|Courtney and Lin Miller|
Bandelier National Monument
Bandelier National Monument is one of my favorite sites to visit. Not because of the quality of the ruins but because of the diversity of construction by the ancient inhabitants and the beauty of the setting. It is also convenient from Santa Fe, New Mexico, a fun place to stay. The Monument is about an hour’s drive from Santa Fe and is nestled in the southern end of the Pajarito Plateau:
- --Take Saint Francis Drive (HWY 84/285) north toward Los Alamos.
- --After passing Pojoaque, merge right onto New Mexico 502 to Los Alamos.
- --Continue up 502 toward Los Alamos. Bear right and exit onto New Mexico 4 towards White Rock. Continue for 12 miles, passing White Rock.
Note: from May 24th through mid October, the Atomic City Transit offers bus service from White Rock visitor center to Bandelier.
The visitor center hours are 9 AM - 430 PM daily, year-round, except for December 25 and JanuaryCheck the website for special rates.1. It only costs $12 for a 7-day vehicle permit, $6 single entry, and both Senior and National Parks Pass are accepted.
There are a lot of activities available besides the ruins including hiking, cross-country skiing, bird watching, and camping. But, of course, the ruins are the focus of my interest.
When you first enter Bandelier National Monument, there is a pullout featuring a scenic overlook [see video]. Down in the center of the canyon, a small creek flows year-round nourishing the trees and vegetation which help make parts of the walk through the ruins shady and pleasant. If you look closely, you can see the visitor center and the area where the ruins reside.
[video] As you drive down into the canyon you can see Cerro Grande peak to the north rising to 10,199 feet. The canyon sits at 5,340 feet, almost a mile lower. The Pajarito Plateau is the result of two volcanic eruptions 1.6 and 1.4 million years ago. This elevation difference creates a unique diversity of habitats specific to Northern New Mexico. The diversity of habitats and quick access to water supported a relatively large population of Ancestral Pueblo people.
As you approach the visitor center you are greeted by a row of residences exhibiting that unique southwestern architecture so common around Santa Fe. They were built between 1925 and 1941 when Evelyn Frey and her husband, George, took over and built the visitor center, the lodge, the road into Frijoles canyon and miles for trails. At one point, Manhattan Project scientists and military personnel were housed here. The visitor center hosts a museum, a documentary film, and a nice gift shop.
There are seasonal restrictions as well as advantages. For instance, in the summer access is by shuttle only. In the winter, you can expect snow and restricted access to some trails. But all seasons are beautiful in their own way and Bandelier National Monument should be on your list of “sites” to see.
Next week we'll take a mini tour of Bandelier National Monument.