Despite its desert connotations, New Mexico has a landscape that ranges from seemingly endless desert to the south and dense forests to the north, to snow-capped mountain peaks and tall mesas. In O’Keeffe Country, the landscape turns to red rock, and at Bandelier National Monument it switches between rocky canyon and lush backcountry.
Its mixed landscape is just one of the reasons why we’ve wanted to go to New Mexico, plus it also provides ample opportunities for hiking – our first of which was to Bandelier.Bandelier is located in Los Alamos and protects more than 33,000 acres of beautiful backcountry and more than 70 per cent of the monument is wilderness. Because of its varying elevation, ~5,000ft along the Rio Grande, to more than 10,000ft at the peak of Cerro Grande, Bandelier provides an ideal habitat for a wide range of flora and fauna.On February 11, 1916, Bandelier was designated as a National Monument by then President Woodrow Wilson. It was named after Adolph Bandelier, a Swiss-American anthropologist who researched the different cultures of the area and was a big supporter of site preservation efforts.In addition to backcountry, the Monument protects Ancestral Pueblo archaeological sites, such as cave dwellings in the soft rock cliffs of the Frijoles Canyon that date back more than 800 years. Evidence of human history in Bandelier stretches back more than 10,000 years.Today, you can walk trails through the canyon, see ancient pueblos, climb ladders up into the cave dwellings and down into a Kiva, a ceremonial chamber. Along the trail are also numbered markers that correspond to information in the trail guide that tell you more about what you’re looking at.A hike around the Main Loop Trail of the Frijoles Canyon can easily be done in an afternoon and is very enjoyable. There is a lot of climbing involved, as the trails are located at elevations of more than 6,000ft, so be prepared with water and proper shoes.
A nice feature of this trail is that is has numbered markers along various points. If you pick up a trail guide for yourself, or borrow one from the visitor centre, you can follow along and learn more about the history of the Frijoles Canyon and Frey Trail.
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