Cave Paintings Near Mulege
The cave paintings near Mulege, as well as the rock art, offer up another outstanding Baja adventure. This one is easy to arrange and involves an almost effortless day trip. There are actually three sites that can be seen in one day, although it would be better to spread your adventure over two days, so you don’t have to rush your visit. And, it’s not like Mulegé isn’t a delightful place to spend a few days. There are more than a few cave sites which are fairly close to Mulegé, although some involve a difficult drive and quite a bit of hiking. Here, we are going to outline the three sites that are the easiest to visit.
The closest cave paintings to Mulegé are those of La Trinidad. On the way to La Trinidad is another one of Baja’s wonders, Piedras Pintas, a spectacular area of rocks that are strewn around an area about the size of two football fields. This rock pile is unique for the extraordinary number of petroglyphs displayed in a relatively small area. The rocks were probably once part of a series of cliffs that are very close by. My guess is that a powerful earthquake hit the area and caused the cliff to cave in.
Hiking among these rocks will lead to the discovery of hundreds of petroglyphs painstakingly carved into the rocks. Representing mostly sea life, with a few animals these ancient rock carvings are unique for the large number of carvings in such a concentrated area. There are estimated to be over 1,500 carvings in this one group of boulders. The Piedras Pintas site is a little over a half hour drive outside of Mulegé.
To visit the cave paintings at La Trinidad you may have to get a little wet. At certain times of the year, it is necessary to wade through some shallow water to get near the cave entrance.
The dominant figure in this cave is that of a deer or maybe an antelope painted in bright red. This outstanding painting is done in a kind of checkerboard pattern. There are two younger animals very close to the primary figure. This cave is partially collapsed and one can only guess what figures might have been lost in such a tragedy.
There are other figures painted in different colors, one a fish with a highly detailed rib structure. Right next to the fish is a deer, painted in white. This deer is lying flat on its back, probably being depicted as dead. The white deer was obviously done by a different artist than the one who painted the red deer.
The dominant deer at La Trinidad is very similar to a painting found in a cave thirteen miles away at a site named Los Venados. It could be assumed that, perhaps, the artists were one and the same.
San Borjitas is a well known cave painting site located about 40 miles north and west of Mulegé. It is located in a remote canyon and requires a light hike to visit. This cave is considered to be unique because of the number of figures painted in a small area and the fact that all of the figures are painted larger than life size. There are eighty different figures represented in this cave, most are painted on the sloping ceiling of the cave. More than a dozen of the figures in this cave are impaled with arrows.
Control of the cave paintings falls under the guidance of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). All visitors to the cave paintings must purchase a special permit and must be accompanied by a registered guide.
The necessary permits, guides and guided tours can all be arranged through official guides in Mulegé. Do not try to visit these sites on your own! First, you need the proper permits. Second, it is extremely easy to get lost in the desert and mountains around Mulegé, as all of the cactus begin to look the same.
We have used a local guide in Mulegé for cave painting and rock art tours, on more than one occasion, and we feel more than comfortable recommending Ciro Cuesta. He is a highly respected guide who knows this area like the back of his hand and speaks excellent English. Ciro Cuesta will explain more than you will ever remember about the petroglyphs, cave paintings and the delicate environment of the area. You can call Ciro at his office at (615) 153-0566 or his cell phone (615) 106-8892. Or, contact him through the Hotel Cuesta Real (615) 153-0321 or the Hotel Hacienda at (615) 153-0021 in Mulegé.
Online Research links:
Cave Paintings and Cowboys of Baja California
by: Debra Valov
Great Mural Rock Art, Baja California
Images of Baja California: Images by Harry Crosby
U.C. San Diego Special Collections Library