Tsankawi is an easy hike with great rewards, including incredible views and a chance to explore the cave dwellings, petroglyphs, and foot paths made by the Ancestral Pueblo people who called the area home.

Tsankawi is a great option for a shorter adventure and is one of the many wonderful areas of Bandelier National Monument. From the parking lot, the trail briefly descends towards a self-service kiosk where you can purchase your permit and pick up a trail guide.

Once your permit is displayed in your car, head back past the kiosk and the trail will head uphill. You'll soon come across your first ladder of the trail, climbing to a large open area where the trail continues along a rock ledge. As you hike, you'll be stepping the foot paths carved into the soft tuff rock over five hundred years ago by the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived here.

When you reach your next ladder, climb up and find yourself on the mesa top with awesome views all around. As you hike along the mesa you will be in the middle of what was once Tsankawi village. Not many remnants of the village remain today, but if you look closely you will see stones laid as foundation of dwellings and often pottery shards, as well. Please respect this area and do not take out anything you did not bring in.

Upon reaching the end of the mesa, you'll come across a longer ladder that will bring you down to the cavates, or cave dwellings, that were inhabited from the 12th to 16th century. Step inside them and have a seat for a while - they're a great spot to cool down on a hot day or just to look out at the view and think about what living here would have been like. From here, find footsteps carved into the stone to follow the trail out from the cavates and continue your loop.

On the way back, keep your eyes peeled for petroglyphs on the rock walls to your right. The loop ends where you ascended the second ladder to the mesa top, from here take the same path out that you took in.

If you're heading towards Los Alamos afterwards, be sure to stop by Bathtub Row Brewing Co-op for a tasty local brew. You can also use the permit you got here to explore other areas of Bandelier National Monument!

Getting there: Tsankawi is an annex of Bandelier National Monument, located a quarter mile from the junction of Highways 4 and 502 about 12 miles from the main part of the park. It is not well signed, but look for a gravel parking area on the east side of 4. If you're coming from 502 and hit the stoplight at E Jemez Rd., you've gone too far.

Pack List

  • Sunscreen/a hat
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Camera
  • Shoes with good tread to prevent slipping on ladders, especially during winter
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RT Distance 1.5 Miles
Elevation Gain 361 Feet
Activities Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Year Round
Trail Type Loop
Features
Easy Parking
Scenic
Wildflowers

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Beautiful little hike

I've been coming here since I was a child and it's still a favorite spot. The views from the mesa are lovely and sitting in a cavate looking up at the soot-covered ceilings from fires made hundreds and hundreds of years ago is a really awesome experience.


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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