GETTING THERE: Bandelier National Monument is located approximately an hour's drive northwest of Santa Fe, N.M. Visitors can fly to either Santa Fe, Los Alamos or Albuquerque, but must have a vehicle to reach the park. Take U.S. Route 285 north out of Santa Fe to the town of Pojoaque, then take Route 4 west and follow the signs to the park.
Route 4 forks just south of Los Alamos: Taking the north side of the loop (going straight) leads through the mountains to Ponderosa Campground (Backgate, in ranger slang). The Upper Frijoles Trail enters here and will take the walker on a nine-mile tour of the canyon's upper reaches, ending at the Visitor's Center. Caution: Bandelier is canyon country and hiking often involves climbing, too -- up and down.
Taking the south side of the loop (turn left) leads through the town of White Rock and eight miles further to Bandelier's main gate ($1 per car). Then you make the long, curving three-mile descent into Frijoles Canyon. Maps and trail guides are available at the Visitor's Center there. Permits are required for all back-country excursions, however short.sw sk
GETTING AROUND: Paved trails lead to all main canyon attractions. The Visitor's Center incorporates a museum, theater, gift shop and cafeteria. Limited overnight parking and/or camping is available. Sixty-five miles of maintained trails loop through the back country. A person in good condition can reach most sites in a day. Visiting certain sites like Painted Cave, however -- 12 miles one way -- may require camping out overnight.
Recommended trails: Stone Lions, a one-day round trip; Upper Falls, one to two hours; and the Frey Trail -- a one-hour walk into the main canyon from campgrounds on the mesa above. And remember: Water is scarce in the Southwest; carry more than you think you'll need. Desert weather is highly variable and hikers should be prepared for sudden shifts; always carry a rain parka and sweater.
WHERE TO STAY: Campgrounds cater to both tent campers and those with RVs and truck campers. Good hotels are available in Santa Fe and Los Alamos.
Tip: Juniper Campground on Frijoles Mesa, about a quarter mile from the main gate to the park, offers regular -- and very eerie -- evening serenades by the coyotes that inhabit the park.
INFORMATION:sw,-1 sk,1 The Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 460, Los Alamos, N.M. 87544,(505) 662-8105, or Bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos, N.M. 87544, (505) 672-3861.