Puye Cliff Dwellings

A place between earth and sky.

Tour Hours

Summer Season
April - September
Gates open at 8:30am
Tours start at 9 am and continue on the hour until 5 pm.
Gates close at 6 pm

Winter Season
October - April
Gates open at 8:30 am
Tours start at 9 am and continue on the hour until 2 pm.
Gates close at 3 pm

Closures change annually but please note that Puye Cliffs is closed the week before Easter; June 13; August 12; and for the Christmas holiday.
Check our calendar for updates.

Puye Cliffs Welcome Center

Stop in before you head up to the scenery! In addition to purchasing tour tickets, you can buy a light meal, top off the tank, grab extra snacks & a newspaper, and shop for Santa Clara Pueblo souvenirs.

Please allow 15 minutes from the Welcome Center to drive to the site for your tour.

Additional Tour Information

Puye Cliffs tours are available 7 days a week as weather permits.

Closures will be posted on our website home page or calendar.

Discounts for children and seniors are available for each tour. Puye Cliffs also offers group & school tours and rates.

Motorcycles are not allowed in the area or on the Puye Cliffs Scenic Byway. No pets, please.

Personal photography is allowed.

Puye Cliffs Scenic Byway

Enjoy your drive along the seven-mile byway featuring expansive views of the Santa Clara Native Americans' historic areas as well as northern New Mexico's landscapes and natural wonders.

Puye Cliffs: A History

Puye Cliffs was home to 1,500 Pueblo Indians who lived, farmed and hunted game there from the 900s to 1580 A.D.

Puye Cliffs' inhabitants then moved into the Rio Grande River valley. They became the ancestors of today's Santa Clara people, who now live at Santa Clara Pueblo, 10 miles east of Puye.

Puye Cliffs comprises two levels of cliff and cave dwellings cut into the cliff face, as well as dwellings on the mesa top. Over one mile long, the first level runs the length of the base of the mesa. The second level is about 2,100 feet long. Paths and stairways were cut in the face of the rock to connect the two levels and allow people to climb to the top of the mesa.

Representing early Pueblo architecture, cave dwellings on the mesa top were part of a single, multi-storied complex built around a large, central plaza. While the total number of rooms is unknown, the south part of the complex had 173 on the ground floor and multiple stories in various places, similar to modern-day Taos Pueblo.

The largest of all settlements in the Pajarito Plateau, Puye Cliffs was excavated in summer 1907 by Edgar Hewitt in cooperation with the Southwest Society of the Archeological Institute of America. Puye was the first of the ancient pueblos of the Rio Grande Valley to be systematically excavated.

It was also named a National Historic Landmark in 1966.

The Pajarito Plateau

The Pajarito Plateau was formed from successive layers of basalt and volcanic tuff created by eruptions of the Jemez Caldera volcano. Over time, erosion by rain, snow, wind, and cycles of freezing and thawing carved through the tuff to form sheer cliffs that border the canyons of the Jemez Mountains.

The weathering of the cliffs created a hardened but easily broken surface layer with a soft and crumbly underlying tuff that could be dug away by stone tools.

Beginning in the late 900s, the upland mesas flanking the east side of the Jemez Mountains were settled by ancestral native peoples. At first, they gathered into hundreds of separate family-size dwellings. By 1300 A.D., they were converging into a few principal villages of increasing size.

Such villages included Puye, Tsankawi, Tyuonyi, Otowi, Shufinne and Tsirege. The word "tsirege" - which means "little bird" in the ancestral Tewa language - was adopted and translated into the Spanish "pajarito" by Edgar Hewitt. He applied it as a general name for the great area of prehistoric settlement around the eastern flanks of the Jemez Mountains.

Harvey House at Puye Cliffs

Harvey Houses were built by the legendary Fred Harvey Company in the late 1800s as amenities for tourists traveling to the Southwest by railroad and, later, by passenger car. The Harvey House at Puye Cliffs was the only Harvey House built on an Indian reservation.