If you follow NM State Road 165 into the Sandia Mountains from Placitas, you’ll quickly find yourself surrounded by steep slopes and rocky cliff faces. It’s here that between 9,000 and 11,000 years ago the Sandia Cave was used by prehistoric humans as shelter. Discovered in 1936, and excavated a few years later by an archeological team from The University of New Mexico, the cave became one of the most important paleontological sites in the state of New Mexico. Two kinds of hunting points were found inside, along with the remains of extinct and bygone mammals.
Today, the Sandia Cave is only a 40-minute drive from the UNM campus and is accessible almost year-round. Once at the parking lot, it’s a short but steep 1 mile hike to a metal spiral staircase that leads to the mouth of the cave. From the top, one is gifted with a stunning panoramic view of a valley in Cibola National Forest and can even see up to the Sandia Crest, the highpoint of the Sandia-Manzano Mountains. The inside of the cave is spacious, spanning for approximately 20 feet before it narrows and all light disappears, becoming pitch black to the eye. For the adventurers with a flashlight, journey on deeper into the mountain and try to imagine what life would have been like thousands of years ago.
Please remember, the Sandia Cave is a National Historic Landmark and an archeological site. Treat this area with respect and practice Leave No Trace.