Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
235.00 ft (71.63 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
1.90 mi (3.06 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

It is easy to pass by the barely-noticeable parking area for Tsankawi Ruins on the way to the main section of Bandelier National Monument, but that would be a big mistake! This easy and enjoyable hike through the ancestral home of the nearby San Ildefonso Pueblo people is as evocative and unique as any site in the Southwest.

The trail (well-documented by the trail guides available near the parking area) climbs lightly for a short way before reaching a 15-foot ladder that leads up to the lower mesa level. From here, much of the trail literally follows the footsteps of the ancients along the paths they wore into the soft rock over hundreds of years. There are many steps cut into the rocks, and some of the pathways are worn knee deep or even waist deep in the solidified volcanic ash. These paths (which are visible all over the mesa) were used to go down to the cultivated fields on the plain below and to carry crops and water up to the dwellings on top.

The ruins at the top are simple and un-excavated. There are a few pot shards set on stones but little else to see. There are a few more ladders to descend as the loop continues around the mesa, and the views from all sections of the trail are wide and beautiful. There is a lot of rock art along the southern wall of the mesa (though none of it is marked with any signage), and there are caves that were used for shelter and food storage by the people who lived here over 700 years ago. As a bonus, spotting wildlife is a possiblity.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Beautiful views. Much of the trail follows ancient footpaths.

Cons

Ruins are not particularly interesting

Trailhead Elevation

6,410.00 ft (1,953.77 m)

Highest point

6,670.00 ft (2,033.02 m)

Features

Family friendly
Flushing toilets
Potable water
Historically significant
Native artifacts
Geologically significant
Wildlife
Big Game Watching

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Adventures

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
Southern Sangre de Cristo Mountains, New Mexico

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Southern Sangre de Cristo Mountains, New Mexico

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