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Santa Fe, New Mexico

La Cieneguilla Petroglyph Site

These Pre-Columbian petroglyphs contain representations of birds, deer, hunters, and even some early Native flute players. 

Cave paintings shouldn’t get all the glyph-glory. There are other kinds of rock art that are beautiful, accessible, and just really cool. The La Cieneguilla Petroglyph Site, not far from Santa Fe, are all three.

The La Cieneguilla site is a short hike off the Paseo Real, and is home to one of the largest collections of Native rock art (called glyphs) in the American West. The area is overseen by the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, and a 1991 archeological survey recorded over 4,400 images within less than a mile. Bird figures are a common motif, accounting for almost a third of the glyphs. Some of the panels are thought to go back to the Archaic Period (that’s around 8000 to 2000 BCE), and there are some modern glyphs (that’s archeology-speak for graffiti) as well, but most of the images are Pueblo and date to between the 13th and 17th century.

The site is a short trail hike from the highway, and the BLM has provided some roadside parking. Sadly, it may be the easy access that has led to some of the glyphs being damaged by target practice and roving paint-ballers. The BLM warns against damaging the area, which is “fragile and irreplaceable.” So do what they say and tread lightly. The glyph-birds, glyph-hunters and glyph-musicians will thank you for it. 

Know Before You Go

Near Santa Fe Airport - Travel 3.3 miles west from the intersection of Airport Rd and NM 599, road becomes Paseo Real. Bureau of Land Management parking area is on the west side of the road. Follow arrow-marked trail for 5 to 10 minute walk to the basalt cliffs where the petroglyphs are located