Hike to Alcove House
New Mexico › Bandelier National Monument Visitor Center
Added by Gemina Garland-Lewis
Incredible historical site of the Ancestral Pueblo people in Bandelier National Monument that is reached by climbing four wooden ladders heading straight up the rock walls. Climb down into the restored kiva in the alcove and imagine calling this spot home.
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 you start from across the river, you'll begin with a quiet walk through the forest and soon reach a junction for Alcove House (straight ahead) or crossing back over the river to continue the Main Loop. Leave the loop here and continue towards Alcove House for another 0.5 mile. You'll soon see the wooden ladders reaching up the rock walls and Alcove House up above. Put your fear of heights aside and head on up!
Breath a sigh of relief when you've made it up all four ladders, then take in the awesome view of Frijoles Canyon from the alcove. The kiva has been reconstructed from its days in the past of housing Ancestral Puebloan people, who lived in this region from 1150 to 1550 CE, before severe drought caused them to move on to other pueblos along the nearby Rio Grande river.
When you've taken it all in, return down the ladders and head back to the Main Loop trail. If you crossed the river at the start of the trail, cross back over when you rejoin the Main Loop and finish out the last part of your hike along the cliff walls. You'll find many more archaeological sites, including cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, cavates (small human-carved alcoves), and other structures such as Big Kiva, Talus House, and Long House. Ladders are placed along the trail for you to climb up and explore these areas.
Take note that the ladders up to the alcove may be closed in winter if conditions are particularly icy or snowy. You'll see a closed gate in front of the ladders if this is the case.
Finish back at the Visitor's Center and then head to Pajarito Brewpub and Grill in Los Alamos for a tasty local beer and meal!
- Water and snacks
- Sturdy shoes to grip the ladder rungs
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
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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The main enjoyment of this hike was the ladders to get to the top. Until they have the money to fix Alcove House the main attraction is definitely more underwhelming; but if you haven't seen this type of structure before it's worth checking out.
Put your fear of heights aside for incredible views
The hike to the Alcove House from the Visitor's Center is short and is a perfect excursion for those that may only have a few hours in the park. A series of four ladders will take you 140 feet up from the creek floor to the Alcove House. Fear not, however, as the ladders are sturdy and bolted into the rock face for extra stability. I definitely suggest that everyone that visits Bandelier does this hike!
Beautiful hiking and educational adventure
A great spot to introduce yourself to the history of this region and the people who used to call it home. Great for when you're looking for something shorter (although there are lots of options for longer hikes in Bandelier, as well!). ***Due to recent flood damage the kiva in Alcove House is closed to visitors. Alcove House has reopened but you cannot enter inside the kiva until the roof can be stabilized.***
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