Painted Cave

MODERATE 3 reviews
#2 of 2 trails in

Painted Cave is a 12.4 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Santo Domingo Pueblo, New Mexico that offers scenic views and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, trail running, and nature trips.

Distance: 12.4 miles Elevation Gain: 2,709 feet Route Type: Loop


nature trips



no dogs

4 months ago

A bit difficult but worth it

no shade
off trail
7 months ago

Some trails I Love. And some, well, let’s just say I’m glad I made! I went with my husband and a younger couple we like to hang out with. I’d like to say the age difference got to me, as well as the heat. I consider this a hard hike. And , not sure I would do this hike again, unless it was really cooler and we set up camp and ventured out from the camp site. I think there are many more hikes I need to do before this one again

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Following severe fires and floods in the past decade, this hike is much more difficult than typically described. The trail down to the canyon is broad, well-defined, easy to follow, and not especially difficult. The trail in the canyon, however, is nonexistent. It has either been physically eroded away by the flooding, or is covered by debris left along the floodplains of the small creek. Getting up through the canyon to the outbound route involves scrambling over log jams and boulders, and picking through a lot of scrub. There is very little shade, as the fires decimated the stands of trees that used to be along the canyon floor (hence all the log jams). On the bright side, the creek seems to be perennial, so bring a filter and you'll have nice cool (if slightly funky tasting) water for the difficult section. The hike out of the canyon was a bit of a pain, as the lower switchbacks were eroded away, so you'll need to find your way to where the trail becomes well defined again higher up the slope. The last mile of the hike or so is a nice gentle grade up to the parking area. If you're interested in getting down into the canyon, there's an old guard station at the bottom right before the trail turns gnarly. Popping down to check that out and then heading back would be pretty easy. For reference, I'm in my early 20's, athletic build, and I'm a geologist so I'm used to lots of hiking in arid environments, and this trail still kicked my butt.

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