2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on

Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – May 2011

Rip & Go: Alamo to Capulin Canyon - Bandelier National Monument, NM

Climb across mesas and up canyon walls to a cave full of pictographs.

by: MacKenzie Ryan

Pictographs in Capulin Canyon (Craig Allen)
Pictographs in Capulin Canyon (Craig Allen)

Download a printable version of this entire trip right here.
Do it
Find rarely visited ruins hidden in New Mexico’s big-sky desertscape on this difficult, 20.4-mile trek. Leave Monument Headquarters heading northwest to the Frijoles Canyon trailhead (1) and follow the dirt path up 100 feet to a right turn at a T-junction (2). At the mesa top, look right across Frijoles Canyon’s pinkish cliffs of tuff, a soft rock formed from volcanic ash. Go right at the T-junction (3), then left at a Y-junction 200 feet later, and for the next 2.2 miles, weave through piñon, junipers, and sagebrush on Pajarito Plateau. Look for prickly pears, cane cholla, and yucca. (Poked? See “Key Skill,” next page.) Cross Lummis Canyon, a pocket oasis full of aspens. Reach Alamo Canyon (4). The views from the rim of this 500-foot-deep trough are some of this trip’s finest. Go right at the next Y-junction (5) toward Yapashi Pueblo. In .6 mile, oblong boulders rest in a 650-foot-diameter circle (6), the remains of the Cochiti Puebloans’ 385-room village. Walk .5 mile, then bear left toward Capulin Canyon (7). This loop’s only reliable water source irrigates the interior. Camp in Zone D (8) on a bank a few feet above the creek (in dry years, camp at an up-canyon site).

Next day, tank up with one gallon per person and follow cairns south. In two miles, head east across a dry tributary on the .1-mile spur (9) to Painted Cave (“See This,” next page). Continue south to reach a sandy trail (10) at the canyon’s end and turn left. Pass a patch of Dali-esque spires on the mesa, then head north up a sandy path (11) along the western wall of Hondo Canyon. Switchback into the canyon (12) and head across the wash. At the Hondo Canyon sign, follow cairns on a loose-rock path up the canyon’s eastern wall. Bear left at the Y-junction (13), and after a half mile, look right to see the muddy Rio Grande. Follow cairns for three view-packed miles to a rocky wash. From here, continue .2 mile to close the Capulin Canyon loop (14), then return to the headquarters.

Trip Planner

Get there
From Los Alamos, take NM 501 south for 4.2 miles and turn left onto NM 4 east. In 5.9 miles, turn right onto Entrance Rd. Park in three miles.

Gear up

CB Fox Department Store, 1735 Central Ave., Los Alamos. (505) 662-2864

Spring for mild weather and the greatest variety of wildflowers

(505) 672-3861

Bandelier National Monument ($12,

Trip data

Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Address 1:
Address 2:
Email (req):

Reader Rating: -


Your rating:
Your Name:


My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Health and Fitness
2014 fitness updates
Posted On: Aug 21, 2014
Submitted By: RebeccaD
MYOG Alcohol Stoves
Posted On: Aug 21, 2014
Submitted By: Tigger
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions