Frijolito Ruins loop

The Frijolito ruins and the sign indicating where they are
A short loop trail to a pueblo that tree ring data indicates was built 1431-1447. In addition to the ruins, you also get good views of the canyon bottom, and views in all directions from the mesa top.

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: 6066ft; 1849m end: 6066ft; 1849m
min: 6066ft; 1849m max: 6558ft; 1999m
elevation gain/loss: 492ft; 150m.
No value
Length: 2.82mi; 4.54km.
surface: dirt
condition: Excellent
ease of following: Easy
obstacles: None.
Fee: $10.00. The fee provides aaccess for seven days.
Season: All year. Watch out for snow and ice in winter and spring. Summer is likely to be hot.
Dogs: No. Dogs are not allowed on any of the trails at Bandelier.
Bikes: No.
Handicapped accessible: No.
General notes: The trailhead is at the visitor center which also has a cafe (with good green chili cheeseburgers and chili cheese fries. Yum!).

The park service requests that you stay on the trails. It is illegal to disturb any archaeological sites.

Trailhead facilities: flush toilet(s), picnic area, trash can(s), water.
Hike attractions: history, scenery.

When we hiked it:

Date: 2003-10-26
Time it took us: 2:22.
Usage (people/hour): 1.27.
Cleanliness: 9.


Waypoint Type Description
BAND VCTrailheadBandelier National Monument Visitor Center and trailhead
FRIJOLEY1Trail junctionFrijolito Ruins loop trail back into canyon


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 visitor center, walk into the picnic area and turn right. The trailhead is near the restrooms in the picnic area.
Sue Barns, Steve Koch, and Diana Northup at the trailhead

About the hike:

The north Frijoles canyon wall and the Frey trail
The trail starts off flat, in the valley bottom. It does not remain flat for long.

Right after the trailhead, the trail splits; go left. The trail is well-signed, so the choice is an easy one.

The trail starts heading up almost immediately, and you are walking up switchbacks. The trail sometimes has steps made out of rocks in it. From the switchbacks, you get great views of the north canyon wall, the Frey trail, and the Ruins trail.

From the mesa top, which you reach after about 40 minutes, you have great views east, including the VLBA radio telescope antenna and the Sangre de Cristo mountains.

In this photo, you can see the view east, including the trail on which you just arrived.

View east, including the Sangre de Cristo mountains and the VLBA antenna
potshards at the Frijolito ruins
The ruins are unexcavated, so most of what you are seeing is humps covered with vegetation. However, we saw this rock where somebody placed pottery shards.
From the ruins, take the trail heading west. You get a nice view of the Jemez mountains as you head this way.
The trail heading west, with a view of the Jemez Mountains
Crystals in an ant mound
On the mesa top, look at the ant hills. They are often full of small crystals. You also see a lot of these crystals all over.
At (FRIJOLEY1) you come to a junction. Take the trail to the right, down into the canyon. The trail descends gently, which is a surprise, but gentle on the knees.
The trail heading down
The north wall of Frijoles canyon
Again as you head down the canyon, you get great views into the canyon, and of the ruins on the canyon floor and in the north wall of the canyon.

As you head down, when the trail and walls turn white, look for the moss growing around the bases of the oaks on the right side of the trail.

This trail eventually ends up at the junction right behind the restrooms in the picnic area.

Oak leaves and moss at the base of the oak tree

Plants we saw along the trail:

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