Backpacking in Bandelier

mid alamo canyon trail
Some trails include steep switchbacks and can be icy in winter.

Photo by Sally King

The Bandelier backcoutry is renowned for its wildness, beauty, and its relative ease of access. Although still very beautiful, the Bandelier backcountry was impacted by the Las Conchas Fire of 2011. Flooding in all park canyons followed and many trails were damaged in canyon bottoms. Park staff has been hard at work repairing the trails but a few trails remain almost inaccessible. Please check at the visitor center and see the Trail Condition map at the bottom of the page for current conditions before hiking in the backcountry.

Due to summer monsoon flood danger, backcountry camping is closed in Frijoles, Alamo, and Capulin canyons, or any stream bottoms July 1st through September 15th. Also, during windy times, dead trees in fire areas, as well as all treed areas can be hazardous. Please camp away from stands of dead or damaged trees. Please backcountry camp only on mesa tops and in designated camping areas

There are over 70 miles of trail within Bandelier National Monument. Trails tend to follow mesa edges or transect canyons and mesas. Some of these trails include steep switchbacks and long drop-offs. Trails can be very icy in winter or early spring. Some trails marked on older maps are no longer maintained and may be impossible to find. Always take a current map. Be sure to check on trail conditions by stopping by or calling the visitor center at (505) 672-3861 x 517.

A permit is required for any overnight stays in the Bandelier backcountry. Permits are free, must be obtained in person anytime the visitor center is open except for the last 20 minutes before closing. You may obtain a permit the day of your trip, or a maximum of 48 hours before your planned backcountry trip begins.

rattlesnake tail
Potential wildlife threats include rattlesnakes, mountain lions, and black bears.

Photo by Sally King

Availability of water is very limited in the backcountry. Adequate water should always be carried as water some sources are unreliable, ask at Visitor Center for current water information. Water from streams or springs must be treated before use. Water from the Rio Grande should never be used as drinking water as most portable filters do not remove items such as pesticides. Dehydration can be a major problem any time of the year because the air tends to be extremely dry.

Winter weather includes storms, snow, and very cold temperatures (lows from 10' to -10's). Many trails can be extremely icy. Spring weather is variable and can change quickly. Spring is also the season for strong winds which often accompany a rapid change in temperature. Summer is warm, with temperatures on the open mesas being extremely hot (> 100). In late summer, thunderstorms are often a regular occurrence in the afternoons. Lightening associated with these storms can make travel on the mesatops very dangerous.

Rattlesnakes are not uncommon especially in the riparian areas and on rocky slopes but generally avoid humans and pose no real danger if given a wide berth. Mountain lions, black bear, and bobcats are residents in the park but are rarely seen. Be prepared for a possible encounter. Deer, Elk, and even an occasional Bighorn Sheep are seen on mesa tops, even during daylight hours.

Always hang your food to keep it away from scavengers like raccoons, mice, squirrels, and ringtails.

blond black bear
Remember to hang food to keep it away from wildlife.

Photo by Sally King


A map is an essential backpacking item, and you could literally be lost without one. On a plateau cut by steep canyons trails meander, switchback, and follow topographic features. A detailed topographic map of the park is available from Western National Parks Association for $11.95, and can be purchased upon your arrival or can be ordered by calling (505) 672-3861 x 516.
A map showing the trails and their associated mileage can be downloaded here. (3.19 mb PDF)
Trail condition and route-finding difficulty map can be download here. (326kb PDF)

A fairly detailed park map can be downloaded here.

A brochure with more information on park destinations for day or overnight hikes can be downloaded here.
park map
A detailed park map can be downloaded above.


obsidian ridge hike
View into Bandelier from Obsidian Ridge hike.

Photo by Sally King

Last updated: April 14, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Bandelier National Monument
15 Entrance RD

Los Alamos, NM 87544


(505) 672-3861 x517

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