NPS Photo by kevin stillman
Since the Las Conchas Fire of 2011 and the massive flooding that has followed, hiking in Bandelier's backcountry is no less beautiful but is more difficult. Trails are missing in some locations, as is signage. Conditions change yearly as new floods leave their mark. Be sure to check at the visitor center for current trail conditions in the location you plan to visit.
There are two access points to start a hike to Painted Cave: the visitor center or the Dome Trailhead. The round-trip hike from the visitor center is 22 miles up and down steep-walled canyons on switchbacked trails with no reliable access to water. This strenuous hike is not considered to be appropriate as a day-hike. The round-trip from Dome Trailhead, which is located off of Forest Service Road 142, is 14.5 miles. This trailhead can be accessed only by high clearance vehicles. Wet weather or downed trees can make the trailhead inaccessible by vehicle.
Did You Know?
Scorpionweed gets its name from the shape of the flowers, which unfold like a scorpion's tail as they prepare to bloom.