Okay, I’m just gonna say it. It seemed like nothing we saw could top what we’d just seen, and then we’d get to the next place. Tsankawi Ruins Trail was our last stop on our New Mexico trip and it just may have been my favorite place we visited.
Technically a part of Bandelier, but at a different location, this place is amazing. It wasn’t crowded at all (we only saw two parties, one that passed us going the wrong direction). You get to go completely at your own pace and see petroglyphs, old ruins, sweeping views, and amazing cliff dwellings. A lot of petroglyphs are in these old cave dwellings. It was nothing short of amazing.
Tsankawi Ruins Trail:
Fees: $25.00 (If you purchase the pass for Bandelier, this covers it, as well as the annual pass)
(Taken from NPS site)
-Coming from Santa Fe you’ll turn from State Highway 502 to State Highway 4. Less than 1/4 of a mile past this turn Tsankawi will be located on the left hand side of the road. There are no signs for Tsankawi on Highway 4. If you get to the stoplight, you’ve gone too far. A large gravel parking area adjacent to the highway and a sign on the fence will indicate you’ve found the place.
-Coming from Bandelier, Tsankawi is much easier to find. Just past the 3rd stoplight, the gravel parking lot for Tsankawi will be on your right-hand side.
*This trail is pretty much full sun, be prepared with sunscreen and water.
Tsankawi Ruins trail is a 1.5 mile loop trail near Bandelier National Monument. If you’re going to Bandelier, don’t miss this! It’s so cool! We bought a trail guide from the gift shop at Bandelier, and I’m really glad that we did. We were able to stop at each number and learn things we otherwise wouldn’t have known, or may have even missed. This area is still studied, so if you find any pottery shards, or any artifacts at all, as always, leave them where they are. And of course, take great care on the walls, and don’t touch the wall art.
There’s a few ladders on this route, so do keep that in mind. There are also a few narrow spots on the trail, they’re not super high slot canyons or anything, just partway up the legs. It can get a little tricky, but you don’t need to be highly experienced or anything, beginners are fine here, just be careful!
There are also some ancient stairs that are closer to ladders, into the rock, enough for one foot at a time, alternating. It’s a bit weird, but not incredibly difficult. Again, just be careful.
The trail was kind of hard to spot at the point where the loop begins. I’ll make it easier for you, go left. It looks like you probably shouldn’t go that way, and it definitely confused us at first, but you do go up that way. You’ll be hitting this loop clockwise (not left right after climbing the first ladder. But you’d find that out soon enough when the way is blocked, like we found out!). The beginning of the trail was a bit hard to see/know where to go, but it gets much easier after the loop starts.
When you get to the top, you get amazing views!
There’s an old structure out there, off to the right, that’s a bit hard to spot. It used to be a school.
Continuing on the trail, you’ll come up on ruins of what was once a grand structure. You can look at the base of the ruins and imagine just how far it all stretched. Unfortunately because of how exposed it all was to the elements, there’s not a lot of this that remains, aside from the base and some brick piles. It’s still really cool to see, though.
My favorite part of this trail was after rounding the loop and coming back down the other side because there was so much to see and explore.
There were so many different cave dwellings to go inside and check out. (Click for larger images on any of the thumbnails throughout)
So many of them had amazing petroglyphs inside, too. My favorite was probably the rabbit. It was just so cool.
You’ll see a lot of cave dwellings throughout, and then really hit a ton of petroglyphs as you continue.
And it was here that I found my all time favorite petroglyph I’ve ever seen. I don’t know why I’m so obsessed with this one, but I am.
It’s weirdly eerie, isn’t it?? Anyway, here’s a photo dump because this place is awesome and there is so much to see!
If you go out to Bandelier, you really should plan to make Tsankawi part of your day. It’s seriously so worth it!