Guadalupe Mesa – Astialakwa Ruins


If you ever drive on New Mexico Highway 4 towards Jemez Springs you can’t help but to notice the tall mesas on either side of you. What’s even more amazing is that on top of many of those mesas are ruins of prehistoric villages. I have read that at one time over 30,000 people lived on the various mesa tops in the general vicinity. They are the ancestors of the people who now live in today’s Jemez Pueblo a couple of miles to the south.

As you head north, the first tall mesa on your left will be Guadalupe Mesa. It rises 1000 feet from the creek at its base, and it has a ruin on top – the village of Astialakwa. It is where the final hold outs of the Pueblo Revolt were subdued by the Spanish in 1694. I decided to visit it a few days ago.

I once read that it is a moderate hike to the top of the mesa. But I am not sure that I would rate a one thousand feet climb in less than a mile a half as moderate. Although there is a trail to the top, you can’t get to it from here. To reach the trail you have to wade across the creek at the base of the mesa, work your way through the thickets that line the creek and then climb to the top of the small mesa that is south of the tall mesa. Once you reach the top of the small mesa you can now start looking for the trail. Once you find it, you can take it all the way to the top, but you’ll have to pay attention the entire way as the trail can become very faint in some places and very steep in others. In some places the footing can be loose.

If you are not experienced in backcountry hiking, I would recommend that you not do this hike by yourself. But if you do make this hike, I think you will find it worth the effort. The scenery is spectacular, the views are amazing and there is so much to find on the way to the top and even more to find when you get to the top. And if you do go to the top, remember to leave any ruins and artifacts that you discover alone. Collecting is illegal and it is wrong. The artifacts belong where they are.

If you are interested in what you saw, you can learn more at the Walatowa Vistor’s Center at Jemez Pueblo.

Here are some pictures from my recent trip.

This is Guadalupe Mesa. It is a thousand feet to the top. You need to get to the top of the lower mesa to the left to find the trail to the top.

Once you cross the creek below and reach this mesa top you can start looking for the trail.

You can start seeing a trail to the right.

As you work your way up, you’ll pass through many layers of rock and find interesting plants along the way.

As you go up, the views will be spectacular.

When you get above the red sandstone, you’ll be in layer of what once was volcanic ash or tuff. Those black spots are obsidian pebbles called Apache tears.

Finally on top; it’s a long way down

These walls along the edges were fortifications to keep the Spanish from reaching the top.

Those piles of stones were once structures; they go on for hundreds of yards; there must have been hundreds of rooms on the mesa top when the structure was still intact; can you imagine climbing up and down the mesa every day to get to your fields.

After you’re done exploring on the top, you’ll have to go back down. You can see part of the trail in this picture. Watch your step.


  1. Thx David, you just may have inspired me to finally climb the Guadalupe. Only lived in this area off and on for forty yrs. There are many more ruins further north on Virgin Mesa. Thx also for reminding folks to not remove anything.

  2. I worked at a B&B in Jemez for a few years. Sometimes, guests would request an ‘off the beaten path’ adventure. Mesa de Guadalupe was my choice for a guided hike.

    As you point out, this is a serious backcountry hike, and not for those who aren’t properly equipped and prepared. It should not be attempted in inclimate weather or after heavy rain. The trail is dangerous in perfect weather conditions.

    It should be noted that after parking at the pullout on Hwy 4, you’ll be crossing private property to reach and ford the Jemez River. Be respectful.

    • Thanks for the comment. There are places where you can ford the Jemez River without entering private land. If you’re not certain about the best place to cross the river, check the Santa Fe National Forest Map as it has land status information. Whether public or private, all land should be respected. And to add emphasis to weather. Two hikers were struck by lightning on this trail last summer. So don’t do this hike if there is any possibility of rain. DR

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