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Things to do in Santa Fe: Ancient Cliff Dwellings in Bandelier National Monument

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Bandelier National Monument should be a no-brainer if you are visiting Santa Fe, NM.  It makes for an easy, relaxed full day trip from Santa Fe with a picnic lunch and some hiking, or can be combined into a half day trip with a visit to Los Alamos, NM.

The area around Bandelier National Monument has a history of human habitation that goes back for over 10,000 years.  During my visit, the lives of prehistoric pueblo dwellers unfolded before my imagination.  I could envision the ruins along the canyon floor as the central hub of the community, with spaces for gathering, trading and worship.

Bandelier New Mexico Cliff Dwelling 3

Individual dwellings lined the canyon walls.  Each one had a front area made out of bricks to contain the activities of daily life as well as a more secure sleeping area up above, carved into the soft stone of the canyon wall.

Bandelier New Mexico Cliff Dwelling 1

Many of the cliff dwellings had ladders, allowing you to climb up and inside to get a feeling for what it was like to live in one.  I thought that they could feel somewhat claustrophobic,  but to my surprise, I liked the feeling of security that they had, and the view down the canyon from your secure nook was incredible.

Bandelier New Mexico Cliff Dwelling 2

The monument has a stellar one mile loop trail to show you the best highlights of the park, which makes a great afternoon with picnic lunch.  If you are feeling more ambitious, there are a number of longer adventures that you can set forth on from the visitor center.

TIP: Do splurge for the extra couple dollars for the interpretive guide if you are going to hike the one mile long main loop trail (which I highly recommend…it gave me a great, concise overview of the history and most impressive sites at the monument).  The guide really helped bring the ancient dwellings to life and it really did enhance the experience.

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Shanna Schultz

Hello, my name is Shanna, and I am a detail obsessed travel addict on a mission to make planning your own family trips fun and easy! I offer tools, guides and resources to help you through all of the steps of planning meaningful, memorable family vacations. Come over and check out our Facebook community where I share real tools and resources to help you move the needle on your travel goals. Let's start making those travel dreams real, y'all! Life is too short to spend dreaming...let's start DOING!

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Leslee Haralson

    I had no idea there were cliff dwellings in New Mexico. I have visited Mesa Verde, CO and was fascinated with those ancient ruins, these sound fabulous. I can hardly wait to go to NM!

  2. Sherry

    I’m always looking for fascinating things to do in the USA. I really like exploring the desert. I am not keen on the hot sun, but because it’s dry heat I can take it. I’m heading to white sands soon. I may stop by here, too now that I know about it. Any other place in the area worth a visit?

    1. Shanna

      Yeah, I also really enjoyed our visit to Los Alamos, as we had a great horseback riding trip in the desert with the Broken Saddle riding company (I wrote posts about these activities, as well, so make sure to check out all of my posts from New Mexico!)

  3. April Yap

    I already try the cliff dwellings in some place but most interesting in New MExico.

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