Outdoor Odysseys

Outdoor thing to do in Santa Fe

Fall is in the air, and most locals will confide that this is their favorite time of year in Santa Fe. The weather couldn't be better, with cooler temps, clear turquoise skies and brilliant sunlight that all conspire to get us outdoors and revel in the area's natural beauty, before winter closes in.

From hiking and biking to rafting, horseback riding and other activities, Santa Fe offers so many ways to enjoy nature this season. But if you're looking for something beyond the usual, you'll find that, too. Ski Santa Fe has scheduled lots of alpine fun, from live music and chairlift rides to plein-air painting, a beer festival and more. You can take part in one of the country's top annual half-marathons, which draws athletes from around the world or journey through wilderness wonderland of volcanic-sculpted spires. There's no better place to welcome fall that outdoors in Santa Fe.

Mountains of Fun

Ski Santa Fe is one of the premier ski destinations in the Southwest. It's also carved out a reputation as a happening spot during the off-season, with creative offerings like the Buenofest Beer Festival, happening this Saturday, September 14. from 12 to 5 pm. Celebrate with beer and cocktails poured by eight area breweries, including Santa Fe Brewing Co. and Marble Brewery. Left Bank will play live music that's fitting for a beer fest, and you can snack on grilled brats and schnitzel, and play lawn games. Be sure to don your dirndl and lederhosen to compete in prizes for best dressed at the fest. While there, take a ride in the chairlift to admire the stupendous views and play a round or two of disc golf.

On Sept. 21, the Ski Santa Fe Car Show brings classic and exotic automobiles up the mountain to show off their gleaming colors and sleek lines, against a backdrop of fall foliage. You'll find them lined up next to the chairlift, from 11 am to 3 pm. and if you have your own beloved jalopy or new mean machine, you're welcome to join the show.

Have you longed to take an easel and paints into nature, seeking inspiration from the great outdoors? Grab your chance during Ski Santa Fe's Plein-Air Painting Festival on September 28, from 10 am to 3 pm. Paint or sketch among the aspens in their fall golden glory and meet artists from the Santa Fe Studio Tour. If artist's block strikes, you can always hop on the chairlift for an inspiring ride or play a round disc golf.

But there's more. Live music fills the mountain air every Saturday and Sunday from La Casa Lodge deck, 11 am to 3 pm through October 13. The list of masterful musicians and bands includes The Wild Marimbas on September 15; Half Broke Horses on September 21; Controlled Burn on September 29 and the Bus Tapes on October 6. Check the website for the full music schedule: https://skisantafe.com/events/

Don't miss one of the city's beloved fall rituals, riding Ski Santa Fe's Super Chief Quad chair up the mountain and through the aspens, where you can admire the stunning foliage. The scenic chair rides are offered on weekends through September and then daily during the International Balloon Fiesta,   October 5 through October 13, from 10 am to 3 pm (weather permitting). If all that leaf-peeping works up your appetite, fuel up at the ski area's Coffee Bar and La Casa Café.

Thundering Runners

There's nothing like Santa Fe Thunder, named one of the 50 best half-marathons in the country. With an elevation drop of 1,000 feet, through the scenic Rio Grande Valley, the racecourse offers majestic mountain views to spur you onward if you get tired. Not up to a full half-marathon? No problem. The event includes a Lightning 5K and a one-mile fitness walk, so it's easy to participate. And boy, do people turn out for this event, with some 1,500 runners hailing from half a dozen countries and 40 states. This year's 9th Annual Santa Fe Thunder will hand out 150 hand-made age group medals along with 150 unique finishers medals. The event includes live music, a global running and art festival and more. It all takes place this Sunday, September 15 beginning at 7:30 am at the starting line in Fort Marcy Park. Runners will make their way to the finish line at Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder. The race supports the nonprofit Global Running Company, which works to better the lives young people through sports and education.

Sculpted Spires

The otherworldly beauty of Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument can take your breath away, perched 6,400 feet above sea level on Pajarito Plateau, 40 miles south of Santa Fe. The cone-shaped tent rock formations, some towering 90 feet above you, were created by volcanic eruptions six to seven million years ago. The formations, made up of volcanic pumice, ash and tuff deposits, resemble remnants from some ancient civilization. Explore their majestic mystery on hiking trails that take you through a slot canyon and up to a mesa top, overlooking stunning views of the surrounding mountains and the Rio Grande Valley. The trails range from easy to more difficult and there's a 1-mile loop trail, the Veterans Memorial Trail, that is wheelchair accessible. Pack a picnic and bring your birdwatching binoculars to catch some great sightings or simply sit and admire the gorgeous artistry of nature that surrounds you.