There are very few absolutes in life, most of those I held so close in my 20s have been turned on their heads and life is better for it. But here is one that I can’t imagine leaving behind: always visit green shaded spaces on maps that begin with the word “National” because they are always worth the time, ALWAYS. Following this axiom, we set off for Bandelier National Monument near Los Alamos.
Here are some things you need to know about camping in Bandelier:
1. You cannot make reservations (but they say not to worry, and we had no problems)
2. There are no hookups , be ready to boondock and have your fresh water tank full. (There is a dump station near the campground entrance.)
3. There are not a lot of pads large enough for a camper and vehicle, and only a couple that could accommodate larger (30′ +) rigs.
4. Bandelier is one of the national parks that visitors take a shuttle into and through (largely because of flood damage to roads) but if you are camping, you do drive part of the way in. Go past the first visitor center and drive for about 15 minutes along the road into the park, ominously dotted with “no trespassing” signs denoting areas used by the neighboring national laboratory, then you will see the campground signs off to the right. An electronic pay station is located just off this turn and has easy to follow instructions. Once you are all set up, you can visit the rest of the park by picking up the shuttle at the amphiteature (an easy walk from all campgrounds).
5. You will probably not have decent or even any cell reception throughout the park.
What a great escape!
Our campsite was large and as the girls explored the area they found tons of ladybugs.
This really felt like a wilderness: no sounds of cars in the distance, only the wind blowing through the pines and you could see millions of starts in the night sky.
Once you get into the main area of the park within Frijoles Canyon, things get very interesting. Cliff dwellings dot the walls of the canyon and ruins of an ancient village sit along the bank of the creek. Many of the trails were damaged when the Frijoles Creek flooded a couple of years ago so talk to a park ranger if you are interested in a long hike. A trail only about a mile long and easy for kids and all adults to complete runs from just behind the visitor center, and this you must do. Make sure you grab one of the trail guides to read along the trail to better understand what you are seeing. You will amble all through the village ruins and clamber through a cliff face pockmarked with caves. There are several caves into which you can climb and take in amazing views of the park, some even have petroglyphs!
Our girls could have stayed here for days just climbing up and down the cliffs.
A wonderful bookstore sits just off the visitor center. There is a small snack bar that sells sandwiches but you may want to pack your own picnic lunch. However, and most importantly, they do have ice cream.
We’d love to hear from you, what’s your favorite “national” stop? I’m beginning to think New Mexico ought to be designated as the “national state of awesome.”