Once a trail used by indigenous people to access water and the lush forest in the foothills east of town, then a route for Hispanic woodcutters and their burros, and for most of the 20th century a prosaic residential street with only a gas station and a general store, Canyon Road is now lined with upscale art galleries, shops, and restaurants. The narrow road begins at the eastern curve of Paseo de Peralta and stretches for about 2 miles at a moderate incline toward the base of the mountains. Lower Canyon Road is where you'll find the galleries, shops, and a few restaurants. Upper Canyon Road (above East Alameda) is narrow and residential, with access to hiking and biking trails along the way, and the Randall Davey Audubon Center at the very top. Elsewhere on neighboring streets in the East Side, you’ll find several noteworthy B&Bs as well as the beautifully situated campus of St. John’s College, but this part of town is mostly residential. Still, it’s pretty to stroll through, with its narrow lanes and many old adobe homes with thick, undulating walls that appear to have been carved out of the earth.
In Canyon Road galleries, you’ll find art ranging from cutting-edge contemporary to traditional and even ancient works. Some artists are internationally renowned, like Fernando Botero, others' identities have been lost with time, like the weavers of magnificent Navajo rugs.
There are few places as festive as Canyon Road on Christmas Eve, when thousands of farolitos illuminate walkways, walls, roofs, and even trees. In May the scent of lilacs wafts over the adobe walls, and in August red hollyhocks enhance the surreal color of the blue sky on a dry summer day.