Bandelier National Monument


With the wind screaming in our ears most of the day, we made our way towards Bandelier National Monument on Thursday May 24th. We are absolutely loving these long days. It’s so great to have so many hours of daylight. Much of our touring in the USA in the past has been during the fall and winter, sometimes darkness would fall at 4:30pm. This was sooooo limiting. These days we can go as slow or fast as we want, and still know that we have more daylight-we can get somewhere. We can do 100 miles, or 20 and still own the day.

We crossed the Rio Grande River and climbed up and over Los Alamos National Laboratory property. This is where the Manhattan Project took place. We rode by with mixed feelings as we saw sign after sign warning of possible explosives beyond their fencing. It was a challenging ride and the traffic was heavy at times. We actually had to pull off the road on Route 4 between Los Alamos and White Rock due to an extreme amount of unforgiving, fast commuter traffic. There was little to no shoulder and it felt like people could really give a crap whether they gave us room or not. We frustratingly pulled off the side of the road, sat on the ground and read for a couple hours, waiting for everyone to get home. Observing everyone driving, it seemed like most vehicles only had one person. Carpooling is cool people! We got back on the bikes around 6:30pm and pedaled fast to White Rock, we picked up a bike path leaving town and slowly decompressed from the stress earlier. The rest of the ride was stunning, quiet and full of climbing. We started to see cyclists out enjoying their evening exercise.

Rio Grande Valley near the San Ildefonso Pueblo

Climbing to Bandelier in the evening light

Looking back where we just came up

We got to the campground at Bandelier National Monument and picked a site near the center. There were a string of walk in sites. These sites didn’t allow cars to park at them and were away from the campground road. This is so ideal for cyclists. Lately when we stay at campgrounds we’ve been blocking off access to the parking spot at our site because sometimes people can’t tell we’re there. We use rocks, pieces of wood, etc. The walk in sites at Bandelier were just perfect and away from cars and giant RVs.

sunset campsite joy

We had a chili dinner and called it a day. It was another on of those moments where we just marvel at where we end up, we were just in Santa Fe right?

Friday morning May 25th we hiked form the campground 2 miles down into Frijoles Canyon where the ancient cliff dwellings are. The air started to get smoky as we hiked down and by the time we were in the canyon it was hard to see mountains in the distance. Smoke from the Gila National Forest-called the Whitewater Baldy Complex Fire had blown to northern New Mexico thanks to a direct south wind that had been raging for a couple days. Sadly, the wildfire season is in full force and we are constantly checking the conditions for our own safety.  You can see how it’s going all over the country at

Trail with smoke in the air

Jemez Mountains through the smokey haze – where we head tomorrow

Funny place for a squirrel

A honey bee covered in cactus flower pollen

Hazy Frijoles Canyon view, looking down at ancient dwelling remains

Super creepy rock formation

Ancient pueblo

Petroglyph that was way up high pointed out by a ranger

We hiked out to the Alcove House, an incredible cliff dwelling situated at least 9 stories up. We had to climb 4 sets of ladders to get up there. It was worth every rung. Just awesome.

140 feet up to the Alcove House

View out of Alcove House with Kiva in foreground

Inside the Kiva

Bryan on top of the Kiva in the Alcove House

We fit right in

The visitor’s center was sorely lacking due to serious flooding that had happended the year prior following major fire damage up the canyon. The terrain was so loose and the vegetation was gone so the water collected in ways that it normally doesn’t and the canyon severely flooded during the monsoon season. We were told by park staff that they only had hours notice to clear ancient artifacts from the visitors center. They are still taking precautions because the flooding could happen again this year. So alas, no interpretive exhibits or films for us.

On a quick side note, we make a point of getting to as many National Parks and Monuments as we can. They are affordable and hold amazing sights to behold.  We have an annual park pass that we picked up in Florida which was $80, it covers all entry fees.  It’s already paid for itself and will continue to be a blessing as we visit more parks.

The hiking wore us out and it got super hot later in the day as we hiked back up to the campground. The cicada bugs are out in force this year and we were serenaded by their clicking wings until dark.

Next up: Jemez Mountains and Santa Fe National Forest

D+ B  


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