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One of the things I was most excited to do in New Mexico was to visit Santa Fe and Bandelier National Monument. The only thing I actually knew about it was the ruins, so we had to do that but once we got there we found out about the Falls Trail, which is one of the coolest other trails in the park, so of course, we had to do it, too.
The Falls Trail in Bandelier National Monument is three miles round-trip to one of the coolest waterfalls in New Mexico. There a few different falls along the Frijoles Creek but the main one at the end of the trail is the highlight.
Since we already hiked three miles to see the ruins, I was a little worried about doing this one, too, but we decided to push through and do it anyway and I’m so glad! Just remember, I’m not used to hiking 6+ miles, so if you are, doing both won’t be an issue.
The trail has little sections of up and down but there isn’t one particular section that has all of the elevation gain/loss, which also helps it feel a little less hard. The geology along the trail is also really cool. You can see some tent rock formations along the trail, but they aren’t THE Tent Rocks. Those are closeby but it’s a long drive (twoish hours) to get to them from Bandelier.
There was also some major erosion in the canyon from flooding in 2011 and 2013. This also used to be the main channel of the Rio Grande, how cool is that? For the beginning section of the trail, it’s up a little hill then down through a piney area then back up a little more and soon you’re walking along the middle section of the canyon with walls towering above you and soon dropping below.
You’ll hear the rush of the water in no time and can admire the falls from a little area at the end of the trail. It does actually keep going, but it is closed so it just ends at the viewpoint for the time being.
We stayed and took some pictures for a while but it was soooo cold and windy since it was early March and closer to evening so it was just colder anyways, but the wind didn’t help. The hike back out seemed to go pretty fast and didn’t seem quite as hard, just like Lower Calf Creek Falls. Weird how that works out.
So, should you do the Falls Trail at Bandelier National Monument! Yes! It’s an awesome easy/moderate hike that is much less trafficked than the main loop trial to the ruins. I’m so glad we decided to do this and would definitely recommend it.
Where is the Falls Trail?
The Falls Trail is in the backpacker parking lot (the parking lot to the left of the visitor center if you’re looking at it) and there is a sign by the trailhead. It’s at the end of the lot closer to the road than the back area.
How long is the Falls Trail in Bandelier National Monument?
The trail is three-miles round trip with 400 feet of elevation gain. On the way in you’re going down, but even on the way out it’s hard to tell it’s that much. Some of the trail is rocky and uneven, but it’s mostly just a packed dirt trail.
How long do you need for the Falls Trail in Bandelier National Monument?
Two – three hours should be plenty. While it sounds like it’ll take a while, it’s not a super tough hike so you can walk fast-ish. It doesn’t have tons of elevation gain, which helps.
What to bring on the Falls Trail in Bandelier National Monument
Snacks – These are more important for long hikes, but you never know when you’ll get hungry! I like EPIC bars (kind of like beef jerky but different), Sahale nut mix things, and Moon Cheese. There’s always the good old Clif Bars and trail mix, too.
Light Jacket – Because you just never know. We were here in early March and it was so cold and windy at the falls. The hike to it wasn’t bad but I had my puffy jacket on and was still chilly. I usually use my rain jacket for this but if you go in winter you may need more.
Have you done the Falls Trail at Bandelier National Monument? Do you want to? What is your favorite hike in New Mexico?