Santa Fe is surrounded by beautiful places to experience New Mexico’s wilderness and some of those spots offer an array of trails for hikers. The following locations provide visitors dynamic and interesting hikes that vary in distance and difficulty.
Another widely popular destination for hikers are the Sandia Mountains located in the Cibola National Forest about 60 miles south of Santa Fe. The Sandia Mountain Wilderness was designated by Congress in 1978. Since then, Cibola National Forest has developed many trails for hikers to explore. Hikers looking for a moderately challenging hike have a variety of trails to consider, including La Luz Trail and Sulphur Canyon.
La Luz Trailhead is a 13.30-mile trail from the Sandia Foothills to the peak. The trail does have multiple intersections making shorter hikes on this trail possible. The tree-covered path makes for a wonderful hiking experience. The winding forest trail ultimately reaches Sandia Peak where you can enjoy the view over Albuquerque. If the view from the top isn’t charming enough, Sandia Peak Tramway can take hikers back down the mountain. Check out their website if you are interested in buying tickets for Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway!
Sulphur Canyon is another great trail to explore. It is a 3.56-mile hike, gaining 462 feet in elevation. The trail is shaded with oak, aspen, and fir trees and dotted with various New Mexican plants such as banana yucca and black cherry (Prunus Serotina) shrubs. This offers a dramatically green route for hikers looking for a relatively short hike.
Northern New Mexico natives who love hiking are likely familiar with the famous hiking oasis known as the Jemez Mountains. The mountains emerge at the tip of the Rocky Mountains northwest of Santa Fe. Within them, rivers, waterfalls, volcanic peaks, and hot springs steal the show. These landscape treasures can be explored through the 35 hiking trails.
Jemez Falls Trail is nearly a mile long and leads directly to a waterfall. It’s an easy trek to make but leaves just enough reason to celebrate completing it with a picnic by the waterfall. Locals are no stranger to the Jemez Falls Trail and it’s easy to see why.
Bandelier National Monument
Bandelier National Monument is about 40 miles northwest of Santa Fe. It is known for its undeniably fascinating history which can be explored through several hiking routes. The Ancestral Pueblo people resided in cave dwellings at Bandelier as far back as 1550 A.D. The remnants of the buildings and dwellings made by the Ancestral Pueblo people can be seen to this day.
Bandelier National Monument offers more than 70 miles of hiking trails that can be accessed directly from the monument’s center/parking lot. One of the most historically rich trails at Bandelier is the Main Loop Trail. The trail takes hikers on a 1.4-mile loop past archeological sites and is fairly easy. If you are looking to exercise your mind and body, Bandelier National Monument is the perfect place to go.
Pecos Wilderness is about 25 miles east of Santa Fe and spans over 220,000 acres across Santa Fe National Forest and Carson National Forest. Here in the Pecos Wilderness, you can behold many of the beautiful features attributed to the Land of Enchantment’s landscape. Green meadows, walls of trees, and flowing mountain rivers can all be found here. In addition to captivating landscapes, it offers a network of hiking trails waiting to be traversed.
Windsor Trail takes travelers to the beautiful Lake Katherine. From the start of the 15-mile hike to the end, Windsor Trail increases over 3,000 feet in altitude. Although many deem the hike to be rather difficult, it’s one of the most popular trails in Pecos Wilderness.
If you’re looking for a trail that’s a little less challenging, Cave Creek Trail is yet another enchanting option. Evocative of the trail’s name, Cave Creek Trail takes hikers on a 5.5-mile path that runs along a creek where caves can be seen. The hike rises a little under 900 feet, so it is quite a bit easier to complete than the Windsor Trail; however, both provide a hiking experience to be remembered.
White Rock Canyon
White Rock Canyon is in Los Alamos County, a little more than 30 miles northwest of Santa Fe. The Rio Grande runs its course through White Rock Canyon and can be accessed through hiking trails. This area provides a host of trails, two of the most popular being the Red and Blue Dot Trails.
Traveling along the Red and Blue Dot Trails, hikers will see piñon, juniper, cottonwood, aspen, and cactus. The trails can be taken together as a difficult 7.8-mile loop around the canyon or they can be taken separately from the White Rock Canyon Overlook. Although the Red and Blue Dot Trails are both only about a mile long when taken from the overlook, they are still difficult because of the steep descent to the river. The river can be seen and enjoyed from the overlook. What is more enticing than a splash in, and lunch by the river?
If that isn’t reason enough to want to hike White Rock Canyon, the trails also have numerous historical petroglyphs that were drawn on the walls of the canyon. The petroglyphs are remnants of the Ancestral Pueblo People’s lives in the Los Alamos area from many centuries ago.
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks
The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is on the Pajarito Plateau (36 miles south of Santa Fe). The monument is renowned for the unique formations. According to the Bureau of Land Management, the cone-shaped rocks are the result of pumice, ash, and tuff deposits from volcanic eruptions six to seven million years ago!
The monument is temporarily closed but those interested in visiting can view the status of its reopening on the Bureau of Land Management website. Upon Kasha-Katuwe’s reopening, hikers should check out Cave Loop Trail and Slot Canyon Trail.
The Tent Rocks can be experienced and explored through two trails. The Cave Loop Trail gains 183 feet in elevation over 1.2 miles. It is the easier hike of the national monument’s two trails and is widely acclaimed by hikers. The more challenging of the two hikes is the Slot Canyon Trail. It is a 2.8-mile round trip escalating nearly 800 feet in elevation. Those interested in geological formations and uniquely New Mexican land features would love either one of these trails at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks.
Written and photography by Azalea Hughes for SantaFe.comThis article was posted by Olivia