Bandelier NM--Ponderosa Trail

Bandelier NM--Ponderosa Trail

Los Alamos, New Mexico 87544

Bandelier National Monument Official Website
Bandelier National Monument map

About this Location

The Ponderosa Trail starts from the Ponderosa Campground and descends to the Rito de los Frijoles, a small creek that flows through the canyon. The trail passes through a ponderosa pine forest that was partially burned by the 2011 Las Conchas Fire, creating a contrast between the green trees and the blackened trunks. The trail also offers views of the canyon and its cliffs, where ancient dwellings carved into the soft rock can be seen. The Ponderosa Trail is a short and moderate hike that can be done in about two hours round trip, or combined with other trails for a longer adventure.

About Bandelier National Monument

See all hotspots at Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National Monument sits at the southern end of the Pajarito (Spanish for little bird) Plateau. The plateau was formed by two eruptions 1.6 and 1.4 million years ago. Home to the Bandelier Wilderness, Bandelier ranges from 5340 ft at the Rio Grande to the south and 10199 ft at the summit of Cerro Grande to the north, almost a mile of elevation change in just under 12 miles. This elevation gradient creates a unique diversity of habitats specific to Northern New Mexico. The diversity of habitats and quick access to water supported a relatively large population of Ancestral Pueblo people. Currently, Piñon-Juniper woodlands dominate in the southern parts of the park transitioning through ponderosa pine savannahs and forests finally reaching mixed conifer forests at the highest elevation. Scattered throughout the park are desert grasslands, montane meadows, and riparian areas in the canyon bottoms. Bandelier is home to a wide variety of wildlife. The backcountry trails at Bandelier climb in and out of deep canyons and cross large flat mesas, showcasing the entire spectrum of volcanic geology.

Bandelier is set within vast amounts of open space. North and west of the park rests the Valles Caldera National Preserve (VCNP), an 89,000-acre nature preserve, which was created by the eruptions that formed the Pajarito Plateau followed by volcanic subsidence. On all sides of the park sits over one million acres of the Santa Fe National Forest, with the Dome Wilderness adjoining the western edge of Bandelier Wilderness. A large portion of the northeastern boundary is shared with Los Alamos National Lab, which covers 26,500 acres of restricted, mostly open space. Bandelier’s direct neighbors make the park’s 34,000 acres feel much larger than it is.

Access to Bandelier National Monument is by a free shuttle bus in the summer months.

Notable Trails

The AllTrails website has a description and map of a hike using the Ponderosa Trail.


  • Entrance fee

  • Restrooms on site

  • Wheelchair accessible trail

Content from Bandelier National Monument Official Website

Last updated August 8, 2023