Los Alamos, New Mexico is the gateway to three national parks – Bandelier National Monument, Valles Caldera National Preserve and Manhattan Project National Historical Park. Los Alamos is also home to more than 150 trails with easy access right from town. Most people are unaware that Los Alamos is on the side of a volcano surrounded by five finger mesas. There are 360-degree views. It’s the perfect place to escape. If you love outdoor adventures, Los Alamos is your next destination. It is affordable, with small-town charm and world-class amenities.
Our three national parks are unlike any others. At Bandelier National Monument, one of the National Park Service’s oldest sites (1916), you will find Ancestral Pueblo dwellings scattered across a landscape of broad mesas and steep-walled canyons that provide habitat for a diversity of plant and animal life. The main loop trail (1.2 mile loop) in Frijoles Canyon provides easy access (partially handicapped accessible) to the remains of these ancient homes. Like past inhabitants, you can climb ladders into several of the small carved rooms (caveats). A more challenging climb can be found at Alcove House where Ancestral Pueblo people built homes in a natural recess in the cliff face. Four ladders and a number of stone stairs are required to make the 140-foot ascent. Although best known for archeological sites, Bandelier also includes 23,000 acres of designated wilderness. Over 70 miles of trails vary in difficulty from easy footpaths good for the whole family to more challenging ones best for experienced hikers. Permits for overnight stays in Bandelier’s backcountry are available at the Bandelier Visitor Center. There are 57 camp sites at Juniper campground (can accommodate RVs, but not hookups).
Among the newest additions to the National Park System, the 89,000-acre Valles Caldera National Preserve encompasses a dormant volcano that possesses exceptional value in illustrating and interpreting massive explosive volcanic eruptions, caldera formation, and the functioning of active geothermal systems. Its distinct topographic mosaic of expansive valley meadows, or valles (va-yes) in Spanish, lush forested volcanic domes, meandering valley streams, and old growth Ponderosa pine groves are in striking contrast to the arid New Mexico landscape at lower elevations.
Recreational activities include hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing, scenic drives, as well as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. Valles Caldera National Preserve enchants visitors with its stunning natural beauty and rich human history. At this time Valles Caldera does not have any established campgrounds or backcountry camping permits available. Visitor services are limited. Please come prepared with food, water and other essentials.
Manhattan Project National Historical Park tells the story about the people, events, science, and engineering that led to the creation of the atomic bomb, which helped end World War II. For over a decade, the Department of Energy and National Park Service, in cooperation with other Federal agencies, state and local governments, and other stakeholders, pursued the possibility of including the Department’s most significant Manhattan Project properties within a Manhattan Project National Historical Park. After numerous studies and several draft bills, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015, which included provisions authorizing the Park to be located at three sites: Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Hanford, Washington; and Los Alamos, New Mexico.
It’s easy to get to Los Alamos. By air, visitors can fly to Santa Fe or Albuquerque and make the short drive to Los Alamos. We are approximately 40 minutes from Santa Fe and 1 ½ hours from Albuquerque. It is a great place to base your visit to north central New Mexico. For more information, and to book your trip, go to VisitLosAlamos.org