as early as 1150 CE. By 1550, they had left the area to establish various pueblos around what is now New Mexico. Structures on the canyon floor and cave dwellings built into the rock walls can still be seen.

Who was Bandelier? Adolph Bandelier was an archeologist and ethnographer who studied Native American pueblos and ruins in the 1880s. There was little interest nationally at the time to pursue research into native history and culture. John Wesley Powell, a well-known explorer, naturalist, and then director of the U.S. Geological Survey, helped convince the Archeological Institute of America to support Bandelier’s work. He continued his research into Central and South America.

The monument lands stretch far into backcountry wilderness with petroglyphs, waterfalls, and wildlife, but we just followed the Pueblo Loop trail around notable sites and along the cliffs that afternoon.

Juniper tree

One can imagine the structures that completed these ruins on the canyon floor. Rooms where people lived, cooked and ate, raised their families, and honored their spirits.

Strange shapes in the cliffs caused by weather and wind.

Perhaps these are gods watching over the pueblo

Cliff dwellings: Were they used as housing or just for ceremonies?

Along the return trail

More New Mexico wanderings to come.
Santa Fe road trip: Leadville, Santa Fe landmarks, Walking Santa Fe, Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico towns, Ghost Ranch, Antonito

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Published by rkrontheroad

Writer, photographer, traveler

39 thoughts on “Bandelier National Monument

  1. Wow, what a rugged and unique place; it must be an amazing experience to be able to walk (or climb) through the pre-colonial homes of the original Americans. And it’s quite amazing how Ancestral Puebloans carved homes and living spaces in the soft rock that protected them in the winter and kept them cool in the summer. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Never been to Bandelier National Monument, but its cliff dwellings remind me somewhat of those in Mesa Verde National Park (another place I haven’t been to, either). Very fascinating to imagine how those cliff-dwellers lived and made homes on the side of the rock, and that gives me all the more reason to return to the US Southwest to see them for myself! Thanks for sharing your adventure!

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  3. This looks marvellous! This main part of Bandelier was closed when we were in Santa Fe, due to a major wildfire a few days previously. But we were able to visit Tsankawi which was amazing. Still, I’d have loved to have got here as well, especially after seeing all your wonderful photos!

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  4. The husband and I were there many years ago. I don’t remember it terribly well so I enjoyed seeing your pictures. What struck me was how bright it was outside but how dark it must have been inside the dwellings after climbing the ladders. Must’ve taken ages for their eyes to adjust! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, talk about the weight of history. Such a dramatic landscape and formations. I like the idea of watching gods and can imagine the place has a real energy to it. Love the colours, ladders, the cacti and that blue sky. Wish I could steal just a pinch and inject it into today’s greyness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad this post spoke to you, Leighton. The U.S. southwest, and Colorado actually, is pretty dry and the vivid blue sky is common. Places I’ve lived or visited that are more humid seem to be gray more often than not. Today the Colorado sky is white; snow is on the way.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That was the main structure in the canyon, those spaces were rooms, where they lived. It may look small, but that’s because it was taken from above and some distance. The earlier photos among the walls were taken as I walked inside the remains of the structure.


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