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Hiking in Santa Fe

Santa Fe Offers terrific Hiking close and nearby to downtown…

595595-300x225New Mexico is full of so many beautiful hikes that I will only cover hikes within the immediate Santa Fe area. But before you run away to hike, remember that the altitude may take a little getting used to,take it slow. Try not to over exert, drink water all the time (the first sign of dehydration is irritability) and avoid caffeine and alcohol. Drink water constantly (did I already mention that?).
For more Information:
New Mexico Public Lands Information Center
1474 Rodeo Road
Santa Fe, NM 87505
Phone: (505) 438-7542
Fax: (505) 438-7582
Open M-F, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Closed weekends/holidays

Difficulty Levels, based on a healthy, slightly athletic 30-yr old
*Easy
**Moderate
***Gasp!
****Superman

Half-day hikes:

Atalaya ***(dog-friendly) A nice hike up to 9,100′ to get some exercise and see how you’re acclimatizing to Santa Fe. It starts in the parking lot of St. John’s College and leads up and up Atalaya Mountain. It’s a great place to take dogs. Bring water, a snack, your backpack, and walkin’ legs. About 1/3 of the way up, a sign will direct you to either easy or hard trails to the summit.

Monte Sol ** (dog-friendly) Behind St. John’s College. Several trails exist. Try starting from the library area. Very short hike, some scrambling.

Randall Davey House* Nature Walk: First Saturday of each month starts at 8:30 The hike takes about an hour. (505) 983-4609

Borrega Trail * (dog-friendly) Pleasant stroll through a high-alpine forest. Trail begins with a descent. Great for kids. All tree cover, not exposed areas. From the Plaza in Santa Fe, take Washington Avenue, North from Paseo de Peralta. Quickly turn right on Artist Road and follow 14 miles to Santa Fe Ski Area. Parking is in northern lots near Windsor trailhead.

Dale Ball* There are two access points: one at the North trail head on NM 475 at Sierra del Norte and the other near the intersection of Cerro Gordo and Upper Canyon Road. Easy, casual and close to town. Mountain bikers share the trail with you. Great for kids. 7+ miles.

Full-day hikes:

Bandelier National Monument* Located 12 miles SW of Los Alamos, NM. Open dawn to dusk daily, (505) 672-3861 x517 Good for all ages. Stroller and wheelchair accessible. The trail begins at the Visitor Center, which has explanatory exhibits, artifacts, and a great introductory slide show. The detached Tsankawi Section of the Monument, which includes a large unexcavated village on a high mesa, has 1 1/2 miles of self-guiding trails leading to cave structures and many interesting petroglyphs (rock carvings). Encompassing canyons and mesas on the slopes of the Jemez Volcano, Bandelier National Monument is the site of Ancestral Pueblo Indian cliff dwellings and surface villages mostly dating from the 12th-16th centuries.. The main sites are visited by a loop trail which provides a good sampling of the structures used by these people, as well as rock drawings, all in a beautiful natural setting.

Tent Rocks *What is that?! The Tent Rocks resemble giant cones of poured sand and are another natural oddity formed by volcanic activity. Covering almost 12,000 acres, the rock formations provide a surreal background for an easy day hike. To get to Tent Rocks, take Hwy 22 to the Cochiti Pueblo exit and follow signs to Forest Rd 266. About 20 miles south of Santa Fe. Bring a picnic lunch. No climbing is permitted on the rock formations.

Note:

  • The following hikes, located in the Santa Fe National Forest are not to be attempted during winter or spring. Unless you are very experienced and know the route well.
  • All are dog-friendly with some reservations. However, many, many animals share this trail. Watch your dog around the horses and especially the llamas.

Santa Fe Baldy *** (dog-friendly) A moderately strenuous day hike in the Santa Fe National Forest that takes you to the highest summit in the Pecos Wilderness. High point is 12,622 ft. Elevation gain is 2,322 ft. Hike late May to November. Maps of the Pecos Wilderness and Santa Fe Nat’l Forest are available, or use USGS Aspen Basin. Beautiful popular hike near Santa Fe that shows high elevation southwestern forest and climbs to the spectacular summit of 12,600 ft Santa Fe Baldy. Hike is about 6-7 miles one way, depending on any side trips you might take.

Begin by heading up Winsor Trail about 3/4 mile to fence national forest entrance. From here it is about 2 1/2 miles steadily downward to the valley nestled between Santa Fe Baldy and Lake Peak. Santa Fe Baldy is the bald peak on the left heading up the valley. Follow the valley up to the saddle between Lake Peak, Mt Penetente and Santa Fe Baldy. Begin the last trudge up to the top of Santa Fe Baldy, at over 12,600 feet. The trail is a bit hard to find from the saddle up to Santa Fe Baldy, it gets a little lost. Just start up the mountain, and you will run it to it eventually.

This is an excellent hike that is strenuous with spectacular views. Lightning storms build up almost everyday after July 1st so start early in the morning. It is common to begin this hike at 7 am. Don’t get caught on Santa Fe Baldy during a storm…

Nambe Lake **** (dog-friendly) Follow the Santa Fe Baldy trail through the gate and down the long descent at the beginning of the hike. At the bottom of the descent, take a right. The steep hill opens out on a beautiful, alpine meadow complete with cows. Follow the trail to left and start your ascent. This trail is rather deceptive in its simplicity. You climb and climb, not realizing how steep it is. In my ten years as a professional wilderness guide, I have never had any customers make it to the top. If you do, you will be rewarded by a lovely, blue high-alpine lake.

Lake Peak **** (dog-friendly ascent from the backside, not from the front) This is a FULL DAY extravaganza. Start very early (7 am), notify someone of your plan and bring extra layers. From the crest of Tesuque Peak at 12,040′ looking down into Santa Fe Lake nestled in the headwaters of the Santa Fe River valley with 3 other peaks in view: Santa Fe Baldy, Deception Peak, and Penitente Peak. Lake Peak can just barely be seen behind Deception Peak. Various routes to follow. Ascent from the front: walk directly up the ski area trails, heading left. Climb over Deception and follow the trail to Lake Peak. Some scrambling is involved. Steep dropoffs on either side. Even though I have seen kids at the summit, chances are that they came up the easier backside. Would definitely not recommend the front ascent to kids. From the back, follow the Santa Fe Baldy trail (see above) until you literally come to a fork in the road (in a huge meadow). Go right. You will follow the trail into tree-cover and wend your way right and up. And up. Eventually you come out on top of Lake Peak and at that point can chose to continue the trail downhill (scrambling) or turn around and take the easy route.

Lake Catherine****
The most challenging day hike in the Santa Fe National Forest. Not for degree of technical skill required but due to the length of the trail: over 16 miles round trip at 11,000″+. Follow the Santa Fe Baldy trail all the way to the saddle. The saddle will become obvious when you reach it. The Lake Catherine trail goes over the top of the saddle and the Badly summit goes to the left. Follow the clearly marked trail as it twists and turns to the right. Eventually you will reach this huge, crystal blue alpine lake. No mistaking it. Eat, take a nap, be conscious of the time and the weather. And then head home. Many people divide this hike into two or three days, camping below the meadow on the Baldy trail. Plan to start early and bring lots of warm clothes, food, and water.