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Bandelier Wilderness

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Yellow flowers span the foreground in front of distant mountains
Library image #4131: San Miguel Mountains


The United States Congress designated the Bandelier Wilderness (map) in 1976 and it now has a total of 23,267 acres. All of this wilderness is located in New Mexico and is managed by the National Park Service. The Bandelier Wilderness is bordered by the Dome Wilderness to the west.


From the twelfth to the mid-sixteenth centuries, a large population of Ancestral Pueblo people flourished among the cream-and-tan cliffs and piñon-juniper-forested mesas of the slopes of the Jemez Mountains. The dramatic setting, now Bandelier National Monument, showcases sheer-walled canyons dividing the long mesas of the Pajarito Plateau. When the people moved on, they settled in villages along the Rio Grande known today as Cochiti, Santo Domingo, San Felipe, and San Ildefonso Pueblos. Their present-day descendants maintain close traditional ties with the dwellings on the mesa tops, cliffs, and canyon bottoms throughout the monument. The best-known sites are found along an easy self-guiding trail in Frijoles Canyon, just behind the park Visitor Center.

Seventy percent of the monument is designated as Wilderness. With 70-plus miles of trails and elevations from 5300’ at the Rio Grande to over 10,000’ at the top of Cerro Grande, Bandelier offers a variety of scenery and habitats. Hikers will inevitably encounter challenging terrain, sweeping mesa tops, lush canyons, and isolated archeological sites. Hiking choices vary in distance and difficulty, with choices including: four miles one-way to the 600’ deep gorge of Alamo Canyon; six miles one-way to the ancestral pueblo of Yapashi; a 22-mile loop to Painted Cave in Capulin Canyon; about seven miles one-way to the densely forested upper part of Frijoles Canyon, repeatedly crossing El Rito de los Frijoles (Bean Creek). Two westbound trails leave the monument to enter Dome Wilderness.

Planning to Visit the Bandelier Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Bandelier Wilderness.
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
For more information on Leave No Trace, Visit the Leave No Trace, Inc. website.

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