Falls Trail

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 2.8 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 5868 - 6066 feet
Cellphone: 0-4 bars
Time: 1 hr. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Falls
Fee: $15/person or $25/vehicle
Attractions: Scenic waterfall and geology




The Falls trail is located in the Bandelier National Monument near Los Alamos, New Mexico. The trail begins near the Visitor Center where it follows along the creek through the lower end of Frijoles Canyon toward the Rio Grande River. The trail ends at an overlook for the first of two waterfalls. At one time the trail reached all the way to the river but has since been washed out above the lower waterfall.


The Falls trail begins a short distance from the Visitor Center at the end of the backpackers parking lot. There is a water fountain at the trailhead where you can refill your water bottles before you begin the hike.


The trail quickly begins climbing the shoulder of the mountain as it heads away from the trailhead.


A kiosk appears at the top of the first rise that has useful information about the trail. The Falls trail is an interpretive trail that is best enjoyed with the assistance of the booklet 'A Guide to the Falls Trail' which is available at the Visitor Center.


Frijoles Creek channels moisture to a swath of trees and bushes that thrive along its course. The riparian growth extends for no more than an hundred feet or so on each side of the creek. Beyond the reach of that moisture the plants are much more desert like. At times as the trail heads down the canyon it is sheltered in the shade by the trees while at other times it is exposed to the full sun of the desert environment.


At stop #5 there is a cool looking geological feature that is somewhat common in the area known as 'Tent Rocks'. The trail guide explains how the rocks, which are made up of volcanic tuff, are usually created.


Near the 3/4 mile point from the trailhead the trail cross Frijoles Creek by way of a plank bridge. It crosses back to the other side once again in another quarter mile.


As the trail gets closer to the falls it enters the Bandelier Wilderness Area. A short distance later it passes through a narrow gap in the mountain and becomes much more exposed. Parents with small children will want to keep them in hand for the rest of the way to the overlook. Other than the exposure the trail is plenty wide and safe to hike (when it is ice free anyway).


The overlook and the end of the trail is at a switchback on the edge of the ravine. The trail is closed beyond this point because part of it is missing.


All the different colored rocks of the cliffs around the waterfall make the gorge a particularly beautiful scene. That coupled with the sound of the water spilling down the rocks into the pool below create a pleasant setting for the end of the trail.


A short distance away at the mouth of Frijole Canyon the Rio Grande River flows along its course, gathering up each stream that it passes, on its long journey from Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico.


For those that have an extra 90 minutes the Falls trail is an enjoyable hike to add to the itinerary while visiting Bandelier National Monument. We were able to hike the trail along with a half dozen others around the Visitor Center and campground in one day and still had plenty of daylight left before returning to camp. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.