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Wilderness & Adventures in New Mexico

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

Located two hours from Albuquerque, N.M., and about an hour from Santa Fe and Los Alamos, Bandelier National Monument includes more than 33,000 acres of beautiful, rugged terrain that gives credence to the state’s nickname, The Land of Enchantment. Bandelier National Monument may be the perfect respite from the fast-paced hassles of modern life, especially since 90 percent of the monument beyond the headquarters area is a designated wilderness area. In other words, relaxation comes easily in Bandelier.

For more than 400 years, ending approximately in 1550, the Ancestral Pueblo people lived in the region, building their homes from the abundant volcanic tuff, growing corn, beans and squash on the mesa tops, and hunting deer, rabbits and squirrels. A severe drought contributed to already tough living conditions, so the Ancestral Pueblo people eventually dispersed. Today’s visitors to the monument can examine petroglyphs, remnants of masonry walls and dwellings carved into cliffs.

In the summer of 2011, a fire combined with subsequent floods damaged the park. Visitors are still required to take a shuttle to Frijoles Canyon, the monument’s most-visited area.

A Fall Fiesta, which features a host of entertainment and educational activities, occurs in late September. Last year, an ambitious aspect of the Fiesta, titled “Mozart on the Rocks” and sponsored by the Los Alamos Opera Guild, the Don Quixote Distillery & Winery among others, introduced opera to the Fiesta.

The simplest way for many visitors to experience the monument’s historic features is to walk the Main Loop Trail. This path stretches 1.2 miles and passes numerous archeological sites. An additional one-mile round-trip trail allows visitors to access the impressive cave dwelling known as Alcove House, and fit hikers may want to take the three-mile round-trip Falls Trail. In total, more than 70 miles of trails zigzag throughout the monument.

Juniper Family Campground is a simple first-come, first-served campground that costs $12 per night and rarely sells out. Groups any size from 10 to 50 can stay in Ponderosa Group Campground, which requires reservations. 

Bandelier National Monument
505-672-3861, www.nps.gov/band

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