Mountains and National Parks

Mountains and National Parks

Mountains and National Parks

Mountains and National Parks Topics

Test Your National Park Knowledge

National Park Etiquette

National Parks of New Mexico

Bandelier National Monument Trails

In a remote village near Los Alamos County, preserved ancient ruins provide a step back in time to the Ancestral Pueblo way of life. Filled with dwellings, petroglyph engravings, and pictograph images carved into light-colored volcanic cliffs, Bandelier National Monument is a reminder of human history in the Southwest from over 11,000 years ago.  With over 70 miles of hiking trails, Bandelier is a great location to explore a piece of ancient history. Here are a few maps to some of the most insightful trails of Bandelier suggested by the National Park Service.

Main (Pueblo) Loop Trail Map

Area Map

Los Alamos/White Rock Area Map

Backcountry Trails Mileage Map

Access Points to Rio Grande

For additional information about the history and culture of Bandelier National Monument, please visit the following National Park Service reference:


Valles Caldera

Valles Caldera

At the top of the Jemez Mountains in north-central New Mexico, exists one of the largest volcanic craters on Earth. Similar to Yellowstone in Wyoming, Valles Caldera is considered a dormant supervolcano that last erupted between 50,000 to 60,000 years ago. The landscape first formed 1 million years ago when several volcanic eruptions produced an immense outpouring of ash, pumice, and pyroclastic flows. Despite a tumultuous geologic history, the 13.7-miles of volcanic landform offers a serenity filled with grassy meadows, streams, hot springs, and a diversity of plants and animals. All are welcome to visit the diverse landscape and enjoy a selection of the following activities presented by the National Park Service.

Whether a beginner or expert astronomer, visit a NM State Route 4 pullout overnight to view some of the darkest skies in northern New Mexico.

Backcountry Access
Explore more of the volcano!

Winter Activities
Valles Caldera usually turns into a wonderland during the winter months just waiting to be explored.

Day Hiking
Lace up your boots and explore!

Cast your line to hook a trout.

Horseback Riding
Bring your own horse and explore more volcanic vistas from the comfort of your saddle.

Take a chance in one of New Mexico's premier elk and turkey hunting locations.

Mountain Biking & E-Biking
Enjoy the scenery on two wheels.

Ranger-Led Activities
Join a park ranger for walks, hikes, van tours, and campfire programs.

Wildlife Viewing
Test your observation skills with 51 species of mammals, 117 birds, 6 reptiles, 3 amphibians, and 6 different types of fish.

Guided Tours and Other Services
These businesses are authorized to provide commercially guided activities and services.

To learn more about the geologic evolution and diverse landscape of Valles Caldera., please view the following resources from the New Mexico History Museum and National Park Service.


national parks patches

Test Your National Park Knowledge

Do you enjoy national parks? Interested in testing your knowledge and learning fun new facts about some of the greatest parks? If so, this quiz is for you! This quiz will test your knowledge on topics such as: which is the largest national park site, which national park accumulates the most snow, which national park has the most lighthouses? This quiz will not only test your knowledge but also provide you with more information and fun facts to use and impress others at your next trivia night!



National Park Etiquette

The Do’s and Don’ts of Watching Wildlife

Original Article From ParkChasers.Com

Visiting our national parks can be an exciting experience. However, it is important to remember that there are certain “Do’s and Don’ts” that individuals must keep in mind when visiting these national parks. These simple guidelines are put into place to help protect not only the visitors at these parks but also the wildlife and environment as a whole. Before visiting your next national park, please refer to the following 25 Do’s and Don’ts when watching wildlife, driving on the road, hiking on the trails, and while camping. 


1.  Talk with a ranger when you arrive at a park for the best places to view wildlife. 
The ranger can give you the best recommendations about where wildlife was last seen, any alerts or closures, and give you SAFE places to watch wildlife away from the road or mating areas. 

2. Follow the rules about safe viewing distances.  
The National Park Service posts guidelines for each park about the minimum wildlife viewing distances.  Each park is different, so review the rules when you arrive. 

3.   Take plenty of photos. 
Invest or rent high quality camera equipment that allow you to take wildlife photos without endangering yourself or the animal.  When visiting Denali National Park and Kruger National Park in South Africa, we rented a super telephoto lens from (Affiliate Link)

No selfie sticks allowed!

4.  Watch the body language of wildlife.  
Even if you’re a safe distance away or in your vehicle, wildlife may not be comfortable with your presence.  If the animals respond to you (grunting, pinning ears, startle, flying away, you’re too close. 


5.  For goodness sakes, people.  Don’t get so close! 
Many of the wildlife encounters and injuries we’ve seen this season are directly related to people not following the rules.  If you see someone too close, give them a friendly but firm reminder that they’re putting everyone at risk. 

6.  Don’t allow pets and wildlife to mix. 
The National Park Service has specific guidelines about pets for each park.  Become a BARK Ranger and know the regulations to avoid your pet and the wildlife from sharing food, diseases, or a dangerous encounter. 

The Do’s and Don’ts On the Road 


7.  Follow the posted speed limit.  
This is one of Greg’s biggest pet peeves when we’re traveling in a national park.  He’ll be attempting to safely follow the posted speed limit only to have an anxious traveler tailgating or pass in a no passing zone.  You’re on vacation people, slow down and enjoy it! 

8.  Pull aside to let traffic behind you pass. 
That being said, if you know you’re traveling slower in order to take extra pictures or pulling a camper, use the designated pull outs.  Any more than three vehicles behind you, and you should move over to allow the traffic to pass. 

9.  Leave road rage at home. 
Two wrongs don’t make a right.  If you get cut off, if a driver is moving slow, if someone sneaks in a parking space before you, let it go.  Your summer vacation is NOT the time to get in an argument, even if the other person was at fault. 


10.  Don’t ‘dust’ hikers and bikers on the road.  
Thankfully our close calls with vehicles when we’ve been hiking and biking on national park roads have been few and far between.  More often, we find ourselves coughing up a mouthful of dust from vehicles whizzing past us.  In Denali National Park, even the park buses are required to slow down enough not to kick up dust on pedestrians using the park road.  It’s good etiquette to follow everywhere! 

11. Don’t drive off designated roads or parking areas. 
Hey you! 

Yes, you and your giant SUV that just pulled off the side of an already full parking area to ‘squeeze in’ a space that’s not really a parking space. 

Well, now your giant SUV tires are squashing native and protected plant species.  If the sign says “NO PARKING” there’s a reason for it! 

And don’t get us started on the people who decided to joy ride through Joshua Tree National Park during the government shutdown… there’s not enough room in the blogging world for what we have to say about that! 

The Do’s and Don’ts On the Trail 


12.  “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.”  
Sometimes we think it should be a requirement to recite the Leave No Trace principles at the entrance gate.  The parks belong to each of us, and it’s our responsibility to take care of them.  Learn the rules and then follow them.

13.  Stay on designated trails. 
See #11.  Your feet and an SUV tire are not that different when it comes to endangered habitat.  

14.  Abide all posted signs and barriers. 
It’s incredibly hard for us to read the stories of injuries and deaths from people not following warnings and posted signs on hiking trails.  Even worse, it’s when accidents happen for something as foolish as wanting a selfie or a better Instagram photo.  But not only are these individuals risking their own safety, they also risk the safety of first responders and the rescue operations for anyone who has to deal with the consequences of poor choices.  

15.  Pack it in.  Pack it out. 
Each year, the National Park Service has to deal with more than 6,500 tons of trash in Yosemite National Park alone. And that’s what found it’s way into a trash can.  Spend a few days in the backcountry and you’ll be shocked at what you find left on the side of the trail.  

People, please.  Just put the trash back in your vehicle or your backpack. If you are hiking and nature calls, you had better have a plan to manage it.  The same goes for your CLIF bar wrapper and the receipt from the t-shirt you bought in the gift shop. 


16.  Don’t mess with the cairns or stack your own. 
National parks like Acadia rely on the existing cairn system to help hikers navigate.  Trust us.  You’re not doing anyone a favor when you decide to topple every cairn on your hike to get rid of anything ‘manmade.’  You’re also not doing anyone a favor if you stack your own cairn and start diverting traffic off the designated trail. 

17.  Don’t talk on your phone or video-chat with someone back home. 
This one is Amy’s biggest pet peeves.  If you want to quickly push her buttons, then walk past her on the trail shouting into your cell phone.  “What was that? I can’t hear you out here!” Imagine that—you’re in the middle of a national park and your cell phone doesn’t work.  The rest of us can hear you and are ready to launch your phone off the mountain.  Better yet, block the middle of the trail to hold up your video chat and show the view to someone thousands of miles away on a tiny, blurry screen who has no idea where you are anyway.  [Insert facepalm]

18. Don’t fill your pockets with souvenirs.  
While we won’t name any names, we have some friends and family members that occasionally need reminders about putting rocks, flowers, and other ‘souvenirs’ in their pockets to take home.  If each one of the 300+ million people that visit a national park each year stuffed something in their suitcase, in a short time there’d be nothing left to see. 

The Do’s and Don’ts in the Campground


19.  Make a campground reservation well-in-advance. 
Once, when we were in Denali National Park in 2017, we witnessed a woman screaming at a park staff member because she’d driven all the way to the campground only to find there wasn’t a place to camp.  While we think this was probably an exception to the normal human behavior rule, we regularly see people posting frustrations online about not finding anywhere to stay just a few weeks ahead of a trip.  With more than 300 million visitors, etiquette says it’s time to start making reservations.  

20.  Follow food storage rules. 
National park campgrounds have strict guidelines about foot storage.  We know you know this, but wildlife that become accustomed to human food pose a significant risk, both to park visitors and to themselves.  Know how to follow safe food storage guidelines and follow them every time. 

21. Respect the noise level–even when it’s not quiet hours. 
Again, we know that everyone has the right to enjoy a national park in their own personal way.  But, is there any way that it could not involve a thumping stereo, fireworks, or foul language?  Be respectful that even though quiet hours might not be until 10 pm, no one wants to be near the rowdy, ‘party’ campers.  Especially if you have small children or thin tent walls. 

Don’ts :

22.  Don’t leave trash behind in your campsite. 
See Etiquette Rule #15.  The same applies for your campsite.  Don’t burn anything besides wood in your campfire ring either.  Aluminum cans, leftover food, and other garbage do NOT belong in the fire pit. 

23. Don’t wash dishes the bathrooms.  
We never know what to say to the person standing at the sink washing dishes directly below a posted sign that says “No washing dishes in the sink.”   Wash dishes in the designated washing area or in your campsite.  If the park has bear restrictions, dispose of your gray water in the designated area as well. 

24.  Don’t set up camp in non-designated places. 
National parks have strict guidelines about where you can and cannot camp in both front country and backcountry areas.  If you’re camping in an organized campground, set your tent or RV up in the designated space (and avoid trampling the vegetation on the perimeter of the site).  In the backcountry, follow the rules contained on your permit.

Wow.  You made it through our entire list of do’s and don’ts for visiting a national park.  We’ve got one final piece of national park ettiquiete that we think is not only good for traveling to a national park, but it’s also, in general, a good rule to follow in life:  

25. Follow the Golden Rule. 
There’s one final rule we want to share about national park ettiquette. When you’re camping, hiking, wildlife viewing, or otherwise enjoying a national park, always follow The Golden Rule.   Treat other visitors, rangers, and park staff how you would want to be treated—with respect.  Treat wildlife, plants, and the scenery of how you would want someone to behave in your own home—with respect.  

If you happen to see someone NOT following the Golden Rule, give them a gentle reminder: The national parks belong to all of us.