Bandelier National Monument - Main Loop/Alcove House/Frijoles Canyon & Burnt Mesa Trail (New Mexico)
I spent the day at Bandelier National Monument while Viv worked. Remarkably I saw few other people my entire time in the park.
I arrived at the park's visitor center at sunrise and headed out on the paved Main Loop Trail, which passes several pueblo ruins from 1200-1500 AD. The Alcove House Trail is an extension of the Main Loop and goes to the Alcove House, where I climbed 140 feet of ladders to view a cliff dwelling. From there, I hiked an additional 2.5 miles into the Frijoles Canyon wilderness. The Frijoles Canyon Trail travels through the canyon, crossing the Rito de Los Frijoles river multiple times over log bridges and rocks. Shortly after entering the wilderness I encountered a black bear walking towards me on the trail (fortunately it fled quickly). This was an incredibly beautiful 7.1 mile hike made more amazing by the fact that I didn't see another person until leaving the wilderness area after having hiked 6 miles by that time. Being able to explore the ruins and Alcove House entirely by myself was unbelievable.
After eating an early lunch at the park's cafe and checking out the visitor center, I headed to my second hike of the day, the 6 mile (roundtrip) Burnt Mesa Trail. Although not nearly as dramatic as my first hike, this trail offered solitude (I didn't see anyone else the entire hike), a different environment (the hike travels across the top of a mesa through grasslands and scattered stands of trees and brush), expansive views, more pueblo ruins (they are not labeled), and a view of the confluence of two side canyons at the end of the hike.