Santa Fe is a favorite destination for visitors to New Mexico, and for good reason! This old historic town boasts an opulent mix of excellent dining and lodging options, world-renowned art galleries and shopping, and a hip cultural buzz that is unique in one of the poorest states in the country. Just up the highway from Santa Fe is the old town of Taos, with its renowned ski mountain and historically-significant pueblo. The art community in Taos is legendary, and the town draws many visitors for many of the same reasons as Santa Fe does.
These communities lie at the foot of the magnificent Sangre de Cristo Mountains, which extend for 300 miles into Colorado. The mighty Rio Grande flows south from the San Juans of Colorado to the border with Mexico, and the section in northern New Mexico is a deep gorge, widely popular for whitewater recreation. For visitors that want to get outdoors and explore the natural world in this area, Santa Fe and Taos offer some amazing and varied hiking options. Here are some of the best:
Picacho Peak Trail | 3.9 miles, 1,329 feet
Part of the excellent 22-mile Dale Ball Trail system that borders the city of Santa Fe, Picasa Peak offers huge rewards for the work involved. The hike climbs one of the highest hills looming over the town and offers magnificent views all the way up and down the last mile of the trail.
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks | 3.0 miles, 570 feet
This moderate hike has a beautiful slot canyon, unique and beautiful rock formations, and a killer view at the top. It also has lots of people, so go really early for the best experience.
Nambe Lake Trail | 6.8 miles, 2093 feet
This trail takes hikers above the high desert of Santa Fe up into the alpine beauty of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, but the trailhead is only a half-hour drive from the city.
La Vista Verde Trail | 2.4 miles, 80 feet
For an adventure inside the rugged and beautiful Rio Grande gorge near Taos, this trail can’t be beat. It is easy, flat, and the drive to it goes along the river with many opportunities for fun in the water and camping along the river.
Tsankawi Ruins Hike | 1.9 miles, 235 feet
This trail in a lightly-visited area of Bandelier National Monument is a beautiful loop over a mesa in the literal footsteps used by people for a thousand years. Caves, wooden ladders, and wildlife sightings are a bonus on this adventure.
Williams Lake Trail | 5.2 miles, 1,025 feet
The country this hike offers is more like the Colorado Rockies than anything else in New Mexico. Starting at the Taos Ski Valley, it ventures into the Mount Wheeler Wilderness for high mountain views and a bonus waterfall!