The High Road from Taos
The high road between Santa Fe and Taos winds through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains before dropping down to the Española Valley, passing through interesting historic towns along the way.
Truchas was a sleepy, remote agricultural mountain town without a single paved road until its resident population began to change in the 1970’s. Pastoral beauty and northern New Mexico’s booming art scene drew artists to the area, and in the late 80’s Robert Redford filmed The Milagro Beanfield War here.
While driving through the tiny town, I spy at least a dozen artist studios and galleries in historic homes, former churches, and old commercial buildings. The scene is authentic and charming, far from the polished appearance of Santa Fe. Truchas remains very sleepy, and aside from the galleries, most of the other businesses appear to be closed or for sale.
I make a quick stop to walk Juniper at this overlook in Cordova. As we drop into the valley, the hot afternoon sun will not allow for leaving a dog in the car, and as such my photo stops along the high road are limited from here.
When I reach Española, it occurs to me that I could have trouble getting a campsite near Santa Fe on a Friday afternoon, so I change course and head toward Bandelier National Monument, passing through Santa Clara Pueblo, San Ildefonso Pueblo, and White Rock en route.
How Dog-friendly is Bandelier National Monument?
Although dogs are not allowed on any of the trails in Bandelier National Monument, that doesn’t mean that there is nothing to do in this park with a dog by one’s side. During this trip I do not get to see the Ancestral Pueblo sites, but I thoroughly enjoy walks around the paved areas of the park and my stay in the lovely campground. A future blog post about my September trip with Robert will include our Main Loop hike to the Ancestral Pueblo sites.
Inside Bandelier National Monument, our first stop is at the Frijoles Canyon overlook. Fun facts: Frijole is Spanish for bean, and is one of my favorite words. And foods. I even considered Frijole as a name for our dog, but Juniper seemed like a better fit for her personality.
The windy cliffside road into Frijoles canyon is bordered by an interesting low stone wall that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930’s. A coyote crosses my path as I round one of the road’s tightest curves. At the bottom of the canyon I stop to admire Bandelier’s CCC-constructed visitor center and administrative buildings.
We eat a late lunch creekside at the Cottonwood Picnic Area, and I walk Juni on this scenic shady road. I am puzzled by the presence of apple trees growing amongst the Riparian vegetation, until I later read that the canyon was used for agriculture in the early 20th century.
The Juniper Family Campground
The Juniper Family Campground at Bandelier National Monument is on the Pajarito Plateau, just inside park’s entrance. The campground does not offer reservations for individual sites (only the two group sites), however it rarely fills, so availability is usually not an issue. Arriving late afternoon on a Friday, I find two of the three loops – Albert’s Squirrel and Black Bear – only about 20% full. Many of the campsites in these two loops have dense foliage between the sites and as such offer privacy. These loops are best suited for tent and van camping, small RV’s and campers. Half of the 19 sites on Coyote loop can accommodate large RV’s, and I find it to be the prettiest loop of the three, though worth noting that not all sites on this loop are created equal.
Bath houses are your typical NPS restrooms: older but clean, with flush toilets but no showers. Unlike most NPS campground bath houses, the Bandelier facilities stock hand soap. A minor thing, but a nice surprise as I don’t always remember to take soap up to the loo.
I am so very lucky to find site #53 open. This site has a view of the bathhouse (so Juni will know where I am), a large level tent pad (Bandelier does not allow car sleeping), and a bear box (bears are very active in the area). And just look at my back “yard” for the night!
Here are a couple more pictures of the Coyote loop.
See more New Mexico wandering here.
Wondering where else we’ve wandered? Check out our Parks List.