Roughly 11 miles north of the main entrance to Bandelier National Monument is a relatively unknown and detached unit of the park known as Tsankawi. Although this area is easy to overlook, visitors to Bandelier should not pass up a chance to visit this gem. The primary attraction at Tsankawi is the short loop trail which provides access to numerous unexcavated ruins, cave dwellings carved into the soft volcanic tuff, as well as several petroglyphs from the Ancestral Tewa Pueblo that lived here until the 16th century. Many sections of the trail are worn 8 to 12 inches deep into the tuff.
The people who lived here during the 15th and 16th centuries built homes out of the soft tuff (compacted volcanic ash) and used the canyons below to grow crops. Here’s looking out from one of the cavates:
Generations of use have carved trails into the soft volcanic tuff:
Along the route there are three ladders hikers will have to use in order to move between the upper and lower cliffs:
Although classified as “rock art”, petroglyphs have a deeper meaning, some known to modern Pueblos, but others now forgotten. Here are a few examples:
The descendents of the Tewa now live in nearby San Ildefonso Pueblo. For a much better understanding of the area and its former inhabitants, hikers should pick-up an interpretive trail guide at the main visitor center. You can also view one online.
Hikers should also note that the trail is very exposed to the elements and should not be taken during thunderstorms, or when icy conditions exist. In the summer, make sure you bring plenty of water.
Trail: Tsankawi Loop Trail
RT Distance: 1.5 miles
Elevation Gain: minimal
Max Elevation: 6,600 feet
TH Location: On State Hwy 4, less than 1/4 of a mile from State Hwy 502 (near White Rock)
Map: Bandelier NM Trails Illustrated Map
A Guide to Bandelier National Monument - More than a guide, this book includes a 38 page introduction which gives a brief description, from prehistory, European arrival, to the WWII era and its aftermath. Dorothy Hoard's use of photographs, and cleanly drawn hand sketches to show Bandelier's trails, from the Visitor's Center trailheads, State Road 4, St. Peter's Dome, and Eagle Canyon Pumice Mine trailheads. Dorothy gives the avid trail hiker, and the armchair nature enthusiast a clear idea of what the landscape holds, plus plenty of regional flavor sprinkled in with historical facts and information.