Trail: Main Loop Trail
Geographic Location: southwest of White Rock, NM
Length: 1.6 miles
Difficulty: 4/10 (Moderate)
Last Hiked: July 2014
Overview: A partially paved loop past
and cliff dwelling ruins.
Park Information: http://www.nps.gov/band/index.htm
Google Map: http://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=323258
Directions to the trailhead: For most people, the
portion of Frijoles
Canyon , where this hike
is located, is only accessible via a free shuttle bus. The bus departs every 20 minutes from the Bandelier
in the town of White
Rock Visitor Center White Rock. The is located on SR 4 in
downtown White Rock; the address is Visitor
Center 115 New Mexico
State Road 4.
The hike: For my general comments on
, see the previous hike. This hike explores some of the
pueblo and cliff dwelling ruins that lie near the Bandelier
National Monument . This trail is named the Main Loop Trail for a
reason: most of the 150,000 annual visitors will hike this trail at some point
during their visit. Thus, to avoid the
crowds you might want to hike one of the monument’s other trails first and then
hike this one so that your hike does not coincide with a shuttle bus arrival. Visitor
|Information board at trailhead|
The trail starts at an information board just outside the back door of the
. The first 0.25 miles of this trail are paved
and ADA-accessible. Notice some sand on
and beside the trail; this sand was deposited here by the 2011 and more recent
flash floods. Numbered posts coincide
with a trail guide available for purchase at the Visitor
Center . Visitor
Just shy of 0.2 miles, you pass a kiva. A kiva is an underground chamber used by the Ancestral Pueblo for ceremonial purposes. This kiva has been un-roofed so that visitors can easily see inside. Entry into the kiva, however, is prohibited.
At 0.3 miles, you reach the main pueblo ruins. The Ancestral Pueblo people called this village Tyuonyi (pronounced QU-weh-nee). In its heyday, Tyuonyi stood 1 to 2 stories high and housed about 100 people. The trail winds around the low rock wall ruins, allowing you to study the site up-close.
Past the ruins, a short-cut trail exits left while this hike angles right. Your next destination is the cliff dwellings that you can see uphill to the left. After briefly heading up a narrow side canyon, the trail climbs using concrete steps with a metal railing. Notice some holes in the easily eroded pink tuff rock on your right as you climb. The tuff’s ease of carving is one reason this canyon made an ideal location for constructing cliff dwellings.
At the top of the steps, you reach the cliff dwellings. Some ladders allow visitors to access holes that served as primitive houses, and some more developed cliff houses lie just ahead. These cliff dwellings bear such a striking resemblance to those at
in southwestern Mesa Verde
National Park Colorado
that many experts think they were built by the same group of people at
different times in their migratory history.
This spot also gives nice views of Frijoles Creek, now almost 100 feet
below you, and gets you close to some of the unusual rock formations formed by
|Developed cliff dwelling|
Near 0.5 miles, the Frey Trail exits right to head uphill to the park’s Juniper Campground. Continuing on the Main Loop Trail, the stairs narrow considerably as you descend to meet the other end of the short-cut trail. Turn right at this intersection and climb a final set of steps to reach a cliff dwelling called the Long House. At this site, the Ancestral Pueblos built a cliff dwelling several stories high and carved some petroglyphs in the canyon walls. This dwelling and the ruins at its base look more primitive than some of the cliff dwellings you passed earlier.
|Long House cliff dwelling|
Past the Long House, the trail descends on a gradual to moderate grade to reach the east bank of Frijoles Creek. A bridge used to span the creek here, but all bridges except one were removed in preparation for the flash floods of 2011. Thus, these days you cross the creek on wood planks. Truth be told, most of the year the creek is dry enough that you can cross it with no aid whatsoever.
|Crossing Frijoles Creek|
Now on the west bank of the creek, you quickly arrive at an intersection with a 0.5 mile spur trail that leads to the Alcove House. A bear-resistant trash can and log bench also sit at this junction. If you want to see another ruin, you can turn right and extend your hike by 1 mile to see the Alcove House, but this description will turn left to head back to the
The last 0.8 miles of this hike follow a pleasant, shady, sandy-dirt nature trail that parallels Frijoles Creek. Interpretive signs identify some of the flora and fauna that live along the creek. A couple of bridges used to head back to the east side of the creek, but they no longer exist. The absence of these bridges causes this loop to be slightly longer than the official distance published in the park’s trail guide.
|Bridge over Frijoles Creek|
Near 1.3 miles, the
’s sandbags come into view
across the creek, but you need to continue downstream to the park’s only
remaining bridge, which is located about 600 feet past the Visitor
Center . Cross the bridge and walk across the parking
lot to the Visitor
to complete the hike. Visitor Center