Hike the Main Loop Trail at Bandelier National Monument

1.2 miles 150 ft gain  - Loop Trail

Added by Johnathan Valdez

Family friendly hike that starts at the Visitor Center and takes you to the park's main attraction, the archaeological sites and cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Puebloans. Perfect for those that have about 1-2 hours to spend in the park.

Bandelier National Monument encompasses over 33,000 acres of public land, including Frijoles Canyon, the home of the Ancestral Puebloans that once lived in the area. The park has miles of trails to explore the rugged countryside, but the main attractions are the cliff dwellings you'll find on the Main Loop Trail. This easy 1.2 mile hike along paved surfaces will take visitors to the archaeological sites for which the park is so famous.

You'll start at the Visitor Center which has a small museum that will tell you the history of the area, the Puebloans that once lived here, and the tribes that now live near Los Alamos. If you want to learn more, pick up a $1 trail guide at the Visitor Center which will educate you through a series of 21 stops on the trail.

The trail is mostly on paved or compacted surfaces and the first stop you will encounter will be the ruins of the Tyuonyi (chew-OHN-yee) pueblo. One to two stories high, Tyuonyi contained about four hundred rooms and housed approximately 100 people. A central plaza contained three kivas.

Past Tyuonyi, bear right at the intersection to continue towards the cliff dwelling of the Talus House. Narrow, steep stone stairs will take you up to the cliff walls, so watch your step during wet or icy conditions. Here you can explore the ruins and cavates (small human-carved alcoves) by climbing wooden ladders put in place by the Parks Service. This is also a good spot to turn around a get a good view of the pueblo ruins below, from this vantage point you can get a better idea of just how big the pueblo was back in the day.

Once leaving the Talus House, continue on the trail to head towards the Long House. Keep your eyes peeled for deer or the distinctively tufted Albert's squirrel as they can often be found not far from the trail. The animals may seem friendly and unafraid of humans, but please refrain from feeding the wildlife.

The Long House sits at the bottom of a sheer vertical cliff face and here you can see remnants of the adobe structures that the Puebloans built. Here the structures were several stories tall as evidenced by the holes and petroglyphs carved high up the wall.

Past the Long House, you will cross Frijoles Creek and can either continue to the right for 0.5 miles further to the Alcove House or turn left to complete the loop and return to the Visitor Center. The return section to the Visitor Center follows the creek the entire way and winds its way through the forest. Interpretive signs line the path and educate visitors about the ecology of the area.

As always, please stay on the trail and do not climb on the archaeological sites. Only cavates that have ladders in front of them are allowed to be explored. After your hike, stop at the Snack Bar for a bite to head, or drive over to Los Alamos and stop at Bathtub Row Brewing Co-op for a beer.

Read More


Easy Parking
Family Friendly


Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

Loved the ancient dwellings

Well preserved ancient dwellings with super helpful guide handouts. Felt like I could imagine what it was like living in the canyon, very well planned tour. Came 50 ft to several deer a couple times, very cool. I wish I could have camped there, since there’s a direct 1.5 mile hike to the dwellings from the campsites.

Amazing canyon, amazing ruins, fun ladders to climb

This loop is long and loaded with tons of cool things to learn if you bring the trail guide map. Fun climbing up the ladders and going into the kivas. Good for kids and able bodied adults. Its surprising how much this loop has to offer in terms of ruin variety, intricacy of the ruins, and the excitement of climbing


I love this place, the fact that you can climb into some of the ruins here make this an amazing adventure. There are so many photography opportunities along the hike as well.

Superb cultural value

I really enjoyed the ability to see the ruins up close and even step inside some of the cavets. I also loved seeing the big ponderosa trees along the creek in an otherwise more shrubby terrain. The trail can get quite hot so plan accordingly.

Stay Nearby

Los Alamos, New Mexico

Juniper Campground

Overview For visitors to Bandelier National Monument, Juniper Group Campground is an ideal place to stay. Located just inside the main park entrance, the campground is a short drive from the main v...

Los Alamos, New Mexico

Ponderosa Campground (Nm)

Overview For large groups coming to Bandelier National Monument, Ponderosa Campground is an ideal place to stay. Located 6 miles from the main park entrance, the campground is just a short drive fr...

Cochiti Lake, New Mexico

Cochiti Area

Overview Cochiti Recreation Area is located in Sandoval County, New Mexico, within the boundaries of the Pueblo de Cochiti Indian Reservation. The lake offers two public recreation areas: Cochit...

Cochiti Lake, New Mexico

Tetilla Peak

Overview Tetilla Peak Recreation Area is located in Sandoval County, New Mexico, within the boundaries of the Pueblo de Cochiti Indian Reservation. The lake offers two public recreation areas: C...

Nearby Adventures

  • Hike to Alcove House

    Start your hike from the Visitor's Center and head out on the Main Loop Trail to begin. You can hike the loop in either direction, either first crossing the river across from the Visitor's Center or heading out from directly behind the Center. If ...

    2.2 miles 140 ft gain

  • Hike to the Upper Falls in Bandelier National Monument

    Park at the Bandelier Visitor Center. The trailhead is down the road (the direction you came from). There are steep dropoffs along this trail so exercise caution, and be aware than in winter the trail may be icy. The Lower Falls trail is closed du...

    2.9 miles 496 ft gain

  • Climb in Diablo Canyon

    Diablo Canyon has grown in popularity over the last decade, particularly due to its frequent appearance in television and films. It has hundreds of sport and trad climbs of varying difficulty on basalt cliffs that reach over 300 feet high, with ap...

  • Hike at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

    Hiking at Tent Rocks is a must-do for anyone in the northern New Mexico area. It's an accessible trail that gives you incredible rewards with little effort. The cone-shaped "tent rocks" are the result of erosion following a volcanic explosion 6-7 ...

    3 miles