Friday, August 30, 2019

Visit Bandelier National Monument for a Great Late Summer Escape

Frijoles Canyon at Bandelier National Monument.
With summer waning and vacation crowds thinning it’s a great time to visit one of New Mexico’s many scenic historic sites such as Bandelier National Monument.

Just a short drive from Albuquerque or Santa Fe the national monument showcases ancient Indian cave dwellings in a remote forested canyon.
Visitors can learn more about the people who lived in the canyon and caves as they hike among them along a 1.2 mile main loop trail. Ladders allow visitors to climb into the caves for a firsthand experience while plenty of interpretive signs are posted to provide historical context.

More adventurous guests can continue up the canyon to Alcove House where they’ll scale four sets of ladders to a large cave in the cliff face about 140 feet above the canyon floor. The dizzying heights are not for the meek of heart and make for a memorable visit.

Pole ladders lead up into caves at Bandelier National Monument. Photo courtesy of Leanne Arvila.  
After a couple of hours touring the main loop trail and Alcove House many guests return to the visitor center where they can enjoy an excellent 14-minute film about the monument while relaxing in the air conditioned comfort of the monument’s auditorium.

Recently produced by award-winning National Park Service cinematographer John Grabowska, it features towering, expansive views of Bandelier, the Pajarito Plateau, the Jemez Mountains, the Valle Caldera and the Rio Grande.

The film was shot during different seasons of the year with many scenes taken by helicopter and played back in slow motion to give viewers the sense of flying over the countryside.

The park also offers plenty of other activities including demonstrations by artists from surrounding pueblos, guided hikes and evening seminars at the park’s Juniper campground amphitheater.

Visitors will find other hiking and camping opportunities within the monument by visiting the Bandelier website at

A cloud burst at Bandelier National Monument. Photo courtesy of John Gonzales of Lubbock, Texas. 
The basic park entrance fee is $25 per private carload which is good for seven days and allows access to Tsankawi and other areas of the park such as Burnt Mesa.

At Tsankawi visitors can take a 1.5 mile walk along a mesa featuring numerous caves, petroglyphs and the ruins of the village of Tsankawi. Ladders are in place to allow guests to climb up to the mesa top and come down the other side.  Views of the Rio Grande Valley and opposing Sange de Cristo mountains are impressive here.

The parking lot for Tsankawi is found off N.M. 4 at the intersection of the East Jemez Road, also known locally as the Los Alamos National Labs Truck Route. Visit the monument’s website and download a good map of the area at

Visitors to Bandelier are required to travel into the monument on a free shuttle bus between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Before or after that visitors can drive in. The monument is open dawn to dusk. There are exceptions including vehicles displaying a handicapped placard and for vehicles containing animals, although not pets are allowed on trails within the monument. Campers and wayward travelers  park at Juniper Campground where they then take the shuttle down to the visitor’s center.

The author drives a Bandelier shuttle bus for Atomic City Transit
The shuttle buses are operated by Los Alamos County Atomic City Transit under contract with the National Park Service. The buses leave the White Rock Visitor Center off N.M. 4 every 30 minutes starting at 9 a.m. during the week and every 20 minutes on the weekends. The last bus is scheduled to leave Bandelier daily at 5 p.m. on weekdays and 5:10 p.m. on weekends. All buses stop within the park at Juniper Campground to pick up and drop off passengers.

For maps, directions and more information please visit the monument’s website at or
contact them by telephone at (505) 672-3861 x517. for more information 

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Enchanted Circle a great New Mexico roadtrip

The visitor pavilion at Eagle Nest Lake State Park.
New Mexico’s high country is looking great after a long snowy winter and plenty of rain this summer.
And a good way to enjoy some of that scenic beauty is to take a drive along the Enchanted Circle, a 65-mile round trip from Questa through Red River, over to Eagle Nest and back to Taos.

A recent drive revealed anglers reeling in trout at recently restored Eagle Rock Lake off N.M. 38 just outside the town of Questa. The picturesque lake is stocked regularly and is a great place to cast a line before heading over to Red River.

Eagle Rock Lake.
A quintessential summer resort town, Red River offers so much to do one needs to stop and ponder it all before proceeding. The patio at Red River Brewing Company overlooking busy Main Street offers great spot to do that.

Tucked in a canyon surrounded by heavily forested mountains, outdoor recreation and the visitors it brings are the primary focus of Red River’s economy.
Main Street of Red River N.M.
A walk about the teaming tourist town reveals a go-cart track to race around while the nearby ski area lift offers a lazier and more scenic ride.

Horseback rides, off-road vehicle rentals and guided fishing trips can be had while plenty of restaurants, saloons, gift shops, sporting goods stores and art galleries round out the town’s offerings.

The area features numerous campgrounds, motels and hotels for visitors to stay in and attracts many guests from nearby plains states such as Texas and Oklahoma.

Upon leaving Red River, the Enchanted Circle tour continues with a climb over Bobcat Pass at 9,800 feet and winds down into the rural Moreno Valley.

Bobcat Pass.
The valley had once been a booming gold mining area with the city of Elizabethtown at its heart. At the time it boasted a population of 7,000 with saloons, gambling halls, theatres, businesses and several newspapers.

Now the gold and the town are gone and the valley is a quiet place dominated by sprawling ranches and expansive views.

The highway ends at Eagle Nest where the local state park and its beautiful visitor center features a beautiful outdoor pavilion overlooking the lake. This spot is one of the state’s best kept secrets and is a great place to stop for a picnic and some fishing.

The state park also features a campground for those who might want spend the night while the nearby town offers overnight accommodations, gas and groceries, fishing supplies and a classic western style saloon.

The valley also is home to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park where visitors can learn more about those who served and died in that war.

The Enchanted Circle commences on U.S. 64, up and over 9,100 foot Palo Flechado Pass and down through a twisty canyon along which the Rio Fernando de Taos flows. At the intersection of N.M. 585 travelers can head west to reunite with N.M. 68 and take that road back home.

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