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Spotlight: Bandelier Wilderness

Spotlight: Bandelier Wilderness

Celebrating 50 years of American wilderness

Bandelier National Monument Bandelier National Monument’s Cerro Grande Route. (NPS)

What You’ll Find

Land once touched by Ancestral Puebloans, now deemed wilderness; Bandelier’s dramatic sweeping mesa tops, carved canyons and isolated archeological sites offer solitude to reflect upon the great beauty of New Mexico and the legacy of a once flourishing population.

As we celebrate 50 years of wilderness in America, we turn to the wonderfully unique history, culture and geology of Bandelier Wilderness in Bandelier National Monument. With its many archaeological sites scattered throughout, and diverse landscapes formed millions of years ago by massive volcanic eruptions, Bandelier offers visitors a quiet respite from today’s hectic pace.

As with wilderness in many western states, Bandelier was recently touched by wildfire. In 2011, the Las Conchas Fire burned more than 60 percent of the National Monument leaving a scarred landscape with damaged or completely destroyed trails and much less shade for escaping the heat. Although the landscape has been dramatically changed, Bandelier’s beauty evolves and fire continues to play an important role in the ecology of the area.

Getting There

Due north from Albuquerque, travel time is approximately two hours to reach the wilderness. Visit the National Monument website for driving directions.

Make Sure You

Hike with a ranger. If you’re new to exploring wilderness or just looking to hike with an area-expert, then consider joining Bandelier National Monument’s Ranger-Guided Backcountry Hikes. Offered the second Saturday every month, these hikes will cover a variety of distance and difficulty. Call ahead for reservations, (505) 672-3861 x 517.

Stay Here

What better way to immerse yourself in the Southwest than to camp under the stars! Backpacking is certainly an option in Bandelier Wilderness. Wilderness permits are required for an overnight stay in Bandelier and can be obtained in person at the visitor center.

For larger families or small groups wanting a few more amenities, choose between two different campgrounds at Bandelier National Monument. Advanced reservations are available for Juniper Campground (accommodating groups up to 20) and Ponderosa Campground (up to 50 people).

Try This

Short day hikes abound in Bandelier as well as longer hikes. Those seeking to go further into the wilderness will want to check conditions at the visitor center. Since the Las Conchas Fire and subsequent flooding, the backcountry is more challenging to access – yet still so captivating.

For day hikers, try the Alamo Boundary Trail. Approximately 2.5 miles, the trail connects with the Coyote Call Trail of neighboring Valles Caldera National Preserve.

Bandelier is also bordered by Dome Wilderness; hikers may continue through Bandelier via two trails to explore this westerly neighbor.

Don’t Forget

Water is limited in Bandelier; you'll need to plan wisely and carry enough for your trip. Take time to carefully plan your hike and get the latest trail conditions by calling the Visitor Center, (505) 672-3861 x 517.

With it's narrow canyons and fire-scarred landscape, flash floods can occur in Bandelier. Make sure to prepare and be aware by reading our quickly changing weather safety article.

Get Started

Make time for a wilderness experience! It’s likely you will never forget it. Whether a day hike with your children or a ten-mile overnight loop with a friend, discover a new understanding of the natural environment experienced first-hand when you visit Bandelier Wilderness.

Learn more about the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act and join events across the country in honor of the world’s most special places and landscapes. Take a moment to enjoy this short video from the National Park Service capturing the importance of wilderness.