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Ceremonial Cave

Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National Monument Links:

May 14th, 2001

2.0 miles
380 vertical feet
Total Time: 1:57

Rating: 8/10

Directions:   View Driving Map

The trail starts behind the visitor's center and begins with a paved trail to a big kiva. There were lots of people on the trail in contrast to our previous hikes on this trip. Jean and I studied the kiva, set into the ground, perhaps 30-40 feet in diameter. A kiva is a large circular structure used primarily for religious activities, still used by many Puebloans.

Big Kiva

Cliffside Trail

Shortly after the kiva we walked through the ruins of the Tyuonyi pueblo. The ruins here are quite well-preserved compared to the Tsankawi ruins. Here, dozens are rooms can be seen. The roofs are gone, but many of the walls remain mostly intact.

Cliff Dwellings

Next, we climbed to the cliff dwellings. Natural caves and man-made structures served as the home of ancient Pueblo indians. Again, the pamphlet is well worth the cost of $1 and provides much information on the history of the ruins. We climbed into and out of several caves, most of which were devoid of petroglyphs -- in fact, some were desecrated with modern graffiti.

Jean inside one of the caves


After passing the caves we came to what's referred to as the long house -- a long stretch of man-made structures stretching for hundreds of feet along the cliff face. Of course there's not much left now, but there are still remnants of some of the walls, along with holes in the cliff where the roofs used to be. You can still see where there used to be 2 or even 3 stories of rooms. There are also several remaining petroglyphs above where the roofs used to be.

Long House

The holes are where the roofs used to be attached

We descended and turned right onto the trail toward Ceremonial Cave. Instead of heading along a paved trail next to the cliff, we were now on solid dirt, headed through a forest along a creek. After a half mile we reached the bottom of the Ceremonial Cave. We now had to climb 140 feet of ladders and stairs to reach the cave.

Ladder leading up to Ceremonial Cave

Inside the rebuilt kiva

After a few minutes we reached the top. The cave contains a reconstructed kiva, which I descended into. It's small - only about 7 feet deep and 10-12 feet across. Not much to see. It was noticeably cooler in there, however. I climbed back out and then we descended back to the trail. As we hiked back toward the visitor's center, it started to rain. And then it started to pour. The area doesn't get much rain, but apparently it has lots of short showers during the spring and summer. In fact it was quite refreshing.

Hikers entering the rebuilt kiva at Ceremonial Cave

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