Frey trail

View into the canyon and the Tyuonyi ruins
In years past, all visitors took this route into Bandelier. Since the road was built, many people are missing the great views that this trail provides.

Hike data:

Controlling agency: National Park Service; Bandelier National Monument
Official URL:Park service page for this hike
Region: North-central; Bandelier National Monument.
start: 6669ft; 2033m end: 6095ft; 1858m
min: 6095ft; 1858m max: 6669ft; 2033m
elevation gain/loss: 574ft; 175m.
Elevation change from mesa top to canyon bottom.
Length: 2.09mi; 3.36km. One-way distance from the trailhead to the visitor center.
surface: dirt
condition: Excellent
ease of following: Easy
obstacles: The trail has a few steep drop-offs.
Fee: $10.00. The fee provides access for seven days.
Season: All year. Watch out for ice on the trail in winter and early spring. Falling off a steep drop-off would not be fun.
Dogs: No. Dogs are not allowed on any of the Bandelier trails.
Bikes: No.
Handicapped accessible: No.
General notes: For safety and to protect the fragile desert ecosystem, the park service requires that you stay on the trail. Additionally, collecting plants, minerals, or artifacts is prohibited.
Trailhead facilities: flush toilet(s), picnic area. Near the visitor center. trash can(s), water.
Hike attractions: exercise, geology, history, scenery, year-round access.

When we hiked it:

Date: 2003-10-26
Time it took us: 1:25.
Usage (people/hour): 0.00. We saw nobody else until we reached the main ruins trail.
Cleanliness: 9.


Waypoint Type Description
BAND VCTrailheadBandelier National Monument Visitor Center and trailhead
FREY THTrailheadFrey Trail at Bandelier National Monument, mesa top trailhead
FREYXRUINSTrail junctionFrey Trail junction with the Bandelier Ruins trail


Paper maps:
Map name Cartographer Year Scale Topo map? Online access Notes
Albuquerque New Mexico USGS 1983 1:100000 Y from (free)
Bandelier National Monument National Geographic Trails Illustrated 2000 1:28600 Y from Amazon (purchase)
Guide to Indian Country of Arizona Colorado New Mexico Utah Automobile Club of Southern California 1998 1:0 N from Amazon (purchase) Good overview road map for northwest NM. No scale is given on the map. The corner coordinates are approximate.
Los Alamos BLM 2003 1:100000 Y from Amazon (purchase)
Santa Fe National Forest US Forest Service 2004 1:126720 N from Amazon (purchase) West half
Wildernesses of New Mexico US Forest Service 1981 1:1000000 N No online copies. Base map with national forests, wilderness areas and highways.

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Getting to the trailhead:

From the main entrance to Bandelier National Monument, follow the signs to the Juniper Campground. Across from loop B is the Bandelier Amphitheater parking lot. The trailhead is at the south end of the parking lot. At the trailhead is this large sign about the history of the trail, so the trailhead is hard to miss.
Diana Northup at the Frey trailhead

About the hike:

Andropogon scoparius and the trail

The trail heads across the mesa top. At this point, it is flat and open.

One of the grasses you are likely to see is Little Bluestem (Andropogon scoparius). When this plant is growing, it is bluish at the base of the stems, hence the common name. When it dries out, this is what you see.

The views include the San Miguel Mountains, which are the western border of the park. You also get views south, and occasional glimpses of the Sangre de Cristo mountains to the east.

As you look across to the mountains, you can see areas which have burned. Years of fire suppression have led to intense fires. As you hike, consider how the landscape will change over the next several years.

The San Miguel Mountains
A bench along the trail

Clearly, the park recognizes the view, as they have provided this bench which has a view of the San Miguel Mountains.

The drought and the bark beetle infestation have turned what was previously an evergreen forest into one that looks like a mixed deciduous/evergreen forest in winter.

Along this part of the trail, look at the ground. It is covered with small crystals. Ants appear to be collecting the crystals.
Crystals in an ant mound
View up Frijoles canyon from the Frey trail

You cross a road after about a mile of hiking. A sign indicates that the visitor center is 1.2 miles further. Right after crossing the road, the trail begins to head down into a side canyon of the main Frijoles canyon, and then turn the corner into Frijoles itself. You are waling on tuff, which is welded volcanic ash. Sometimes the trail is decomposed tuff, which is like gravel or sand. Other times, you are walking on blocks of tuff, which are carved into steps. Watch out for the steep dropoffs off the side of the trail at times.

The photo to the left is looking up Frijoles canyon after the turn. The rounded mesa-top in the upper right is the end of the Tyuonyi Overlook hike.

As soon as you turn the corner into Frijoles, you also begin to get great views up and down the canyon. You also can look down upon the ruins and the ruins trail, and across to the trails on the other canyon wall, which are part of the Frijolito hike.
The large kiva and the ruins trail from the Frey trail
Kenneth Ingham with the Tyuonyi ruins in the background on the Frey trail
As you continue to descend, you begin to hear the sounds of the other park visitors on the ruins trail. When we hiked this trail, we saw nobody else until the ruins trail.

When you reach the junction with the ruins trail (GPS: FREYXRUINS), go right. This takes you to the main ruins trail. If you want to head to the visitor center (GPS: BAND VC), when you get to the next junction, go left and you will find yourself there in under half a mile.

Plants we saw along the trail:

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