With glorious sunshine 325 days per year and epic scenery, Santa Fe is an outdoor enthusiast’s delight. With a location nestled below the Sangro de Cristo Mountains, it’s easy to start and maintain an active lifestyle in this thriving and vibrant city.
The area’s topography includes gentle foothills laced with distinctive vegetation thanks to the region’s arid climate. Four distinct seasons let residents take to the slopes for ski excursions in the mountains or raft through the rapids of several nearby water access points. From trails to hot springs, residents will always have opportunities to be active. Below are some of the best ways to spend your time outdoors in Santa Fe.
Hiking Picacho Peak Trail
The Picacho Peak Trail is a popular choice for those hoping to experience panoramic views of the city and its surrounding topography. It is part of the Dale Ball trail system, just outside of Santa Fe. Be sure to plan your hikes between June and October, when the moderate temperatures are more conducive to better footing and a comfortable hiking experience.
The trail ascends over 1,300 feet throughout its 3.9 miles, making it a rigorous journey for motivated climbers. Consider wearing shoes with spikes and bringing walking poles to navigate the bumpy terrain. The reward, however, comes in the form of spectacular views of Santa Fe.
Exploring Santa Fe Canyon Preserve
One of the best Santa Fe outdoor activities is wandering through the Santa Fe Canyon Preserve, a 525-acre site near the heart of downtown. Traverse along a 1.5-mile trail to take in this historic site's beautiful wildflowers and wildlife. You also will see the city’s Old Stone Dam, which was created to help facilitate water access for residents in the late 19th century.
Sitting within Santa Fe’s foothills, the Santa Fe Canyon Preserve delights visitors with cottonwood trees, beaver ponds, and an assortment of birds. Visitors can find written and audio guides detailing the types of fauna and historical landmarks they will encounter while exploring. Well-marked trails also connect to the Dale Ball trail system for those seeking to expand their hike.
Rafting the Rio Grande
When you want an electrifying afternoon in Santa Fe, plan a trip on the water. The Rio Grande River provides adventure seekers with whitewater rafting opportunities that will create memories for the whole family. While gentler parts of the river may only reach class II rapids, expect class IV rapids at some points on the journey. With helmets, life vests, and experienced guides leading the way, you can feel confident taking on the rapids.
You can also consider booking a kayaking trip. Steer your way through the Rio Grande’s rapids while gazing at the area’s beautiful surroundings. Lush vegetation, rock cliffs, and clear blue skies make trips on the water one of the best ways to enjoy northern New Mexico.
Visiting the La Tierra Trails
In the northwest corner of Santa Fe, you will find the La Tierra Trailhead. Spanning 25 miles, La Tierra is an extensive path open to walkers, equestrians, and cyclists. La Tierra is an easier alternative if hiking a trail with steep elevation changes is too rigorous. For a complete workout, the La Tierra Loop offers a 5.3-mile path within the network of trails.
With minimal elevation changes, you can pause to enjoy the scenery along this popular trail system. Bask in the Sangre de Cristo views and enjoy the aromatic juniper and pinyon trees as you trek through the rugged landscape. And if you want to enhance the level of adventure, you even can find a designated track along the trail that accommodates motorcycles.
Biking the Winsor Trail
Bikers will love heading out on the well-traveled Winsor Trailhead. Extending nine miles along streams and forests, this trail challenges cyclists with a climb to 11,000 feet. You will be flanked by aspen trees at various points in the trail while other portions open up to reveal meadows and canyons.
If you are traveling the trail on your bike, you will need to be mindful of the many hikers who populate the trail. Plan on encountering some water features, too. Multiple crossings over Tesuque Creek and other streams keep the scenery interesting, and you can find plenty of shade beneath the towering pine trees.
Hitting the Slopes at Ski Santa Fe
If you are in Santa Fe during winter, consider hitting the slopes. Ski Santa Fe is where you’ll experience the best runs without heading far from downtown Santa Fe. Located just 16 miles away, this resort provides 68 runs to keep guests cruising down miles of packed powder. Whether you are a beginner or a more experienced skier, you can find a well-maintained run to suit your abilities. And at an elevation of over 10,000 feet, you will be mesmerized by the beautiful views of the surrounding area.
Stay active in Santa Fe
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