Santa Fe is home to some of the best hiking trails in the American Southwest, with the breathtaking Sangre de Cristo Mountains and other majestic mountain ranges providing a dramatic backdrop. No matter your skill level, there’s a great walk or hike in the Santa Fe area for you! Read on to learn more about some of the best hiking trails Santa Fe has to offer.
At 3.9 miles, this hiking trail climbs a steep 1,329-foot elevation, one of the area’s highest hills and part of Santa Fe’s popular 22-mile Dale Ball Trail system. The trail begins at the Cerro Gordo Trailhead and leads up a moderate slope. Picacho Peak is not typically a very crowded trail, offering peace and quiet to hikers—you can even bring your dog! Typically, hikers take an out-and-back approach to the hike, but you can use the map and numbered trail junctions to customize your own loop route.
Enjoy observing plant life like juniper scrub, ponderosa pine, and piñon pine on your way up to the peak, where the final 500 yards will be the steepest. Not to worry: you’ll quickly be rewarded by sweeping 360-degree views of Santa Fe down below and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains off in the distance. More details
Credit: The American Southwest
If you’re looking for a lighter hike that still offers dramatic views and immerses you in fascinating Santa Fe history, the Tsankawi Ruins Hike is an excellent choice. This 1.9-mile loop features an elevation of 235 feet and climbs lightly up to a 15-foot ladder that can be used to ascend to the lower mesa level.
Located at the Bandelier National Monument, this gorgeous hike is set along the roads once walked by the San Ildefonso Pueblo people. These paths were used at that time to allow for easy transportation of crops between fields on the plain and the upper mesa, where dwellings were located. Many steps are cut into the rocks, and hikers can enjoy the ruins on top of the mesa, as well as rock art along the mesa’s southern wall and caves once used for shelter and food shortage. Some pathways have been worn knee-deep into the solidified volcanic ash over the many years. At the top, you’ll find simple and unexcavated ruins, and there’s always a chance you might catch a glimpse of some wildlife. More details
You’ll find this fantastic 6.8 mile there and back hike just a 30-minute drive from Santa Fe. Leading through the Sangre de Cristo subrange of the Southern Rocky Mountains, this trail will take hikers to a sparkling alpine lake in the Santa Fe National Forest.
Join the hike at the Santa Fe Ski Basin parking lot, where the trail begins. It then follows the hillside and climbs steadily for the first mile before entering the scenic National Forest. Hikers should be advised that the trail becomes quite steep in the final 1.2 miles before reaching the alpine lake, but upon arrival, it’s well worth the work; from the lake, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the mountains towering above. You can choose to walk around the lake, adding a half-mile to your hike while enjoying the beautiful scenery. More details
This moderate there-and-back hike spans three miles with an elevation of 570 feet, often attracting lots of hikers, both locals and visitors. It’s best to hit Slot Canyon Trail earlier in the morning for a more peaceful and tranquil hiking experience. Begin on the Cave Loop Trail and hike half a mile to the spot where the Slot Canyon Trail intersects; here, you’ll see the infamous rocks for which the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is named.
Along the trail, hikers will experience unique rock formations, plentiful wildflowers, and a stunning slot canyon to explore. The reward that comes with finishing the hike? Some incredible views of the Sangria de Cristo Mountains and Sandia Crest from the peak. More details
Credit: Outdoor Project
If you’re looking for an invigorating and more lengthy hike, check out the Lake Katherine area. Your hike will begin at the Santa Fe Ski Basin’s parking lot, located within the gorgeous Santa Fe National Forest. Keep an eye out for the Windsor Trail, which begins to ascend immediately, offering some great views of the Santa Fe Ski Area that you’re sure to love! After 0.7 miles, you will descend into the scenic Pecos Wilderness.
The trail is marked along the way, but since it’s a bit longer than many of the local trails, make sure to stay aware and pay attention to all signage. Lake Katherine hikers will eventually follow the Skyline Trail all the way to the lake. Many hikers choose to spend some time at the lake before returning to complete the hike; backpackers are able to camp by the lake as long as they set up at least 200 feet away from the shoreline. In total, your there and back hike to Lake Katherine will feature an elevation gain of 3,090 feet. Make sure to plan accordingly for this hike by packing plenty of water, sunscreen, and light snacks. More details
The trailhead for the scenic Alamos Vista Trail is located just a quick 24-minute drive from Santa Fe, comprising 13 gorgeous miles of scenery. Visitors love enjoying the views from Artist Road and Hyde Park Road, with abundant wildlife and historic sites. Plenty of parking is available at the trailhead, which is located at the Aspen Vista Picnic Grounds. Pack a lunch and enjoy a picnic with your friends and family before or after your hike!
The start point of the Alamos Vista Trail is a little tricky to spot. From the parking lot, look for a fence leading uphill just past the information sign. When you see the wooden post indicating the start of Alamos Vista Trail, you’ll know you’re on the right path—there is also a wide service road nearby that can be easily mistaken for the trail. This trail is beautiful at all times of the year but is perhaps best viewed during the fall as the aspen leaves change. While the Alamos Vista Trail is a sensible 2.3 miles out and back, there is a 1,180-foot elevation gain, which can be challenging or unexpected for less experienced hikers. Make sure that everyone in your group is aware of this before beginning the hike, and plan accordingly by bringing plenty of water.
The views during this stunning hike are well worth the climb! Many hikers enjoy photographing the trees as they change during the fall, as you’ll trek through some truly beautiful aspen groves. The trail will lead you to a peaceful, open meadow with a lone, large aspen tree in the middle. The top of the trail is located right by the Santa Fe ski lifts—look down, and you’ll be greeted with sweeping views of the mountainsides and the glittering city of Santa Fe down below. More details
The New Mexico town of Taos, just north of Santa Fe, is an excellent place to find unique hiking opportunities. Located inside the ruggedly beautiful Rio Grande Gorge, this 2.4-mile there-and-back trail makes for a simple yet fun adventure. The trail is flat, with an elevation of 80 feet, and lined with benches for relaxing as you enjoy the gorgeous river views; it’s also a pet-friendly trail, so feel free to bring your dog for some outdoor exercise in nature.
Upon arrival, you can choose between two different trails: the North Rim Trail and La Verde Vista Trail. The North Rim Trail, as the name implies, leads along the northern rim and offers distant views of the beautiful mountains, while La Verde Vista Trail stays below the rim, allowing hikers to explore the desert environment. The trails are not too challenging and are suitable for less experienced hikers who are looking to enjoy views of the river. Benches are available along certain parts of the trail if you need to sit and relax for a moment, and you can also catch a glimpse of the Rock Garden, a section of the river that contains Class V rapids—with waves that can reach up to six feet! More details
If you’re looking to take a bit of a longer drive out into the town of Taos, the Williams Lake Trail makes for a great excursion. Beginning at the Taos Ski Valley and leading into the Mount Wheeler Wilderness, this 5.2-mile there-and-back trail heads up an elevation of 1,025 feet. The hike is aesthetically similar to one you might find in Colorado, with incredible panoramic views and a picturesque waterfall.
From downtown Santa Fe to the Williams Lake Trailhead, you’ll be in for about two hours of driving, so it may be best to plan for a day trip. There are plenty of gorgeous mountains and other sites to explore in the Taos area, so it will definitely be a day well spent. More details
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