Alcove House

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 1.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 6120 - 6240 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 1 hr.
Trailhead: Visitor Center
Fee: $15/person or $25/vehicle
Attractions: Cliff dwelling




The Alcove House trail is in the Bandelier National Monument near Los Alamos, New Mexico. The half mile long trail begins off of the Main Loop trail where it travels along the creek up Frijoles Canyon to a high alcove that is accessed via a series of wooden ladders and stairs that were hewn right out of the rock on the slope of the cliff. A restored kiva awaits intrepid visitors to the alcove where they are also able to enjoy the same commanding view of Frijoles Canyon as the Ancestral Puebloans that once called it home.


The Alcove House trail begins at the point where the Main Loop heads back on the return side of the loop toward the Visitor Center.


The trail is wide as it starts out to provide access for vehicles to service the restroom that is near the alcove.


Several plank bridges carry hikers across the creek crossings that come up along the way.


A pit toilet can be found a short distance from the end of the Alcove House portion of the trail that leads up Frijoles Canyon.


After passing the toilet the trail becomes more primitive in nature.


Several log benches provide a place for those that are unable to climb up to the Alcove House to wait and watch the rest of their party.


A sign at the bottom of the first ladder warns those with health concerns and those that have a fear of heights not to attempt the 140 foot climb up to the alcove.


Railings provide a little protection from the exposure on the side of the cliff. Those that are making the climb with children will want to be sure to keep them close at hand.


The middle ladder is the longest and probably the most intimidating.


There is one last short ladder just before entering the alcove. The alcove itself has an uneven floor that slopes toward the valley below. The main feature of the alcove is a reconstructed kiva.


Holes in the back of the alcove that would have been for roof supports are evidence where rooms would have been.


This is the view from the alcove looking toward 'The Narrows' portion of Frijoles Canyon further upstream.


And this is how it appears looking down from the alcove at the upper ladders. Hopefully we provided enough photos in the YouTube slideshow at the end of this post for people to see what the climb up to the Alcove House and back down again looks like. All the time that we were there 1 or 2 people were waiting below. We spoke with one person that had attempted the climb but reconsidered before reaching the top. Anyone visiting Bandelier National Monument that has a little extra time after hiking the Main Loop should at least consider hiking up to the base of the Alcove House and checking it out before totally dismissing it. The hike is short, the scenery is pretty and Frijoles Canyon has a peaceful feeling that makes enjoyable to hike. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.