Bandelier National Monument protects over 33,000 acres of rugged but beautiful canyon and mesa country as well as evidence of a human presence here going back over 11,000 years. Petroglyphs, dwellings carved into the soft rock cliffs, and standing masonry walls pay tribute to the early days of a culture that still survives in the surrounding communities. Life in Bandelier The Ancestral Pueblo people lived here from approximately 1150 CE to 1550 CE. They built homes carved from the volcanic tuff and planted crops in mesatop fields. Corn, beans, and squash were central to their diet, supplemented by native plants and meat from deer, rabbit, and squirrel. Domesticated turkeys were used for both their feathers and meat while dogs assisted in hunting and provided companionship. Moving On By 1550, the Ancestral Pueblo people had moved from this area to pueblos along the Rio Grande. After over 400 years the land here could no longer support the people and a severe drought added to what were already becoming difficult times. Oral traditions tell us where the people went and who their descendents are. The people of Cochiti Pueblo, located just south and east along the Rio Grande, are the most direct descendents of the Ancestral Pueblo people who built homes in Frijoles Canyon. Likewise, San Ildefonso is most closely linked to Tsankawi.
Nancy K. on Tsankawi Ruins Trail
My hiking partner and I have hiked this beautiful trail three times in the last couple years, mostly for the quiet and the breath-taking views. We always take a picnic and plenty of water in the pack (sunscreen is a must regardless of the time of year). The trail is easy to follow, but there are a couple of steep ladders to climb to the top of the mesa where the ancestral people lived. It's much less travelled than the main Bandelier trails, and as Robert Frost wrote, that makes all the difference. Note that the trail is exceptional dusty and the volcanic ash surface is relatively crumbly, so hiking boots will serve you better than sneakers.
This was an amazing trail! I had never seen or done anything like it before! I did the main loop, took the route up to the cave dwellings, and also did the alcove house. It's all connected and easy to follow.
You can hike in the cave dwellings that have ladders and I definitely recommend it. Oh and also you can buy a little self guided tour book for $1 in the visitors center, which I thought was worth it.
The alcove house portion shouldn't be attempted by anyone with a fear of heights. Like really. I had issues with it and in general I wouldn't say I have issues with heights. However, the pay off is well worth it!
I went on a weekend in August and it wasn't too crowded. I definitely saw other people but we were spaced out really well.
Definitely do this hike. It was the highlight of my trip!