Alternatives to Bandelier's Frijoles Canyon

purple flowers in the foreground with a vast valley of green grass rimmed by tall green trees
A late summer view of the Valles Caldera from Cerro Grande's summit.


It's spring break and you arrive to find there are no parking spaces available in Frijoles Canyon. They tell you to come back later. Or you don't want to ride the shuttle bus to get to Frijoles Canyon when the shuttle is mandatory. What can you do? Here are some alternatives:

Bandelier National Monument: Other trailheads accessible from Highway 4

Burnt Mesa – 5.6 mile out and back. Easy trail across a sunny and open mesa with panoramic views.
Trailhead: On Highway 4 at Milepost 52
Cerro Grande – 4.6 mile roundtrip on an out and back. Moderate trail which gains 1,300 feet in elevation over 2.3 miles to the highest point in the monument.
Trailhead: On HWY 4 near Forest Road 289
Ponderosa Campground to Upper Crossing - 5.5 miles roundtrip on an out and back. Approximately 700 foot elevation change, downhill going, uphill out. Hike through the Ponderosa Forest to Frijoles Canyon then down into the canyon and Frijoles Creek.
Trailhead: At Ponderosa Group Campground
Upper Frijoles Canyon Overlook Trail (Blue Ski Trail) - 2 miles roundtrip, mostly a loop. 160 foot elevation change with a beautiful overlook into Frijoles Canyon miles above the visitor center.
Trailhead: On HWY 4 near Forest Road 289

an image of a green valley with small rounded peaks and fog
Valles Caldera on a foggy day


Other Local National Park Service Areas

Valles Caldera National Preserve: Visit the Valles Caldera, formed by the eruption of a super volcano about 1.25 million years ago. The caldera is ideal for hiking, biking, fishing, wildlife viewing, and more. To reach the Caldera turn left outside of the Bandelier Entrance Station and follow HWY 4 about 15 miles up the road to the west.

Manhattan Project National Historical Park: Learn about the people, places, and science that led to the development of the atomic bomb.
  • Visitor Center - 475 20th St. Suite C, Los Alamos, NM 87544
a wide view of a river flowing through a landscape of dark rocks.
View of the Rio Grande from the Red Dot Trail in White Rock


Other Attractions and Trails in the Immediate Vicinity

Reach Los Alamos by turning left when onto HWY 4 from Entrance Road. Los Alamos has several museums to visit, including those listed below. Make sure to check for opening hours.

  • Los Alamos Historical Museum – Learn the history of Los Alamos beginning with the Ancestral Pueblo people through the Cold War.
    • Located at: 1050 Bathtub Row, Los Alamos, NM 87544
  • Bradbury Science Museum – The Los Alamos National Laboratory runs this museum which includes exhibits on their history, mission, and current research into science and technology.
    • Located at: 1350 Central Ave, Los Alamos, NM 87544
  • Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC) – Discover the wildlife, geology, astronomy, and more that makes the Pajarito Plateau unique.
    • Located at: 2600 Canyon Rd., Los Alamos, NM 87544
There is also a large network of trails that are free for the public to use across Los Alamos County, with some at the following locations: Most of these trails are pet friendly but be sure to check.

Pick up a trail guide at the Los Alamos Visitor Center (475 20th St. Suite A, Los Alamos, NM 87544) located in the center of town. Or at the White Rock Visitor Center, 115 State Route 4, the same place you pick up the Bandelier shuttle bus
two delicate stalks host pale purplish white trumpet flowers with a open grassland behind.
Wooton's Larkspur


Department of Energy Trails: The Department of Energy has land throughout the area, with trails located along NM 4. The trails each have small, gravel parking areas and gates with information signs to give you an idea about what to expect and what is and is not allowed on the trail. Most are open to the public, though a few are open only to employees of the National Lab. Dogs are allowed on these trails. Some trails have great views. All trails have chances to see native plants and potentially animals.

Santa Fe National Forest:The National Forest, located through the area, has many hiking trails and many places to camp should you be looking for a less densely populated, more personal wilderness experience. Campgrounds and hiking trails are located along forest roads throughout the forest. Information about trails in each ranger district, as well as camping information, can be found by speaking with Forest Rangers. The phone number for the Jemez Ranger District is: (505) 438-5300. Dogs are allowed on most of these trails but cattle may be encountered on some.

Last updated: March 2, 2024

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Mailing Address:

Bandelier National Monument
15 Entrance Road

Los Alamos, NM 87544


505 672-3861 x0

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