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Bandelier National Monument: Capulin Canyon

Dip into river-cut canyons and explore the homeland of the Ancestral Pueblo on this 19.8-mile trip in New Mexico’s Bandelier National Monument.

Trip Tools

Once the stomping ground for the Ancestral Pueblo, the sloping mesas and steep canyons of Bandelier National Monument are now home to 70 miles of trails. This 3-day lollipop loop begins near park headquarters and climbs 1,100 feet from the base of Frijoles Canyon to its rim trail. Just before mile 5, turn south and dip 400 feet into Alamo Canyon and 700 feet into Capulin Canyon before settling into camping zone B on night one.
Day two continues downhill through Capulin, bypassing the trail toward Painted Cave—a worthwhile 5-mile out-and-back—and looping back toward Alamo Canyon. If Painted Cave isn’t an option on this trip, consider adding the 1.3-mile out-and-back to the rock-pile ruins of the Yapashi Pueblo to your hike. The route’s loop closes at mile 12.5 and dips into Alamo again before the climb toward another camping area on the mesa. From here, it’s an easy 5.1 miles downhill toward the trailhead on day three.
Note: Relative low altitudes make this a good option for spring, fall, and sometimes winters. Though water is usually available at the Upper Alamo and along most of Capulin, expect to carry it for camping at 1702 and double check conditions when you pick up your (free) backcountry permit.
-Mapped by Bill Velasquez

To Trailhead

Take US 285/US 84 to NM 502 to NM 4. Drive 12.7 miles, passing White Rock, and turn left into Bandelier National Monument. Bear left, continuing 3 miles toward the Visitor Center. The parking area is on the left.

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