Hiking in Santa Fe Area

By Eileen Richardson

Tent Rocks

One of my favorite hikes is this one. Here you can be walking on sandy paths between giant shadowing pillars of solid sand and climbing in-between crevices. You also can hike to the tallest elevation and get an astounding view.

The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is a remarkable outdoor laboratory, offering an opportunity to observe, study, and experience the geologic processes that shape natural landscapes. The National Monument, on the Pajarito Plateau in north-central New Mexico, (about 30 minutes outside Santa Fe) includes a national recreation trail and ranges from 5,570 feet to 6,760 feet above sea level. It is for foot travel only, and contains two segments that provide opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, geologic observation, and plant identification.

The cone-shaped tent rock formations are the products of volcanic eruptions that occurred 6 to 7 million years ago and left pumice, ash, and tuff deposits over 1,000 feet thick. Tremendous explosions from the Jemez volcanic field spewed pyroclasts (rock fragments), while searing hot gases blasted down slopes in an incandescent avalanche called a “pyroclastic flow.”

Precariously perched on many of the tapering hoodoos are boulder caps that protect the softer pumice and tuff below. Some tents have lost their hard, resistant caprocks, and are disintegrating. While fairly uniform in shape, the tent rock formations vary in height from a few feet up to 90 feet.

The Main Loop Trail at Bandelier Monument

The Main Loop Trail is a 1.2 mile loop trail (thanks to log crossings) through archeological sites. Most visitors spend between 45 minutes and one hour on this trail. Ladders along the trail allow visitors to climb into cavates (small human-carved alcoves). The Main Loop Trail takes you past the Big Kiva, Tyuonyi, Talus House, and Long House which are at one time inhabited structures used by the The Ancestral Pueblo people lived here from approximately 1150 CE to 1550 CE. They built homes carved from the volcanic tuff and planted crops in mesatop fields. Corn, beans, and squash were central to their diet, supplemented by native plants and meat from deer, rabbit, and squirrel. Domesticated turkeys were used for both their feathers and meat while dogs assisted in hunting and provided companionship.

The people of Cochiti Pueblo, located just south and east along the Rio Grande, are the most direct descendents of the Ancestral Pueblo people who built homes in Frijoles Canyon. Likewise, San Ildefonso is most closely linked to Tsankawi.

You should get a trail guide at the Visitor Center to learn more about the sites along the trail through descriptions of 21 numbered stops.

The first section of this trail is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers; however, the second part contains areas with numerous narrow stone stairways. In winter, this is the only trail on which the snow is removed.

Dale Ball Trails

The Dale Ball Trail system is a 22 mile network of trails in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Located a short distance from downtown Santa Fe, it is the quickest way to get from the city into the mountains. It offers great opportunities for beginners and advanced hikers alike, along with amazing views of both the surrounding wilderness and back towards the city. The trail features a unique numbered sign system at each trail junction to provide easy navigation, as well as connecting to other local trails, including the Nature Conservancy, Dorothy Stewart and Atalaya Trails.

As the name would suggest, the trail system is named after Dale Ball, who was instrumental in the conception, design and construction of the trail. The City of Santa Fe, Santa Fe County and private landowners contributed key parcels of land for the trail, while contributions for the construction came from an anonymous donor and the McCune Foundation, along with a large amount of public support. For the construction itself, Dale enlisted the help of Mike Wirtz, a retired Forest Service trail specialist; the advanced way-finding sign system was made with the design help of Bill Field.

Two parking lots were built to serve Dale Ball Trail hikers: one off of Hyde Park Road where it intersects Sierra del Norte, and another at the intersection of Upper Canyon Road and Cerro Gordo. Additionally, parking can be found at St. John’s College and along Camino Cruz Blanca, which is the closest parking to access Atalaya Trail.

Santa Fe National Forest

OMG! I have lived here for 16 years and am still amazed at the amazing opportunities for hiking. The National Forest has more than you can imagine as far as day hikes. Go to this page and you will have so many to choose from. The maps are excellent as well as the details as to the difficulty stage, what types of hiking, and geological areas you will be in. And of course if it is opened or closed. I counted 106 trails!

Randall Davey Audubon Center

This is very close to town. It is right off Canyon Road a few miles down.

Nature sanctuary hosting wildlife, hiking trails, guided bird walks & tours of Randall Davey Home.

The trails lead through several different habitats and plant zones ranging from meadows to Ponderosa Pine forests. Bring your binoculars and cameras, but please leave your dogs at home.

Atalaya Trail

Atalaya Mountain Trail is a 6 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Santa Fe, New Mexico that features a great forest setting and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and walking and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

This is a short day hike from St. Johns College trail head east side of the city of Santa Fe, NM into the edge of the Santa Fe National forest.
This is such a short sampling of great hikes most of the year around. All offer the beauty and enchantment of the Santa Fe area.