Best Alternatives to Bandelier National Monument
By Richard Mahler
Author of "New Mexico's
See the Puye Cliffs and avoid
the crowds that usually overwhelm nearby Bandelier National Monument.
You will climb wooden ladders among very similar ancient Indian
constructions-caves and other cliff dwellings inhabited until
1577 by the ancestors of today's Pueblo tribes, in this instance
the Santa Clara. There's a 740-room abandoned village and a reconstructed
ceremonial kiva at the top of Puye Mesa, which has a fine view
of the Espanola Valley.
Also worth visiting is the Tsankawi
unit of Bandelier National Monument, a small and separate
enclave of the main park. Half an hour closer to Santa Fe than
the main park, Tsankawi protects the ruins of an old mesa-top
village and many cave dwellings that are carved into the soft
volcanic tufa rock of nearby cliffs. It's fascinating to walk
along pathways that have been worn 18 inches deep into the tufa
by the erosion of human feet.
"Although it was the height of mid-August
tourist season," noted CheapThrills author and Albuquerque
Journal writer Frank Zoretich in an article about Tsankawi,
"I encountered only three other visitors during the more than
two hours I spent there."
If You Go: The Puye
Cliffs (505-753-7330) are open from 9 a.m. for an admission
fee. There is no charge for still pictures, but a camcorder permit
costs $10. A dirt road goes to the top of Puye Mesa for those
who don't want to climb ladders from below. Take N.M. 30 from
Espanola or Santa Fe, then head west about 11 miles on Santa Clara
Because of budget cuts, Tsankawi
(505-627-3861) has irregular hours and is sometimes closed.
There are restrooms and picnic facilities here, but no other services.
There is an entrance fee. From Santa Fe, take U.S. 84/285 north
to Poajoaque, then N.M. 502 west toward Los Alamos, then N.M.
4 south about 0.25 mile to the Tsankawi trailhead. The main entrance
to Bandelier is about 12 miles farther south on N.M. 4.
Richard Mahler is author of "New
Mexico's Best" and several other books. A journalist and photographer
as well, he specializes in travel writing, among other subjects.
He has contributed to National Public Radio since 1973 and to
the Los Angeles Times since 1979. He has written thousands
of articles for more than 100 magazines and newspapers, including
The New Mexican, New Mexico magazine, and Santa Fean
magazine. A longtime resident of New Mexico, he lives in Santa
For a full listing of Richard Mahler's
books, and to place orders for them, visit Amazon.com.
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