Hike: Tsankawi Ruins

Santafe.com - September 20, 2011

"Tsankawi is an ancestral pueblo village, which was occupied during the 1100s-1500s..."

Hike: Tsankawi

This hike is part of the Bandelier National Monument in Los Alamos. It is currently open, although the recent Las Conchas fire burned more than 60% of the park, which remains closed to visitors. Tsankawi (pronounced “san-KAW-we”) is a relatively easy hike, but in the short distance, you will see cavates (small cave-like openings in the volcanic tuft), petroglyphs and other historical artifacts. I highly recommend this hike for visitors because it is easy and the mesa’s elevation allows you to see hundreds of miles of New Mexico.

Distance from Plaza: 33 miles / 45 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Trail Length: About 1.5 miles / 1.5 hours

Fee: $12/vehicle for a 7 day national park pass (good for admission to Bandelier)

Pets: No

Bikes: No

Weather Conditions: Not recommended for the winter/ Not shaded during the summer. Be aware of lightning in the summer, and return to your car if you see any.


Directions to Trail Head: From the plaza- head east on San Francisco Street toward the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis and turn right onto Cathedral Place. Turn right onto east Alameda St, and after a mile turn right onto St. Francis, which becomes highway 285. Follow the highway for 15 miles, and exit toward Los Alamos onto 502 west. Continue for about 10 miles, and at the split, merge onto NM-4 west, toward Bandelier National Monument and White Rock. After 3.8 miles, the trail head will be on your left. If you get to the stop light in White Rock, you have gone just a bit too far. The trail head is pretty difficult to spot.

About This Hike: Tsankawi is an ancestral pueblo village, which was occupied during the 1100s-1500s. The pueblo people moved to be closer to the Rio Grande by 1550 and, by the mid-1700s, Spanish settlers came to the area.

You will walk along the same paths the pueblo people wore into the soft tuft (sometimes called “tufa”). As the hike goes on, you will climb up and down three kiva ladders and go through a few narrow passes. You get to see many unexcavated ruins and see pottery shards and even ruins from old buildings. Do not take any of the pottery shards from the area.

The cavates are ancient dwellings carved into the soft volcanic tuft. Along this hike, you can walk into a cavate and see how the ceilings still have ash from centuries of fires. There are petroglyphs inside the caves, as well as along the hike. The Tsankawi hike is such a unique and wondrous experience, laden with history and striking, endless landscapes.

Here is a map of the White Rock/Bandelier area: http://www.nps.gov/band/planyourvisit/upload/los%20alamos%20white%20rock%20map.pdf

Random Fact: Tsankawi means “village between two canyons at the clump of sharp, round cacti”

Information: 505.672.3861