Day Hike in Valles Caldera National Preserve

Car Camp in Bandelier National Monument and Day Hike in Valles Caldera National Preserve
Wednesday, June 12 to Sunday, June 16, 2024

Valles Caldera

You’re invited to hike and camp with the Dallas Sierra Club in northern New Mexico. Valles Caldera is a newer property of the National Parks system—an ancient volcano’s 13-mille wide caldera near Los Alamos, New Mexico. The preserve was established in 2000 when Congress appropriated $101 million for the land. Trail access was significantly expanded only by 2022. Movies and serials have been filmed here. See why on arrival.

Participants will camp at the Juniper Group Campground in Bandelier National Monument. We have reserved a group site for the nights of June 12 through 15. The camp has water for drinking, flush toilets, and picnic tables. Each morning, we’ll drive eighteen miles to Valles Caldera to hike a trail before returning each afternoon to our same camp. Hikers bring their own tent and food.  


Wednesday, June 12: Drive or carpool to Juniper Campground at Bandelier National Monument. Bandelier is 10.5 hours from Dallas, not counting stops. New Mexico will be on Mountain Daylight Time, so gain an hour on entering New Mexico. Pitch your tent and relax. 

Thursday, June 13: Day hike the Rito de Los Indios Trail, an out-and-back route that follows a stream to the north rim of the caldera for an exceptional view of its circumference. It’s 4 miles out and four miles back for this hike, highly recommended by a Park Ranger. You can preview this and other trails on the AllTrails app or the NPS Valles Caldera website.  We’ll have time to visit exhibits, including the Cabin District and old-growth Ponderosa grove. 

Friday, June 14: Day hike the Banco Bonito Trail, a 9-mile loop via a lava field, Ponderosa pine forests, and El Cajete Meadow, where we hope to see wildflowers. 

Saturday, June 15: Hidden Valley Trail, just 3.5 miles for the out-and-back hike along a creek and canyon. This hike wins high ratings from reviewers. If the trail is unsuitable due to rainfall, we can substitute the popular East Fork Jemez River route (6 miles) or another trail. Participants may depart for home Saturday afternoon or stay at Juniper Campground until Sunday morning. 

Sunday, June 16: Check out by 11 a.m. to depart for home or another destination. 


Typical June high temperatures at Bandelier are mid-80s, lows in the mid-50s. Mid-day highs at Valles Caldera are in the low 70s, lows in the high 30s. Rain would be unusual, but hikers should arrive prepared with a rain shell and light jacket for morning chill. 


Participants are welcome to drive their own vehicles. Carpooling is encouraged, as shared transportation reduces travel costs and offers companionship. Riders typically share transportation expenses with the driver. Agree before committing to a carpool about how expenses will be shared. A popular formula is for riders and the driver to share fuel expenses and a mileage allowance of fifteen to twenty cents per mile for maintenance and wear. Sierra Club leaders will not assign participants to a carpool, as assignment exposes the Club and its leaders to an unacceptable liability risk. The outing leader may provide periodic information about rides offered and riders wanted but cannot guarantee a ride or riders. When cars are used for transportation between the campground and trailheads hikers have options to travel by car with or without a carpool or not to travel. 


Each hiker is responsible for personal camping and hiking gear and food. Sharing a tent or other gear with a friend is fine. A basic includes: 

  • Tent, sleeping bag or blankets, sleeping pad 
  • Pack: Day pack for water, lunch, snacks, rain shell, and personal essentials 
  • Food: Dehydrated foods requiring only boiling water are available at outing stores, but good and less expensive alternatives are also available from grocery stores. Bring no-cook meals for lunches on the trails. Charcoal fires are allowed in grills provided at Juniper, but we recommend cooking with tiny butane/isopropane stoves because they don’t emit smoke or embers. You are welcome to bring coolers to Juniper Camp if desired. 
  • Water: Drinking water is available from pumps at Juniper Campground. Bring suitable containers.
  • Clothing: Layers are key to comfort, given the temperature range we will experience. Wear trail runners or boots. Some hikers wear a thin inner sock layer to prevent blisters. Don’t forget a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen for UV protection.
  • Other stuff: Don’t forget a headlamp or flashlight and personal health and first aid items. Use a lightweight trowel and toilet paper for personal waste disposal when on trail and a zip-lock bag for used toilet paper. That’s right—pack out the toilet paper!  You can throw it away at the campground.

Leave No Trace:

Leave-no-trace wilderness ethics are expected of all participants. All trash must be packed out. Pets, firearms, and smoking are not allowed.


 Minors may participate with leader consent if accompanied by their parent or legal guardian. This outing is not recommended for pre-teen children. 

To Register:

After reading the information above, if you want to go on this trip, follow these steps:

  1. Fill Out Forms: Open this PDF. It has three forms, a general information form, a trip participation form and a medical form. You can print these forms and fill them out by hand, or you can fill them out on your computer and then print and sign them, or you can download the form, fill them out on your computer and save them
  2. Pay for the trip: The fee for this trip is $100.00 per person. Click here for payment options. The trip fee covers expenses for the group campsite, vehicle entry reservations for Valles Caldera, and expenses for the Dallas Sierra Club's outings program
  3. Send your forms and payment:  Send your forms and payment (if paying by check or money order) to Mark Stein, 3631 Normandy Ave, Dallas TX 75205-2102 OR email your forms (the pdf you filled out) to (and mail only check).

Your registration will be confirmed by email or phone.


The trip fee is non-refundable after May 31, 2024. Refunds before that date are subject to a $25.00 cancellation fee and will be paid by check.

If the Sierra Club cancels the outing for any reason, your $100.00 trip fee will be refunded in full, but Sierra Club is not responsible for and will not refund any payments you may have made for airfare, lodging, or other expenses. 

Additional Costs:

There’s an additional entry pass fee of $25 per vehicle on entry into Bandelier National Monument, but the fee is waived if anyone in the car presents a National Parks pass. The entry pass is good for 7 days.


Contact outing leader Mark Stein at 214-789-4596 or

California Seller of Travel Law: Sierra Club is a California nonprofit corporation. California has a "Seller of Travel" law that requires us to post this notice:
CST 2087766-40. Registration as a seller of travel does not constitute approval by the State of California.