Tsankawi Ruins is a 1.5 mile loop trail located in a small section of Bandelier National Monument that is located northeast of the main part of the Monument. Most people that visit Bandelier National Monument pass this area on their way to the main part of the Monument and don't realize what they are passing unless they visit the main area, obtain a map from the park service and study that map. For that reason, Tsankawi is a far less crowded and much more peaceful place than the main park.
The trailhead is located on the east side of Highway 4, just south of Highway 502 at N35 51.600 W106 13.474. A word of caution, you must have a permit to park your car here. There is a self service kiosk a few yards in from the trailhead where you can purchase a permit. If you visited the main part of Bandelier, leave your entrance pass on your dashboard so that the park service can see it. The park service patrols the area frequently. If you don't have the permit you will be ticketed.
From the trailhead the trail descends briefly toward the kiosk before heading uphill. You quickly reach the top of a small ledge. The trail continues east along this ledge. At N35 51.678 W106 13.253 you reach an intersection on trails. The main trail along the ledge heads off to the right. To the left is a well worn, but narrow foot path that heads up to the mesa above. When I say well worn I mean there is a channel that ranges from a few inches to as much as a foot worn into the rock by the feet of the Anasazi people that walked the trail. It is truly an amazing sight. As you ascend the trail to the mesa, look around at the nearby rock walls. You should spot petroglyphs.
When you reach the top of the mesa you are standing in the middle of an ancient village. At a glance it may not look like much. However, look around and you will likely see broken pieces of pottery, evidence of stones organized by human and near the far end of the mesa are a couple of upright stones against a juniper that were laid out to catch and retain rain water runoff.
At the far end of the mesa you will reach a ladder. The ladder takes you down to cliff dwellings. These are some pretty amazing dwellings. It is clear that the area was settled for an extended period of time as evidenced by the well worn steps in the rocks. Here you will see petroglyphs, multi room cliff dwellings and storage rooms, pieces of broken pottery, painted walls and cave ceilings blackened by the soot of fires.
After visiting this section you'll have to climb the steps worn into the cliff wall to get back up to the main trail back to Highway 4. For a while, the trail is similar to the trail to the mesa top, a well worn channel in the rock. Then the trail becomes the familiar flat ledge as you approach the intersection of the loop. Then it is just a straight shot back to Highway 4.
Check out the Official Route and Triplog.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.