Urban Trail Running

- April 19, 2017

The Outdoor Guy delivers tales about trail running to the masses

Trail running within the city limits? Don’t taunt me you think. “Oh you mean urban trail…running or is it urban…trailrunning? Say it like this to get the concept: “Urban trail”, pause, “running” or “urban,” pause, “trail running”. The former bores me to tears, or at least the thought of it.  Eight to ten feet wide paved pedestrian autobahns where dogs stretch their retractable leashes from one side to the other and headphone wearing walkers obliviously meander down the middle of the pavement.  I prefer to run on trails but it isn’t always possible to head up to the mountains to get my fix of trail dirt everyday so I have become an Urban…Trail Runner! 

My friend Mike and I are heading out for a 20 or so mile run on a weekend day because the mountains are still covered in snow. We start where I live.  If you were to try and find the exact middle of Santa Fe my house would be very close to that spot, but the beauty of it is that after only about 1.5 miles of pavement (on the Rail Trail and streets) we turn off a neighborhood street and hit dirt. We start up the Arroyo de los Piniones toward the Arroyo de los Chamisos and St. John’s College.   We are trail runners.  We have to find time to run on trails, usually that means up in the mountains but when the snow is deep we stay lower.

Santa Fe is dissected by arroyos and singletrack trails, many well known to local dog walkers.  You can tell there are lots of dog walkers because they leave little packages of poop in plastic bags on the trail.  (Come on people take it with you if you are going to the trouble of bagging it). 

This day we are heading up hill to the top of Atalaya and Piccacho Peaks.  And we can do it mostly on trails and in arroyos with foot paths worn in by walkers and other runners.  The trick is to link all of the neighborhood trails and arroyos together to make dirt routes through town.  This one we are running today takes us all the way to the Santa Fe National Forest boundary.  This is one of the greatest reasons for living here; trails are plentiful and close by.

I run during my lunch breaks too. Escape from my desk job for a bit is essential.  I don’t like to deal with pavement and cars so I have mapped out lots of loops and out and back courses from my office near the intersection of St. Michael’s Drive and Galisteo St.  Most involve connecting arroyos with neighborhood trails.  They all offer sweet singletrack, rugged terrain, treacherous footing and even a bit of rock climbing-like traversing, but most of all an escape from pavement.  I very rarely see anybody else on my lunchtime runs except for the people I take with me. 

One friend was so amazed at all the trails and possibilities for trail running in the town he was born and raised.  Now he is out scouting for more trails and connections.  I am too.  I use a website called Map My Run, www.mapmyrun.com.  You can view Santa Fe or anywhere else in the world in a map or satellite view.  I look for green stretches of trees lining arroyos.  You can even see singletrack footpaths on the satellite view if you zoom in.  I find these spots on the map and then go out to find it on the ground.  Sometimes they are good routes or connections to make longer routes and sometimes not but it is always fun to explore. I have an inventory of runs ranging from 3 to 8 miles all on hard-pack single track, sandy arroyos and neighborhood trails.

Today I ran up and over a mountain, and then back again.  The Sun Mountain trail is a city trail that climbs to the top of, you guessed it, Sun Mountain.  From the trail head on Old Santa Fe Trail about ¼ mile north of East Zia it is just shy of one mile to the top.  When I do reach the top huffing and puffing, I continued east and down down down to the St John’s arroyo trail.  There are many trails in this City of Santa Fe Open Space, some bring you to the saddle between Sun and Moon Mountains some down to the St. John’s Trail.  Today I end up at the big green water tank where I turn around and trace my route back to the top of Sun Mountain and then back to the trailhead on Old Santa Fe Trail.  I gauge my run at around 5 miles which takes me exactly one hour to complete.  This is an amazing “urban” trail since it is within the city limits.  It is steep and rocky and while you can see the city well below the 700 foot high summit you feel like you are far deeper in the wilderness. 

In the middle of town or on the edges Santa Fe offers so many trail opportunities waiting for you to find them.  Get out and explore!

Sun Mountain link: https://www.tpl.org/our-work/sun-mountain#sm.00017xq87mtnco910w31p3z571v9d