Monthly Archives: March 2012

Valles Caldera National Preserve

Formerly know as the Baca Ranch, this 89,000-acre property is encapsulated inside a collapsed volcanic crater.   In 2000, Congress voted to adopt the property and renamed it The Valles Caldera National Preserve.   The Caldera is dotted with eruptive domes and features a large peak as a backdrop (Redondo Peak 11,254 feet).  This old ranch property is currently being developed and studied to explore a new way of managing public lands.  The Valles Caldera National Preserve has always attracted people who wish to examine a wide range of topics, such as geology, archaeology, cultural history, wildlife and botany.  Since Congress has named the property as public land, the opportunities for studying the area is growing.

The preserve is open to the public and guarantees that you’ll find your visit unlike any other you’ve had in a national park or forest.  They restrict the numbers of visitors to small activity groups so you’ll feel like you have the place all to yourself.  This means that you won’t see big crowds or have difficulty finding a parking spot.  You won’t see a shop full of touristy gifts either.  Instead, they will offer you a chance to get out and really experience a sense of natural solitude and tranquility that will leave you refreshed and relaxed.  You’ll see wildlife, beautiful vistas and learn about the preserve’s rich history and geology.  Visit the website: Valles Caldera National Preserve

Click here for their Calendar


Free, self guided daily hikes are everyday from sunrise to sunset

– Valle Grande Hike, 2 miles,

  • Location: Trailhead is off Highway 4 near mile marker 43

– Coyote Call Hike, 3 miles,

  • Location: Trailhead is off Highway 4 near mile marker 41

No prior reservations are required for these hikes.  Only service animals are allowed to accompany owners on the trail, no pets.  To view a complete list of their hiking guidelines, click here.

Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National Monument protects over 33,000 acres of rugged but beautiful canyon and mesa country as well as evidence of a human presence here going back over 11,000 years. Petroglyphs, dwellings carved into soft rock cliffs, and standing masonry walls in the Frijoles Canyon area pay tribute to a the early days of a culture that still survives in the surrounding communities.

The human history of Bandelier extends back for more than 10,000 years when area tribes followed migrating wildlife across the mountains, mesas and canyons. By 1150 CE ancient Pueblo people began to build more permanent villages.  Evidence of this past is still observed in the park, as is the connection of the modern Pueblo people. By 1550 these dwellers vacated their Bandelier homes and moved to pueblos along the Rio Grande River.

Legislation to create Bandelier National Monument was signed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916.  Between 1934 and 1941 workers from the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) worked from a camp constructed in Frijoles Canyon. Among their accomplishments is the road into Frijoles Canyon, the current visitor center, a new lodge, and miles of trails. For several years during World War II the park was closed to the public and the lodge was used to house Manhattan Project scientists and military personnel.

The area of Bandelier National Park ranges from 5340 feet at the Rio Grande River at the south end and 10199 feet at the summit of Cerro Grande to the north.  This equates to almost a mile of elevation change in less than 12 miles. This elevation gradient creates a unique diversity of habitats specific to Northern New Mexico. This diversity of habitats and access to water supported a large population of Pueblo people.

Piñon-Juniper woodlands dominate in the southern parts of the park transitioning through to ponderosa pine highlands and forests.  The higher elevations give way to mixed conifer forests and aspen tree thickets.  Other park terrain includes desert grasslands, meadows, and riparian areas in the canyon bottoms. Bandelier is home to a wide variety of wildlife.  It will take a good hiker all day to only do part of the trail available to visitors. The backcountry trails at Bandelier climb in and out of deep canyons and cross very large flat mesas.  This park showcases the entire spectrum of volcanic geology!

Visitor Center Operating Hours:

Spring/Fall: 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (Spring time change (at switch to daylight savings time) to Memorial Day weekend, Labor Day to fall time change (at switch to standard time))

Winter: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (fall time change (at switch to standard time) to spring time change (at switch to daylight savings time)

Summer: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.  (Saturday of Memorial Day weekend through the Monday of Labor Day weekend )

Park and Visitor Center are open daily except:

Closed December 25 and January 1.