Frijoles Canyon and Rim Trail
Photo by Sally King
After the Las Conchas fire of 2011 and subsequent flooding as recent as July 2014, the trail through Frijoles Canyon has been severely damaged to the point that it can no longer be called a trail. It is mostly a route now and hiking it is not as easy as it used to be, so you can expect more of a challenge. Much of the hike is in the streambed now and requires crossing back and forth over the stream numerous times. Log jams have to be scrambled over in some places. Hiking poles are helpful for scrambling and hiking over the uneven terrain.
Please note: Conditions are subject to change, depending on summer rains and flood events.
The part of the canyon above and below Upper Crossing burned extremely hot in the Las Conchas Fire. However; once you go down the canyon a mile or so you begin to get out of the severely burned area and get back into forested, shady parts of the canyon again where the burn was less intense. The Narrows are as gorgeous as ever, with its sun dappled cliffs and lively creek. With the floodwaters continuing to rearrange the canyon bottom, some areas are stunningly beautiful. Although greatly changed, this is still a gorgeous hike and offers unique perspective to the power of water.
For those who 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 are 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 hike 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 there back to Ponderosa Campground. This is approximately an 8 mile hike.
Another option is to park at the Visitor Center, hike up the Long Trail then along the Frijoles Rim Trail to Upper Crossing, then down Frijoles Canyon back to the Visitor Center. This is approximately a 13 mile loop, so come prepared to spend the day. NOTE: This option is not recommended at this time due to severe damage to the portion of the trail that descends into Frijoles Canyon.
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 area is about 4 miles up canyon from the Visitor Center and 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.