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Bandelier National Monument

15 Entrance Rd, Los Alamos, New Mexico 87544
505.672.3861

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Ancestral Pueblo People

Life in Bandelier
The Ancestral Pueblo people lived here from approximately 1150 CE to 1550 CE. They built homes carved from the volcanic tuff and planted crops in mesatop fields. Corn, beans, and squash were central to their diet, supplemented by native plants and meat from deer, rabbit, and squirrel. Domesticated turkeys were used for both their feathers and meat while dogs assisted in hunting and provided companionship.

Moving On
By 1550, the Ancestral Pueblo people had moved from this area to pueblos along the Rio Grande. After over 400 years the land here could no longer support the people and a severe drought added to what were already becoming difficult times. Oral traditions tell us where the people went and who their descendents are. The people of Cochiti Pueblo, located just south and east along the Rio Grande, are the most direct descendents of the Ancestral Pueblo people who built homes in Frijoles Canyon. Likewise, San Ildefonso is most closely linked to Tsankawi.

History & Culture
Bandelier's human history extends back for over 10,000 years when nomadic hunter-gatherers followed migrating wildlife across the mesas and canyons. By 1150 CE Ancestral Pueblo people began to build more permanent settlements. Reminders of these past times are still evident in the park as are the strong ties of the modern Pueblo people. By 1550 the Ancestral Pueblo people had moved from their homes here to pueblos along the Rio Grande (Cochiti, San Felipe, San Ildefonso, Santa Clara, Santo Domingo).

In the mid-1700's Spanish settlers with Spanish land grants made their homes in Frijoles Canyon. In 1880 Jose Montoya of Cochiti Pueblo brought Adolph F. A. Bandelier to Frijoles Canyon. Montoya offered to show Bandelier his people's ancestral homelands.

Building the lodge
In 1916 legislation to create Bandelier National Monument was signed by President Woodrow Wilson. In 1925 Evelyn Frey and her husband, George, arrived to take over the Ranch of the 10 Elders that had been built by Judge Abbott in 1907. Between 1934 and 1941 workers from the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) worked from a camp constructed in Frijoles Canyon. Among their accomplishments is the road into Frijoles Canyon, the current visitor center, a new lodge, and miles of trails. For several years during World War II the park was closed to the public and the Bandelier lodge was used to house Manhattan Project scientists and military personnel.

Hiking Trails
The National Park service has noted several designated trails, advising visitors to bring adequate safe water supplies on some trails.

The Main Loop Trail is 1.2 miles (1.9 km) long and loops through archeological areas, including the Big Kiva, Tyuonyi, Talus House, and Long House. It will take between 45 minutes and one hour. There are some optional ladders to allow access to the cavates (small human-carved alcoves).

Prior to the construction of the modern entrance road, the Frey Trail was the only access to the canyon. Originally, the parking lot was at the canyon rim. Today, it starts at the campground amphitheater. The trail is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) one way. There is an elevation change of 550 feet (170 m).

The Alcove House trail beings at the west end of the Main Loop trail and extends 0.5 miles (0.80 km) to Alcove House. Previously called the Ceremonial Cave, the alcove passes 140 feet (43 m) above the floor of Frijoles Canyon. This pueblo was the home of around 25 Ancestral Pueblo people. Except in winter, the site is reached by 4 wooden ladders and stone stairs. Alcove House has a reconstructed kiva that offers views of viga holes and niches of several homes. However, access to the kiva's interior is closed indefinitely as of spring 2013, for safety reasons associated with stabilization of the structure, although the ladders and stairs are once again open to the public.

The Falls Trail starts at the east end of the Backpacker's Parking Lot. Over its 2.5 miles (4.0 km), it descends 700 feet (210 m), passing two waterfalls and ending at the Rio Grande. However, trail damage resulting from the Las Conchas Fire has led to the indefinite, and possibly permanent, closure of the trail beyond Upper Frijoles Falls pending remediation. In addition to the elevation change, its challenges include steep dropoffs at many places along the trail and a lack of bridges over Frijoles Creek, which continue to be factors even with the closure of the lower part of the trail.

The 2.5 miles (4.0 km) Frijolito Loop Trail trail is more strenuous. It starts in the Cottonwood Picnic Area and climbs out of Frijoles Canyon using a switchback path. Once on top of the mesa, it passes Frijolito Pueblo. It returns to the visitor center along the Long Trail.

No pets allowed.