Bandelier National Monument is a fantastic park to visit. Bandelier is located south of Los Alamos
and can be reached via NM Hwys 502 and 4. One way to spend an excellent couple of days
is to drive the entire length of NM 4 from its junction with US 550 in San Ysidro to its junction with NM 502.
Stop at Jemez Pueblo, Jemez Springs, the Soda Dam, Valles Caldera, and finally
Bandelier. There are B&Bs and campgrounds along the way for an overnight.
There is a small section of Bandelier right at the junction of NM Hwys 502 and 4 where Tsankawi Pueblo is located. It's a little hard to find and requires some moderate hiking but is well worth the effort. The main section of Bandelier NM contains lots of Ancestral Puebloan ruins, some of which are carved into the side of Frijoles Canyon, and several miles of excellent hiking trails. The Park has a nice Visitor Center and Juniper Campground is excellent for tent camping.
Construction of Tyuonyi (pronounced Qu-weh-nee) is estimated to have started in the early 1300s. The village eventually contained 400 rooms in two stories that housed 100+ people. The village is a more or less circular structure with rooms built in concentric rings around a central plaza. There are 3 kivas in a row in the plaza, one of which has been excavated. There is also a great kiva located to the southeast of the Pueblo.
Talus Houses Cliff Dwellings
Exit Tyuonyi Pueblo, follow the Main Loop Trail to the right, climb a series of short switchbacks, and you will arrive at the Talus Houses Cliff Dwellings. The cliff dwellings are a series of cavates (caves - pronounced cave-Eights) dug out of the tuff cliff face. Most of the cavates were single rooms, but some had connecting passageways. The walls of some of the cavates were plastered and decorated, which can still be seen today. At one time there were room blocks in front of most of the cavates, but these have disentegrated with the passage of time. One room block, Talus House, was reconstructed in 1920.
Long House is located along the Main Loop Trail. Long House consists of a long row of rooms built against the cliff. Originally the room block was 2 and 3 stories high. There are cavates dug into the cliff face behind where the rooms once stood, and rows of viga holes where roof poles were inserted are cleary visible.
Tyuonyi Overlook Trail
The Tyuonyi Overlook Trail begins at the Ponderosa Campground and dead-ends at the overlook. Roundtrip is 2.2 miles. Nice views of the mesa top and a few ruins along the way.
Alcove House Trail
Alcove House Trail is a 2.6 mile loop trail, part of which is the Main Loop Trail. After leaving the Loop Trail travel 1.2 miles up Frijoles Canyon to Alcove House (formerly Ceremonial Cave). Alcove House is 140 feet above the Canyon floor, and is accessed by a combination of stone stairs and 4 wooden ladders.
Rainbow House is a small Pueblo located on the east side of El Rito de los Frijoles about 3/4 mile downstream from Tyuonyi Pueblo, and not too far from Park headquarters. I photographed Rainbow House in 1995, but noticed it is conspicuously absent in the current (2018) Park brochure. When I called Bandelier for more information, the person I talked to was really dodgy about it. First, she told me there was no Rainbow House at Bandelier, and when I called her on that she said it had been backfilled. Really? Bottom line, Rainbow House is no longer open to the public.
At the time these photos were taken Falls Trail was about 2.5 miles one way, running from the Visitor Center to the Rio Grande. Part of the Trail was destroyed by a flood in 2011 and the decision was made not to repair it. Now the Trail is 1.5 miles long, ending at the Upper Falls. Luckily, the photo sequence in this section allows you to follow the Trail all the way to the Rio Grande. Hope you enjoy the hike.
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