Bandelier National Monument is one of the most incredible National Parks we’ve visited, and most people have never even heard of it! Located just an hour outside of Santa Fe, Bandelier features beautiful desert vistas, excellent hiking trails, and explorable ruins of the Anasazi people! We recommend camping at Bandelier National Monument for the full experience.
Anasazi Ruins and Cliff Dwellings
The most notable and exciting sections of Bandelier National Monument (for us) were the impressively intact village ruins of the Anasazi people. From the Bandelier visitor center you follow a hiking trail that leads you past ancient longhouses and kivas that were used by the Anasazi people in the 1400’s.
Further along this hike you reach ancient cliff dwellings that are well intact, and explorable! There are actually several dwellings that you can climb into and explore (yes, this is allowed, the park has even provided ladders to help you climb)! It was fascinating climbing into an ancient cave, looking out at the desert scenery, and imagining what it may have been like to make this your home.
This hike also features a cliff face that retains intact ancient cave carvings drawn by the Anasazi people. Tom and I spent an entire day exploring the ruins, climbing into cliff dwellings, and enjoying the dry desert climate.
Walking through these ancient ruins felt otherworldly. I could almost see the bustling villages that once existed at Bandelier. Between the stunning natural vistas, towering cliffs, and crisp climate it was not hard to imagine why the Anasazi would have settled in such a beautiful place.
The hike from Bandelier’s visitor center is definitely kid friendly, and Bandelier National Monument is never very crowded, as it is one of the lesser known national parks. We were there on a holiday and there was plenty of space to explore and find privacy.
Bandelier National Monument Hiking
Bandelier is loaded with hiking trails that vary from short, flat, and easy to advanced multi-day backpacking routes. We chose to stick with easy and moderate hikes on our visit, and they were fantastic! The hike from Juniper Campground to the visitor center was particularly scenic, offering incredible overhead views of the Anasazi ruins.
Camping in Bandelier National Monument
Thanks to the lack of crowds it is easy to find a great campsite at Bandelier. We spoke with a park ranger when we arrived, and she said that the campgrounds never fill up, even on holiday weekends! We found this to be absolutely true, and we found a fantastic campsite at Juniper campground where we camped for several days.
At night the stars were INCREDIBLE, and often we heard coyotes howling at each other across the canyon. We did see lots of bear poop near our campsite so be sure to use the provided bear boxes for food, and keep a clean campsite!
The campgrounds are very affordable at only $12/night, and have bathrooms with flushing toilets and sinks. There is potable water available, but no showers. Campsites are basic with a fire pit and a picnic table.
Camping at Bandelier was definitely the best way to experience the park, as we were able to hike to all of the ruins from our campground. Juniper Campground in Bandelier was also one of the most quiet, peaceful campsites we’ve found in a long time. Aside from dispersed camping on BLM or National Forest Land, camping doesn’t get much more private and relaxed than Bandelier.
We haven’t spent much time camping in New Mexico, and were so glad we took the time to stay at Bandelier National Monument. It was easily one of out favorite stops in the United States this year! If you're interested in other sites near Santa Fe check out our post about Meow Wolf! Interested in camper travel? Read why we fell in love with camper life.