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Frijoles Canyon

Frijoles Canyon

Frijoles Canyon

Page Type: Canyon

Location: New Mexico, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 35.78440°N / 106.2656°W

Object Title: Frijoles Canyon

Activities: Hiking

Season: Spring, Summer, Fall


Page By: Orphanage

Created/Edited: Sep 26, 2008 / Sep 26, 2008

Object ID: 446768

Hits: 6345 

Page Score: 82.48%  - 15 Votes 

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Frijoles Canyon
Frijoles Canyon from the rim.
Frijoles (bean) Canyon is the heart and soul of Bandelier National Monument. It is located in North Central New Mexico...aka "The Land of Enchantment".

Bandelier National Monument is comprised of almost 33,000 acres of rugged, scenic beauty on the slopes of the Jemez Mountains.

Frijoles Canyon is the main attraction to most visitors to Bandelier due to its preservation of ancestral pueblo ruins.
Geology of Frijoles Canyon
Close-up of the geology of Frijoles Canyon.


Frijoles Canyon Wall
Frijoles Canyon wall.
Frijoles Canyon
Frijoles Canyon wall.
Frijoles Canyon and Bandelier are located within the Jemez Volcanic Field. The Valles Caldera National Preserve is the remnant of a supervolcano that erupted and collapsed many thousands of years ago.

The volcano was the major force in sculpting the landscape of the Pajarito plateau. Interspersed between the flows of heavy lavas were other avalanches and showerings of volcanic ash in great depth. When cooled and welded together they are called tuff.

After the volcano subsided erosion became the primary factor in forming the landscape. For many thousands of years water drained downhill forming gullies, then ravines from the Jemez Ridge down into the Rio Grande. Frijoles Canyon and its neighboring canyons are the products primarily of water erosion, etched into a one-time smooth slope of volcanic deposits.

Many of the sheer canyon walls provide good cross sections of the lava and ash deposits exposed in cliffs several hundred feet high. These cross sections reveal at their base a flow of lava or basalt, overlain by perhaps 200 vertical feet of tuff, and capped by another flow of lava forming the rimrock of the mesa-top.
Frijoles Canyon Wall
Another view of the wall.
Frijoles Canyon Wall
Rugged canyon wall.


Cavate in Wall
Cavate in canyon wall.
Frijoles Ruins
Frijoles Canyon ruins.
Frijoles Canyon is a virtual treasure trove of ancient Native American culture. People have been living in this canyon for thousands of years. As you wind through the canyon you can certainly imagine how hard life must have been for the people living here.  
Access Ladder
Looking down access ladder to Alcove House.
Alcove House
Dwellings in Alcove House.
The ruins and exhibits in Frijoles Canyon are very hands-on. You can experience how it felt to climb hundreds of feet up ladders to your home for yourself.

Some of the dwellings were rock structures built on the canyon floor while others were "cavates" produced by voids in the tuff of the canyon wall and enlarged by humans. The 1.2 mile Loop Trail from the visitor center provides access to these features.  
Alcove House
Alcove House
Kiva Re-construction
A trail extending beyond the loop leads to Alcove House (formerly called Ceremonial Cave) a shelter cave produced by erosion of the soft tuff and containing a small, reconstructed kiva that may be entered via a ladder.


Frijoles Canyon
Looking down into Frijoles Canyon.
Entrance to Frijoles Canyon
View of entrance to Frijoles Canyon.
Frijoles Canyon
Canyon wall from switchback.
Hiking can be what you make it in and around Frijoles Canyon. The casual hiker will certainly like the aforementioned trails within the canyon. There are other trails less than 5 miles in length.

Hikers with more endurance will want to venture out of the canyon into the surrounding wilderness. These hikes of more than 10 miles round trip consist of Frijoles Canyon and Rim Trail, Painted Cave, and Yapashi Pueblo.

Canyon Views

Frijoles Canyon
View across Frijoles Canyon.
Upper Frijoles Falls
Upper Frijoles Falls

Recent History

Some of you may remember the Los Alamos forest fire of 2000. This fire started as a controlled burn in Bandelier that got out of control due to wind. It eventually destroyed over 48,000 acres and 400 families in Los Alamos lost their homes.

Camping and Weather

Camping is available at Frijoles Canyon.

Always check the weather before embarking on your trip.

Getting There

This link will get you there.


Bandelier National MonumentCave housesCeremonial CaveRoute to Ceremonial Cave