Frijoles Canyon and Rim Trail
Photo by Sally King
After the Las Conchas fire of 2011and subsequent flooding as recent as September 2013, the trail through Frijoles Canyon was severely damaged to the point it can no longer be called a trail. The route is not quite as easy as it used to be, so you can expect a little more of a challenge. The creek crossings are a little more rugged, so expect to do some scrambling. Also come prepared to get your feet wet as there are no bridges across the creek. In fact hiking in the creek is often the best route. Hiking poles may be a good idea to help with your balance in some areas.
Please note: Conditions are subject to change, depending on summer rains.
The part of the canyon around Upper Crossing burned hot in the Las Conchas fire, however; once you go down the canyon a mile or so you begin to get out of the burned area and get back into forested, shady parts of the canyon again. The Narrows are as gorgeous as ever, with its sun dappled cliffs and lively creek. With the floodwater rearranging the canyon bottom, some areas are stunningly beautiful. Although it can no longer be called "the Oasis of Bandelier" this is still a gorgeous hike and offers unique perspective to the power of water.
For those that have hiked this trail before you will notice that a lot of the old landmarks are gone and it will be like exploring a new canyon. For first timers it will almost seem like you are hiking a canyon in Utah, only in your own backyard. Take the time to enjoy the incredible rock formations and relax in the peace and quiet that is becoming so hard to find in our modern world.
Please note: Since the Las Conchas fire, Frijoles Canyon is more susceptible to flash floods. During the monsoon season it is best to be out of the canyon before the afternoon rain.
Here are some options of different ways to access the Frijoles Canyon Trail:
Leave one vehicle at the Visitor Center, then drive another to Ponderosa Campground, hike the trail to the Visitor Center, then drive the car you left back at Ponderosa Campground. This will be about an 8 mile hike.
Another option is to park at the Visitor Center, hike the Frijoles Rim Trail to Upper Crossing, then come down Frijoles Canyon to the Visitor Center. This winds up being about a 13 mile loop, so come prepared to spend the day.
Finally; another way is to simply park at the Visitor Center, hike up the canyon, then hike back down to the Visitor Center. The narrows is about 4 miles up from the Visitor Center is quite stunning so be sure not to turn back too soon!
If you have questions, the staff at the Visitor Center will be happy to help you. They can also tell you about some of the other great hiking opportunities at Bandelier National Monument. From day hikes to multi-day backpacking trips, there is something for everyone who has the skills/mindset to meet the current challenges.
Did You Know?
All the aspens in a cluster will change colors at approximately the same time. That's because in a grouping of aspens, most are clones that grew as root sprouts from the original plant.