Hiking in Santa Fe

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Hiking

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Hiking around Santa Fe can take you into high-altitude alpine country or into lunaresque high desert as you head south and west to lower elevations. For winter hiking, the gentler climates to the south are less likely to be snow packed, while the alpine areas will likely require snowshoes or cross-country skis. In summer, wildflowers bloom in the high country, and the temperature is generally at least 10 degrees cooler than in town. The mountain trails accessible at the base of the Ski Santa Fe area (end of NM 475) stay cool on even the hottest summer days. Weather can change with one gust of wind, so be prepared with extra clothing, rain gear, food, and lots of water. Keep in mind that the sun at 10,000 feet is very powerful, even with a hat and sunscreen.

For information about specific hiking areas, contact the New Mexico Public Lands Information Center. Any of the outdoor gear stores in town can also help with guides and recommendations.

Sierra Club. The Rio Grande chapter of the Sierra Club organizes group hikes of all levels of difficulty throughout the Santa Fe region and elsewhere in the state along the Rio Grande valley; a schedule and description of upcoming hikes is posted on the website. Santa Fe, NM. nmsierraclub.org.

Aspen Vista. Especially in autumn, when golden aspens shimmer on the mountainside, this trail up near Santa Fe's ski area makes for a lovely hike. Take Hyde Park Road 13 miles to the well-signed Aspen Vista Picnic Site, where there's ample parking. After walking a few miles through thick aspen groves you come to panoramic views of Santa Fe. The path, which is well marked and gradually inclines toward Tesuque Peak, becomes steeper with elevation—also note that snow has been reported on the upper portions of the trail as late as July. In winter, after heavy snows, the trail is great for intermediate-advanced cross-country skiing. The full hike to the peak makes for a long, rigorous day—it's 12 miles round-trip and sees an elevation gain of 2,000 feet, but it's just 3½ miles to the spectacular overlook, and this section is less steep than later spans of the trail. Note that the Aspen Vista Picnic Site is also the trailhead for the Alamo Vista Trail, which leads to the summit of the ski area. Hyde Park Road (NM 475), 2 miles before ski area, East Side and Canyon Road, Santa Fe, NM, 87506.

Atalaya Trail. Spurring off the Dale Ball trail system, the steep but rewarding (and dog-friendly) Atalaya Trail runs from the visitor parking lot of St. John's College, up a winding, ponderosa pine–studded trail to the peak of Mt. Atalaya, which affords incredible 270-degree views of Santa Fe. The nearly 6-mi round-trip hike climbs nearly 2,000 feet (to an elevation of 9,121 feet), so pace yourself. The good news: the return to the parking area is nearly all downhill. 1160 Camino de Cruz Blanca, East Side and Canyon Road, Santa Fe, NM, 87505.

Dale Ball Foothills Trail Network. A favorite spot for a ramble, with a vast network of trails, is the Dale Ball Foothills Trail Network, a network of some 22 miles of paths that winds and wends up through the foothills east of town and can be accessed at a few points, including Hyde Park Road (en route to the ski valley) and the upper end of Canyon Road, at Cerro Gordo. There are trail maps and signs at these points, and the trails are very well marked. East Side and Canyon Road, Santa Fe, NM. sfct.org/dale-ball-trails.

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