Bandelier is a site that relays the story of nomadic-hunter-gatherers from over 10,000 years ago. Home to the Ancestral Pueblo people, evidence of their presence is still chiseled into the surrounding landscape – the effect is both humbling and awe-inspiring.
As if the scenery isn’t impressive enough, Bandelier offers patrons the privilege of climbing through ancient pueblos, traversing the sacred grounds of the Ancestral Pueblo people, as well as the opportunity to hike through an ecotone. Yes, you read that correctly, an ecotone!
For those unfamiliar, an ecotone is a transition area between two biological communities, where the two communities meet and integrate. For me, one of the most surprising aspects of Bandelier was its ecotone. One moment you’re scaling a cliff in the desert, and the next, once you descend, you find yourself situated in a lush forrest filled with pine trees. The image created by this dissonance is beautiful, and we found ourselves mesmerized by our surroundings.
Bandelier not only boasts a scenic and unique, historical setting, but also offers a campground, a café, a museum, and a park store! Be aware that you must park at the White Rock Visitor Center and take the 30 minute shuttle to Bandelier during the months of June-October due to lack of parking and high visitor volume unless you make the drive before 9 AM.
We tried our best to arrive before 9 AM, but with needing to walk our dogs (no pets on the hiking trails) and Bandelier being an hour away from our dispersed campsite, arriving before 9 AM just didn’t happen! Despite our lack of morning prowess, the shuttle was quick, easy, and runs every 20 minutes, so we did not lose much time traveling to our destination.
Once we arrived, we decided to complete two of the hiking trails – the Main Pueblo Loop Trail and the Alcove Trail. It took us about 2 hours to complete both of them, and though we walked to the end of the Alcove Trail, we did not climb up the 140 foot ascent to the Alcove House (the ceremonial cave). The site is eroding quickly due to wind and human foot traffic so no more than 15 people at a time can access it, and there was quite a line when we arrived, so we decided not to make the climb.
Despite not seeing the Alcove House, Joe and I relished our time at Bandelier. We were fascinated and amazed by its rich history and enjoyed the physical exertion, as well as the tranquility its hikes provided. We definitely plan on returning, especially since we felt like we needed more time!