Bandelier National Monument – Los Alamos, New Mexico - Atlas Obscura

Bandelier National Monument

A small metropolis of Pueblo cave dwellings have been carved right into the hillside of this national monument. 


Bandelier National Monument actually covers a fairly large swath of land covering roughly 50 square miles of New Mexico wilderness, and while no one lives there today, the remaining homes of those who once did remain impressive landmarks.

Carved right out of the soft (and ironically-named) tuff rock, the small shelters and their rows of windows pock the side of some of the hills in the natural landscape as though they were created by massive ants. Built across a number of eras between the years 1150 and 1550, the settlement would have been an impressive sight with buildings on the ground and built into the cliffs. Some of the dwellings stood as tall as three stories, supported by beams jammed right into the rock.

To this day, a number of pictographs and ancient artworks can also still be found at the site. The remaining cave dwellings are accompanied by the ruins of buildings constructed on the valley floor, also made of soft volcanic rock. Most of the ruins, cave and otherwise, are grouped fairly closely, but other pueblo relics can be found by those willing to seek out the fainter tracks in the monument.     

Some of the houses still have black smoke stains from fire, and some contain petroglyphs. You can climb up into many of the dwellings and experience cave life for yourself.

Know Before You Go

This is not a full day out; the entire hike is 1.2 miles round-trip, so this is half a day at best.