Useful Information

Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico. Public Domain.
Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico. Public Domain.
Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico. Public Domain.
Location: Bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos, New Mexico
Open: Park: All year daily dusk-dawn.
Visitor Center: Winter daily 9-17.
Summer daily .
Closed 25-DEC, 01-JAN.
Fee: Car USD 25, Motorcycle USD 20, Person USD 15.
Valid 7 days.
Classification: SubterraneaCave House, cliff dwellings in volcanic tufa
Light: none, bring electric torch for buildings
Guided tours: V=210,000/a [2017]
Photography: allowed
Bibliography: Dorothy Hoard (1995): A Guide to Bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos Historical Society. ISBN 0-941232-09-3.
Address: Bandelier National Monument, 15 Entrance RD, Los Alamos, NM 87544, Tel: +1-505-672-3861-0, Fax: 1-505-672-9607.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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10,000 BP earliest human presence.
1150 permanent settlements by Ancestral Puebloan.
1550 Ancestral Puebloan moved to the Rio Grande.
18th cty Spanish colonial settlers arrive.
1880 visited by Adolph Bandelier.
11-FEB-1916 designated a national monument by President Woodrow Wilson
1930s park infrastructure developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
1942-1946 closed to the public, lodge used to house personnel working on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos.


The geology of the Pajarito Plateau was shaped 1.14 million years ago. A volcano rained ash and cinders over a the Permian shales and sandstones, forming thick layers of volcanic ash, the Bandelier tuff. After the volcano emptied its magma chamber, it collapsed and formed the Valles Caldera. The Valles Caldera National Preserve adjoins the monument on the north and west. Most of the volcanic ash is soft and was used to dug cavates. The harder materials were broken to use them as bricks for the pueblos.


Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico. Public Domain.
Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico. Public Domain.

Bandelier is the name of the settlements in Frijoles Canyon, which is exceptional for the soft volcanic tufa rocks named Bandelier tuff. The Ancestral Pueblo culture or Anasazi used this soft rock to dig cave homes, which allowed them to live in this canyon as they provided the necessary shelter in this semi arid climate. The cave houses they created are called cavate, which is an artificial term formed from cave and excavate. The tufa was a little crumbly and to avoid constant fall of grit and and dirt falling from the ceiling they burned a fire inside to create a cover of soot on the ceiling and walls. However, they also built normal houses on the floor of the canyon, and both were used at the same time. The canyon has ancestral pueblo homes, kivas (ceremonial structures), rock paintings, and petroglyphs.

The Bandelier Museum is located at the visitor center, showing Ancestral Pueblo pottery, tools and artifacts of daily life. There is a diorama showing Pueblo life. Its also possible to see a 10-minute introductory film.

Bandelier was named after Adolph Francis Bandelier a Swiss-born scholar who grew up in Illinois, who came into this area to explore the ancient sites of the Pueblo Indians. It was a dream of him which he fulfilled at age 40. He learned the language og the native people and became the first to study the dwelling sites in Frijoles Canyon in 1880. He published scientific reports and the fictional story The Delight Makers of Pueblo life before the arrival of the Spanish. After all it was the time of the first historic novels. The National Monument was established by President Woodrow Wilson who named it after him.