The Conchas fire of 2011, and the flooding that followed, has dramatically changed all of the canyons in Bandelier and Capulin canyon where Painted Cave is located. While most of the trails that lead to Capulin canyon have been repaired, there is only a small section in the canyon bottom that has been fixed. Most of the canyon bottom section is a route along the creek. Be sure to check at the visitor center for current trail conditions in the location you plan to visit.
There are two access points to start a hike to Painted Cave: the Bandelier Visitor Center or the Dome Trailhead. The round-trip hike from the Visitor Center is 22 miles or more depending on which route you chose. If you leave from the Visitor Center you have to cross Alamo canyon twice. A hike starting from the Visitor Center is not considered appropriate as a day hike. It works better as an overnight, or better yet, a two night back pack.
The round-trip from the Dome Trailhead, which is located off Forest Service Road 142, is 14.5 miles and can be done as a strenuous day hike. The Dome trailhead is not accessible from January through mid-April due to seasonal road closures. Be sure to check at the visitor center for current trail conditions in the location you plan to visit.