This guest post on easy Santa Fe hikes written by avid hiker Karen Denison former owner of Outspire Hiking and Snowshoeing was updated 6/5/16.
The area around Santa Fe begs folks to get out of town (even just a little) for some exploring on foot. Here are five easy Santa Fe hikes to put on your list.
Canyon Trail – Tent Rocks
Canyon Trail, Kasha-Katuwe (Tent Rocks National Monument)
This is an out-and-back route; a portion goes through a labyrinth-like slot canyon that water has carved into the soft volcanic rock. One-way the route is 1.5 miles. It concludes with a switch-back 400-foot climb to a ridge offering amazing views of the “tents” and surrounding landscape. It can be hot in summer and there’s no water available at the Monument, so bring plenty along with you. No dogs allowed.
Nature Conservancy Trail
Note: according to an alert reader, this trail is currently not a loop. We’ll update this hike when we have the current data, but note that the hike is now longer.
The Nature Conservancy Loop Santa Fe Canyon Preserve
Accessed from the city parking lot at Cerro Gordo and Upper Canyon Road, this charming little loop encircles the former Two-Mile Reservoir site which served the city until 1992 when it was drained. The very gentle 1.5 mile loop passes through more than 500 acres of thriving riparian area with birds, beavers, deer, and some nice fossils (look and touch but don’t take) on the upper portion of the loop. Interpretive signs give some clues into the history and natural history of the area, and the adjacent Audubon Center offers even more. No dogs allowed.
Aspen Vista Road Santa Fe National Forest
A 15-mile drive up to the Santa Fe ski basin takes you through a variety of ecological communities as the road climbs from 7000 feet above sea level (in town) to its finish at just over 10,000 feet. About 12 miles from town, a large signed parking area on the right welcomes you to Aspen Vista Picnic Area and a gated dirt road used to access communication towers on the top of Tesuque Peak (six miles up the winding road at 12,000 feet elevation). It serves more frequently as a place to walk dogs, chat with friends and enjoy the views–especially when the aspen leaves are golden. It’s a fairly steady 6% grade along its distance. Many folks walk approximately 1.75 miles (500 foot gain) to a nice rock overlook before returning to their cars. You’re in the mountains, be prepared for sudden weather changes, especially in summer.
Tsankawi Loop Trail
Tsankawi Loop Trail, Bandelier National Monument
This 1.5 mile interpretive loop takes visitors through a mostly unexcavated ancient Pueblo Indian village with some amazing views from the top of the mesa (flat-topped hill). Some ladder climbing is required to reach the upper mesa top, but these are firmly bolted to the rock. Although very, very tempting, please don’t remove the painted pottery pieces or disturb the rock carvings (petroglyphs). Admire the former home of the San Ildefonso Pueblo people and try to imagine what life must have been like here in the 1400’s. Pets are not permitted on this trail. Here’s more on Tsankawi.
Rio en Media
Rio en Medio Trail (Trail #163), Santa Fe National Forest
This is the trickiest of this list both to find and to hike. Off a dirt road through the tiny village of Rio en Medio some miles north of Santa Fe is a parking lot for three or four vehicles. The eight mile trail climbs about 3000 feet (with a detour at Aspen Ranch) to the Santa Fe ski basin parking area. However, if you are prepared with topographic map in hand, you can travel a mere 2 miles one way (climb 500 feet) to reach a lovely waterfall on the creek. Be aware; there are numerous creek crossings sans bridges and alternative paths that lead off the “official” trail. Dogs are welcome–but if they are wanderers, keep them on leash as this is no place for anyone to get lost. Signage is limited so don’t even think of going without a map. Yet, especially in summer, this is a cool, green hike along a lovely, chuckling stream.
As with any outing around Santa Fe, please go prepared when you head out, even for a short hike. Our weather can change quickly and being caught out in a lightning storm is dangerous. If you are caught in a storm, stay out of dry creeks, streams and other waterways. There may be unexpected flash floods. Our mountains are considerably cooler than town and our high elevation can mean that you won’t walk as quickly as you do at home; schedule accordingly. Bring a rain jacket, plenty of water, sunscreen, and enjoy your trip!
What are your favorite easy Santa Fe hikes?
Karen Denison is the former owner of Outspire Hiking and Snowshoeing which offers private, interpretive hiking tours in Santa Fe, NM. She has been sharing her knowledge and love of the New Mexico outdoors with visitors since 1997.