Upper Crossing Trail, Upper Crossing Trailhead - Ponderosa Campground, Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico

Upper Crossing Trail - 3.8 miles

Upper Crossing Trailhead - Ponderosa Campground

Upper Crossing provides entry into the lush, green and infrequently traveled backcountry of Bandelier

Upper Crossing provides entry into the lush, green and infrequently traveled backcountry of Bandelier

Round-Trip Length: 3.8 miles
Start-End Elevation: 7,625' - 7,089' (7,625' max elevation)
Elevation Change: -536 net elevation change (+710' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Upper Crossing Trail - 3.8 Miles Round-Trip

The backcountry of Bandelier National Monument is relatively untouched and offers a unique chance to discover hidden Ancestral Pueblo ruins and petroglyphs. Elevations averaging 7,000' see greater biological diversity and provide hikers with an entirely different experience from more popular Visitor Center area trails.

The Upper Crossing Trail is an ideal entry point to the Bandelier backcountry. It begins from the Ponderosa Campground, located about 6 miles northwest of the main Bandelier Entrance Station off Route 4.

From the campground, the trail descends thick pockets of ponderosa and lodge pole pine. Fallen needles silence the trail, increasing your chance to see wildlife. Bear, mountain lion, coyote and fox inhabit this area; while encounters are infrequent, they do occur. At .47 miles (7,555') a sign marked 'Upper Crossing Trail' appears; bear right and continue on the Upper Crossing Trail. At 1.25 miles (7,466') the trail begins a relatively steep descent with the creek now on your left.

The trail begins a final descent (1.45 miles : 7,421') to the canyon floor. A series of steep switchbacks lead down the canyon wall to the canyon floor (1.85 miles : 7,090'). Once on the canyon floor, the trail immediately crosses Frijoles Creek (el Rito de los Frijoles) and continues .05 miles to the Upper Crossing intersection (1.9 miles : 7,089').

The Upper Crossing intersection is an access point for multiple destinations.

From Upper Crossing, the following can be reached:

  • Bandelier Visitor Center: 6.1 miles

  • Yapashi: 6.2 miles

  • Painted Cave: 9.1 miles

  • Ponderosa Campground: 1.9 miles

  • Apache Springs Campground: 6.4 miles

The Upper Crossing area is an ideal place to find solitude in the lightly traveled Bandelier backcountry.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N35 49.975 W106 21.450 — Upper Crossing Trailhead

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • Ponderosa Campground is a group site for 10 persons or more. Reservations are required.

  • The Upper Crossing Trail is also a backcountry entry point. Backcountry camping is available with a permit obtained from the Visitor Center. Before your trip, call the park for current backcountry and campground information, as well as trail conditions. Flash floods can close trails with little notice.

  • Backpacking permits must be obtained for any overnight stays in the park's backcountry. Access to Juniper campground, located near the main Bandelier Entrance Station is 24/7 except in the event of a closure due to heavy snows or other emergencies.

Rules and Regulations

  • Do not litter. Leave the area as you would want it left to you

  • Stay on trails. Climbing walls or cliffs is not allowed unless a ladder is provided

  • Collecting, disturbing or defacing archeological sites / artifacts is a federal felony offense. Violators are always prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law

  • Removing or picking flowers / plants is illegal

  • DO NOT feed wildlife. Plague can be carried by squirrels and even a small bite from a squirrel can result with infection

  • NO PETS on trails. They are restricted to campgrounds, picnic areas and parking lots. NEVER keep you pet locked inside your vehicle unattended

  • There are no bikes allowed on trails. They are allowed only on paved park roads. This is also true for motorized bikes

  • Fires are restricted to the campground areas and available cooking grills. Collecting firewood is prohibited

  • Permit is required for any backcountry camping in Bandelier

Directions to Trailhead

From Los Alamos, take Route 501 south-west for 5 miles until it dead ends into Route 4. Turn left on Route 4 and in .1 miles, make your first right-hand turn into the Ponderosa Campground. The trailhead is located in the back of the parking lot, to the right hand side.

Contact Information

Bandelier National Monument
15 Entrance Road
Los Alamos, NM 87544

Visitor Center daytime phone
(505) 672-3861 x517

Visitor Information (recorded)
(505) 672-0343

Group reservations
(505) 672-3861 x 534

By Fax

Visitor Center Operating Hours

Summer: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (Saturday of Memorial Day weekend through Monday of Labor Day weekend)

Winter: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (When mountain Standard time is observed; approx. Nov.- Mar.)

Spring/Fall: 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (When Mountain Daylight time is observed in April & Sept.- Oct.)

Park and Visitor Center are open daily except:
Closed December 25 and January 1.

All day use areas (including Frijoles Canyon, Tsankawi, Cerro Grande trail, Burnt Mesa trail, etc) of the park open to recreation at 6:30 AM year-round. Day use areas must be vacated by official sunset (on summer solstice this is 8:25 PM).

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