While known for mesas, sheer-walled canyons, and several thousand ancestral Pueblo dwellings, this monument also has over 23,000 acres of designated wilderness.
Bandelier's human history extends back for over 10,000 years when nomadic hunter-gatherers followed migrating wildlife across the mesas and canyons. By 1150 AD Ancestral Pueblo people began to build more permanent settlements. Reminders of these pastimes are still evident in the park as are the strong ties of the modern Pueblo people. By 1550 the Ancestral Pueblo people had moved from their homes here to pueblos along the Rio Grande (Cochiti, San Felipe, San Ildefonso, Santa Clara, Santo Domingo).
The park was named for Adolph Bandelier, a 19th-century anthropologist. In 1916 legislation to create Bandelier National Monument was signed by President Woodrow Wilson.