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Visiting Bandelier National Monument {New Mexico}

Bandelier National Monument - Rita Quinn Photography-12

In May 2017 we visited Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico for the first time. A very close friend of Rita’s said it was a must do while we were in New Mexico. She said to Rita: “I can just see you in one of those dwellings meditating and doing your shamanic thing.” So we packed a lunch, plenty of water, and not nearly enough batteries to sustain all the photos and video we didn’t realize we were going to take during our visit. Knowing nothing about it, and (in error) assuming it was one of those “walk to the attraction and walk back to your car” kind of monuments, so we were truly blown away by the vastness and ended up spending half a day exploring and hiking.

Bandelier National Monument - Rita Quinn Photography
During our visit, our friend Lena flew into Santa Fe from Texas to stay with us a few days. She wanted to check out the area. When we arrived at the monument visitors center, we learned that during the summer months, cars aren’t allowed to drive into the park. So we had to catch the park’s complimentary shuttle.
Love these faces! Val and I hammin’ it up with Lena while waiting for the shuttle. What else are you gonna do, right?
Even in mid-May, the shuttle (and crowds) were already piling into the park. Standing room only.
After a brief orientation from the ranger, who armed us with a park guidebook, we were off to begin exploring.
As you walk down the trail, you can’t help but see the massive mountains to your right. You can’t tell quite yet from these images, but the cliff dwellings are nestled up there.
We put our guidebook to good use as Lena acted as our tour guide, sharing each trail marker’s story with us.


If you look right above the tree line, you can begin to see small cutouts. Those are some of the cliff dwellings.
The first area you approach are the ruins from what was a whole village, complete with dugout kiva oven rooms.
It isn’t much, but with your imagination, you can start to envision how these stones formed apartments, so to speak, for the natives who lived here.
As you continue to circle around the trail, the main walkway leading up to the cliff dwellings starts to come into view.
These were very petite people. That hold was a “dwelling” for them.
And let the climb begin. Lots and lots of stairs. The natives didn’t have this luxury. They literally rock-climbed up the cliffs to get to their home.
These dwellings were built and recreated by the park to provide visitors an example of how researchers believed the dwellings may have been built and looked.
Those grid-like stones below provides a birds-eye view of the “village” that you walk past as you approach the cliffside from the main trail. You also get an idea of just how high up these people lived.
One of the dwellings. It’s barely tall enough to sit in.
One of the larger dwellings. It contained connected caves and was tall enough (and deep enough) to explore a bit.
The view looking outward from the dwelling.
Val taking it all in. You truly could feel the native spirits here. We’d love to come back during low-season and have more time to just sit and meditate in one of the dwellings (heck, maybe even drum a little). But this day was just way too crowded, with lots of folks waiting patiently in line below for their turn to climb up the ladder and see inside.
We were fascinated with the textures of the stone. Some of the dwellings had pictographs and many were chared from the fires that burned inside by the residents.
Lena having fun reading all about the history and wonder of this very special place.
More interior close-up images. So many colors!
Time to make our way back down the ladder and let all these other lovely people experience the magic found inside.
Views as we continued along the upper trail as we make our way back down.
A great example of the narrow pathways visitors will trek as they climb up and back down from the main cliff-dwellings. Val kept scolding me for pointing my camera everywhere and not paying close attention to my feet. I do have a tendency to be clumsy and this isn’t a place you’d want to fall.

And this is where my camera battery decided to die. And where we discovered there was still so much more to see and hike. We continued on for a few more miles to one of the highest dwellings in the park. It consisted of multiple ladders to reach the top. Me being scared of heights made my way up to about halfway and then turned around. Val and Lena went all the way to the top, but our batteries had all died so we have no proof of their bravery. But I was assured it was amazing up there.

Bandelier National Park is definitely worth the visit. They have a small campground inside the park. But our girl, Phoenix the RV, is way too long to ever be able to camp there. But I expect that this will be one of those places where we’ll go back, and perhaps just tent camp for a night so we can really experience the land, hear the whispers of the past, and honor those who once lived here.

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