Trailhead for the Falls Trail in Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico in a forest.

Falls Trail (Bandelier National Monument, NM)

The Falls Trail in Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico is a peaceful trail that follows Frijoles Creek along Frijoles Canyon, bringing you to a waterfall viewpoint. Unlike other nearby trails, the Falls Trail has no archeological sites to view, but it has other things going for it and is no less unique!

Hiking on a trail that follows along a forest; a trailhead in a pine forest; view of a tall waterfall. Text overlay - Falls Trail (to the Upper Falls), Bandelier National Monument.

Falls Trail – Bandelier National Monument

Type: Out-and-back
Distance: 2.9 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 1.5 hours
Trailhead: Parking lot near the Frijoles Canyon Visitor Center
Dog-friendly: No
Trail map: View map
Fee: Yes (U.S. National Park Service entrance fee)

The Falls Trail in Bandelier National Monument has two segments:

  • Upper Falls
  • Lower Falls

The Upper Falls is the first segment of the trail and currently the only accessible part of the hike.

Formerly, this trail continued beyond the Upper Frijoles Falls to the Lower Frijoles Falls (and even past that point – it was possible to trek all the way to the Rio Grande River), but the trail is washed out beyond the Upper Falls due to past flooding and has been closed indefinitely at the Upper Falls viewpoint, possibly permanently (per the National Park Service).

The trailhead for the Falls Trail is located a short distance southeast of the visitor center near the backpacker/overflow parking lot (NOT the main parking area). Between you and me, the trailhead is a complete tease as the hike starts out in a forest but leaves it shortly after, but no worries, you’ll cross paths with the forest once again on this hike!

Trailhead for the Falls Trail in Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico in a forest.

Past the partly shaded wooded entrance, the initial portion of the Falls Trail is a gradual descent on a path that’s fully exposed to the elements.

Exposed dirt path surrounded by trees and shrubs.
A look back on the Falls Trail in Bandelier National Monument

If you come on a hot day and don’t time this hike well (like we did), the sun will make this part of the hike very unpleasant. I’m not going to lie, it was BRUTAL. The kids, in particular, weren’t thrilled, and we debated a few times whether we should turn around.

But, continue on, and you will soon find relief in the most charming forest.

Walking in the shade of towering pine trees, right beside a lively creek, totally made up for any previous discomfort.

Like magic, the sweaty sour faces of our kids turned upside down as soon as they attacked the shallow stream of water winding playfully through rocks and fallen branches. I think I heard the frogs scream.

Kids playing next to a creek in a picturesque pine forest, with dark clouds overhead.
Creek fun on the Falls Trail (with a nasty storm brewing overhead)

A few simple plank bridges will navigate you across the creek several times.

Advancing deeper into the forest and eventually away from the creek changes the landscape somewhat in that it’s now more open. I don’t have any good pictures of the forest because of a storm that rolled in, but you can catch a glimpse of the scenery here at the end of this video.

After a brief climb along a hillside where you leave the forest behind and a single switchback descent later, the Upper Falls (Upper Frijoles Falls) come into view. There is an area where you can step off the trail to take a good look.

A distant view of a waterfall coming down the path carved into the lush canyon.
Upper Frijoles Falls

FYI: The waterfall is far off in the distance, and there is no access to it.

A close-up of a waterfall in the distance - Upper Frijoles Falls in Bandelier National Monument.
Falls Trail – Bandelier National Monument

This is where the Falls Trail currently ends. There is a barrier to discourage hikers from moving onward toward the Lower Falls.

View of a waterfall. Text overlay - Bandelier National Monument, a hike to the Upper Falls.

Know before you go:

  • The Falls Trail in Bandelier National Monument is not a highly trafficked trail, or at least that was our experience. Maybe we just got lucky, but we only passed by a handful of hikers on this trail.
  • The initial exposed part of the hike may seem never-ending. But, don’t give up! It gets better. (Fair warning: that same exposed part feels way worse going back up.)
  • There are steep drop-offs towards the trail’s end. If you travel with kids, keep a close eye on them around here.
  • Come prepared! It was on this trail that we managed to go from hot to pleasant to cold to freezing to hot again within maybe 40 minutes or so, due to a sudden severe storm. Temperatures can change drastically and quickly in this environment. (Lesson learned. #enoughthermalblankets #youneverknow) On top of it, there isn’t anywhere decent to hide on this trail if a storm catches up with you. (Good to know: If caught in a storm in a wooded area, find a thicker growth of trees. Squat, stay low. The only thing touching the ground should be your shoes. Stay away from lone and tallest trees, and never lean against them during a storm.)

More time-worthy hikes in Bandelier National Monument:

(The first two will probably blow your socks off!)

Or, take a look at the hiker’s guide for Bandelier National Monument where you’ll find the most important bits about Bandelier hikes all in one spot!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I accept the Privacy Policy