Great Hikes: La Cieneguilla Petroglyphs, Santa Fe, NM

Updated on July 11, 2018
Tom Lohr profile image

Tom Lohr loves holidays, just not Christmas. He is still bitter about not getting the GI Joe Gemini capsule as a present in the mid-60s

Parking Lot Entrance
Parking Lot Entrance | Source

The Quick and Dirty

DIFFICULTY: easy to moderate

TYPE: out and back

LENGTH: 1 mile

TIME: 30 minutes, more to view the petroglyphs


DOG FRIENDLY: Yes, leash required.

La Cienequilla Petroglyphs

To save you the googling time, a petroglyph is a symbol carved into rock. Unlike many ancient cultures, the peoples that made the petroglyphs did not have an abundance of plant life in which to make dyes for painting. They had to resort to scratching their art into the surrounding rocks.

They were made by Puebloan people between the 13th and 17th centuries. Those folks now live further south in what is now the Cochiti and Domingo Pueblos. While they have moved to new digs, their art has endured. The petroglyphs consist of hundred of carvings, ranging from the popular local symbol of a hunchbacked flute player, to birds and what some even believe is an alien. Did they have visitors? Strange beings continue to be seen among the rocks, but they are mostly tourists from back east.


Getting There

Finding the petroglyph trailhead is pretty straightforward. At the intersection of NM 599 (the Santa Fe bypass) and Airport Road, head west. Or you could set your GPS or Google Maps to take you to the Santa Fe Airport. Once you reach the airport entrance, just keep driving.

Follow the road for 3.3 miles. On the right side of the road you will see a small brown sign signifying that you have reached the parking lot trailhead. This is where you being your hike:

CAUTION: Vehicle break-ins have occurred. Secure your vehicle and valuables.

CAUTION: There are no water sources at the trailhead or along the trail.

CAUTION: There are no restrooms at the trailhead. Go before you go.

CAUTION: During the warmer months, rattlesnakes are a common sight. For this reason it is recommend that you only take your leashed dog in the winter months.

La Cieneguilla Petroglyphs:
662-, 674 Paseo Real, Santa Fe, NM 87507, United States

get directions

The Hike

For the majority of the hike you will traverse a flat trail. There are arrows on low wooden posts pointing you in the right direction. You will reach a point where you are directed to pass through a gap in the adjacent fence and begin heading up the hill. This is the most challenging portion of the hike. While the uphill portion is short, it is very rocky. Good hiking shoes are recommend, and a set of trekking poles are strongly recommended. If you trip or lose your balance and fall, it is not going to be pretty.

Arrows Guide You to the Cliff
Arrows Guide You to the Cliff | Source

As you continue uphill, the path is somewhat difficult to find as it is interspersed in a dense rock field. There are actually several routes up to the petroglyphs. Choose the path easiest for you. It is during this portion of the hike you need to keep a sharp lookout where you step. Rattlesnakes inhabit the area and are a common sight. Avoid them and they will not bother you.

Path Up the Rocky Hill
Path Up the Rocky Hill | Source

At the end of the uphill trail, you will reach a small and rocky bluff/cliff. It is on this cliff face that most of the petroglyphs were drawn. The bulk of the more interesting carvings are to your left along the path as the base of the cliff. You can also go right and see some of the same. If you have time, do both. It is the petroglyph viewing that can turn this 30 minute hike into a 2 hour historical tour if you so desire. Return the same route you came.

Really, Really Old Art
Really, Really Old Art | Source

Get Out of Town

Santa Fe is a wonderful city to visit. But it can also be pricey, crowded and full of artists hawking their latest modern creation. A trip to the petroglyphs is a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of downtown Santa Fe. It is close but remote, offers an entirely different type of art, and it is free. Don't let the snakes scare you off, just be aware of where you step and you will be fine.

Turn Your Hike Into a Game

Taking youngsters on your hike? Turn your hike into a game of "find the petroglyph." See if you or your kids can find the three most famous petroglyphs:

1. The Hand

2. The Thunderbird

3. The Alien

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • THE DIRTY DISH profile image

      Stacy Becker 

      24 months ago from Santa Fe, New Mexico

      Great article! Appreciate the info!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)