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The exposure grade describes the potential consequences of falling or slipping off the path.
Low Exposure: The path is on completely flat land and potential injury is limited to falling over.
Medium Exposure: The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.
High Exposure: Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.
Extreme Exposure: Some trail sections are extremely exposed where falling will almost certainly result in serious injury or death.
This 1.5-mile trek down into Frijoles Canyon has got it all: history; dramatic, expansive canyon views; beautiful plants, including brilliant red cactus blossoms; and the opportunity to hike downhill only! The Frey Trail, originally called the Old North trail, used to be the primary way to get from the North Rim down to the bottom of Frijoles Canyon.
Once the entrance road was built in the 1930s, vehicles could drive in so the trail became used more for recreation than transportation.
This is a visually-stunning trek, so bring a camera and take ample time to enjoy it.
The mesa at the top brings hikers to the rim of the canyon, where the highly-developed trail drops precipitously 550 feet down the canyon wall.
Due to beautifully-built switchbacks, the wide trail is easy to navigate whether descending or ascending.
Be sure to stop frequently to take in the sweeping views of the canyon below and the sheer wall on the opposite side, where the Long Trail can be seen snaking its way up and Tyuonyi Pueblo on the canyon floor. After reaching the bottom, the Frey Trail meets up with the Main Loop Trail near Tyuonyi Pueblo.
From that point, options include hiking the Main Loop with all its archeological sites, heading back UP the Frey Trail, or continuing on another 1/2-mile to the Visitor Center.
From mid-May to mid-October, hikers can hop on the free shuttle and ride back up to Juniper Campground.
This is a wonderful option for hikers with small children or those who can't do the 550-foot ascent to get back to the trailhead. This hike begins at the Amphitheater parking area at Juniper Campground.
https://www.nps.gov/band/planyourvisit/frey-trail.htm It is important to note that you're required to enter Bandelier via the free Atomic City Transit shuttle between mid-May and mid-October.
Certain exemptions allow for personal vehicles: https://www.nps.gov/band/planyourvisit/shuttle.htm One great way to spend days exploring Bandelier is to camp in the Juniper Campground, located quite near the Park Entrance with easy access to most trailheads: https://www.nps.gov/band/planyourvisit/juniper-family-campground.htm