Visiting Bandelier National Monument with kids

Nestled in the rugged terrain of New Mexico, Bandelier National Monument is a hidden gem that offers a unique blend of history, natural beauty, and outdoor exploration. This UNESCO-designated site is not only a perfect destination for nature enthusiasts but also a fantastic place for families to embark on an educational and memorable adventure with their children. Let’s take a look at some important information before planning your next visit to Bandelier National Monument.


Bandelier National Monument is located in north-central New Mexico, approximately 50 miles northwest of Santa Fe. This historic site is easily accessible by car, making it a convenient choice for a family day trip.


Bandelier National Monument does not have any lodging options available on site, but visitors can find a wide variety of lodging options in nearby towns such as Los Alamos, White Rock, Espanola, and Santa Fe.

On the other hand, this park is an excellent place for camping as it offers several campsites for tents and RVs. You can read more about Bandelier National Monument campgrounds here.

For our visit, we stayed at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa, which is about a 2 hour drive away, and took a day trip to Bandelier National Monument. You can read our review of the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa here.

Entrance fees

The entrance fee to Bandelier National Monument is $25 per vehicle or $15 per person (kids under 15 can enter the park for free) and is valid for 7 days.

If you plan on visiting several National Parks in a year, we recommend investing in the America the Beautiful Annual Pass. It costs $80 and covers admission to all National Parks and federal recreational lands, and is valid for one year from the moment of purchase.

Visitor Center and Park Store

Before you begin your adventure at Bandelier National Monument, stopping by the Visitor Center is a must. Here, you’ll find valuable resources and information to enhance your family’s experience.

πŸ’‘ Good to know

If you are visiting Bandelier National Monument from 9 am to 3 pm, you have to take a mandatory Shuttle Bus from White Rock Visitor Center to Frijoles Canyon Visitor Center (valid for June 14, 2023 – Mid-October 2023)

The visitor center serves as an educational hub, offering interactive exhibits and informative displays. It’s an excellent opportunity for families with children to learn about the park’s rich history, its ancient inhabitants, and the importance of preserving this remarkable place.

Everything you need to know about visiting National Parks with kids

After visiting 20 National Parks with our kids and experiencing their unique beauty, we have put together a guide detailing the essentials of planning and participating in park programs to ensure a rewarding family adventure in the National Parks.
Continue reading β†’

The Park Store offers a variety of items, including books, maps, educational materials, and unique souvenirs. You might discover books about Native American history, hiking guides, and items related to the park’s archaeological treasures.

Popular trails

What are the best hikes in Bandelier National Monument? Bandelier National Monument is known for its network of well-maintained trails that cater to visitors of all ages and skill levels. Here are some family-friendly hikes to consider:

The Main Loop Trail

This easy 1.4-mile loop provides an excellent introduction to the park’s archaeological sites, including the famous cliff dwellings and petroglyphs. We purchased a $2 trail guide from the Park Store to learn about the trail’s 21 numbered stops.

Trailhead: Behind the Visitor Center
Round-trip Distance: 1.4 miles round-trip
Time: 50 minutes
Level: Easy; the first half is paved, and the second requires stair climbing.
Elevation: 252 ft.

Remember to bring plenty of water, wear sunscreen, and be respectful of the fragile archaeological sites along the way.

Alcove House Trail

This hike leads you to Alcove House, a ceremonial cave dwelling perched high on a cliff. The Alcove House is a unique structure built into the cliff’s face, requiring visitors to climb four wooden ladders to reach the entrance. Once inside, visitors can explore the rooms, see the ceremonial kiva, and enjoy the stunning views from the balcony.

Trailhead: Halfway through the Main Loop Trail
Round-trip Distance: 2.84 miles
Time: 1.5 hours
Level: moderate
Elevation: 393 ft.

Tyuonyi Overlook Trail

Enjoy a leisurely walk to an overlook that provides fantastic views of Tyuonyi Pueblo ruins. The trail is well-maintained, easy, and suitable for hikers of all skill levels. At the top, you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the surrounding landscape and marvel at the intricately crafted walls and structures of the ruins.

Trailhead: Juniper Campground
Round-trip Distance: 2.2-mile round-trip 
Time: 1 hour
Level: easy
Elevation: 196 ft.


After a day of exploration, you and your family might have worked up quite an appetite. While Bandelier National Monument does not have on-site dining options, there are picnic areas where you can enjoy a packed lunch or snacks.

Consider stopping by the nearby town of Los Alamos for dining options.

Junior Ranger Badge

The free Junior Ranger Badge program at Bandelier National Monument is a fun way for kids to explore the park and learn about its natural and cultural resources. Children ages 5-12 can complete age-appropriate activities, including attending a ranger program, hiking, and participating in a service project, to earn their badge.

Once they complete the activities, they present their booklet to a ranger, who awards them with the badge. It’s an excellent way for kids to feel proud of their accomplishments and learn about the importance of protecting the park for future generations.

Bottom line

Visiting Bandelier National Monument with kids is a fantastic way to introduce them to the wonders of history, archaeology, and the great outdoors. With its easy accessibility, well-marked trails, and educational opportunities, this national monument promises an unforgettable family adventure that will leave your children with lasting memories and a deeper appreciation for the natural and cultural heritage of the American Southwest.

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