Continue on to a series of dwellings built into the steep but soft volcanic tuff cliffs. Steps lead to these caves; you can climb a short ladder to enter one. The trail then returns to the valley floor and crosses Frijoles Creek. Here you can take a side trail to continue about 1/2 mile along the creek to Ceremonial Cave, accessed by tall ladders; those who don't want to navigate the ladders will still enjoy walking along the stream, which gurgles even when covered with a crust of ice.
You'll see the effects of the recent fire as you drive west on State 4 and east on State 501 into Los Alamos. To see how a forest can recover, visit the site of the 1977 La Mesa fire (ask rangers for hiking directions). It's proof that wildlands can heal.
HERE: Bandelier is 46 miles from Santa Fe. Go north on U.S. 84/285 to Pojoaque, west on State 502, and west on State 4.
DISTANCE: 2 miles round trip to Ceremonial Cave.
DIFFICULTY: Easy (use caution on ladders).
COST: $10 per car.
CONTACT: Bandelier National Monument Visitor Center; (505) 672-3861, ext. 517.