Sierra de Guadalupe Cave Paintings
The largest concentration of rock art sites are located at the southern end of the Sierra de Guadalupe range, west of Mulegé. Hotels in town can arrange guided trips to the closest ones for US$35–45 per person.
In a small canyon near Rancho La Trinidad, one wall remains of a cave that was once painted on all sides. The site is known for an image of a large deer painted in a striking orange-red color. The deer is filled with a checkerboard pattern, and beside it are two fawns. According to historian Harry Crosby, the deer represents a recurring theme in Baja rock art, and the one at La Trinidad is one of the best examples found anywhere on the peninsula.
To visit the site, you must secure a permit from INAH (San Ignacio, tel. 615/154-0222, La Paz, Calle Aquiles Serdán 1070, tel. 612/123-0399) and hire a licensed guide, either in Mulegé or at the ranch itself. The ranch is located 29 kilometers west of Mulegé. From there, a 6.5-kilometer hike, including several river crossings, leads to the site.
Plan to carry your own water and wear submersible footwear. It takes at least a half day to hike to the cave, and the canyon is scenic enough to consume an entire day. You can also make stops at several other ranchos along the way to watch leather tanning, cheesemaking, and other ranch activities.
There are two groups of murals at La Trinidad. To reach the first, you need only cross the river once. But the second site requires several more crossings. In years when the water level is high, one of these crossings may involve swimming 100 meters through a narrow stone gorge—a true backcountry thrill for the adventure-seeker.
Two experienced guides run half-day trips out of Mulegé: Salvador Castro Drew (tel. 615/153-0232, reserve tours by phone only) and Ciro A. Cuesta Romero (Rubio 27, tel./fax 615/153-0566, cirocuesta [at] hotmail [dot] com) of Baja Adventure Tours. Trips cost about US$40 per person and can be arranged through any hotel in town.
If you decide to drive your own vehicle to the ranch, you’ll need high clearance and sufficient spare parts. Guides at the ranch will be less expensive, but you’ll have to navigate your way there along a network of unsigned roads. Hotels in town can provide specific directions to the ranch. The route begins on Ice House Road toward San Estanislao.
The best-known cave painting in the Sierra de Guadalupe—and at one time in all of Baja—was discovered by virtue of its proximity to Mulegé, a town that has existed since mission times. The cave is located on the site of an abandoned ranch that belongs to the Gorosave family.
To reach it, you need to drive 23 kilometers miles north of Mulegé to Km. 157 and then 30 kilometers (2 hrs.) west into the interior to Rancho Las Tinajas, where you must register with INAH. Mulegé-based guides can take you to San Borjitas in a long one-day trip, or you can drive yourself and hire a guide at the ranch.
Once signed in, you must drive several more miles through two locked gates (keys will be provided when you register) to Rancho Baltasar, where the hike (less than 1 km) to the cave begins.
The San Borjitas canvas measures 30 meters long by 24 meters deep with an average height of 3.5 meters. On it are some 50 human figures, painted in a uniquely Sierra de Guadalupe style. Colors are more varied than in other parts of the Great Mural region (red, black, ochre, gray, and white). Bodies are elongated with legs spread and arms stretched out to the sides, rather than overhead. And many of the figures are filled in with vertical lines. Another unusual characteristic of this site, according to historian Harry Crosby, is the appearance of adjacent and overlapping figures painted at right angles to each other.
© Nikki Goth Itoi from Moon Baja, 9th Edition