Santa Fe is a charming town in Southwestern area of the United States, and worth a visit if you are in the area. The mountains and hills surrounding the town offer endless possibilities for exploring the desert landscape. Many of the trails are easy to navigate, but there are varying degrees of difficulty for any challenge. For me, the altitude and subsequent decreased levels of oxygen were challenging enough!
The town itself is a prime visual example of Southwestern style, with adobe homes steeped in natural earth tones, and the influence of Native American and Hispanic Colonial architecture. It’s also a haven for the arts, temperate weather, and my favorite cultural activity, food! I’m going to outline five worthy activities in Santa Fe for the Outdoorsy Adventurer.
I’m lucky with family residing in Santa Fe, I’ve been able to enjoy this city over the years with frequent visits. Sitting at the base of the Rockies, it’s a small mountain town, less than 100,000 people. The pace of life reflects a small town, there’s definitely no rush to go anywhere or do anything. But even for a small town, Santa Fe embraces tourism, and there’s plenty of activities in both summer and winter to keep you busy.
Santa Fe is an easy one hour road trip from Albuquerque, NM, where the biggest airport is located. However, the smaller Santa Fe Airport has several flights with non stop service from Dallas, Denver, and Phoenix. There are multiple hotels on the plaza to accommodate your stay depending on your motivation for a visit.
Hike : Picacho Peak
Dale Ball Trails : Picacho Peak
There are a number of hikes near the town of Santa Fe that give you great views and vary in range from easy to difficult. One of our favorites is the Picacho Peak mountain hike, which is part of the Dale Balls trail system. It’s located about ten minutes from the plaza along Upper Canyon Road. While not extremely strenuous, the 2.5 mile hike still gives a workout with the 1000 foot climb, and our calves usually feel it! We are rewarded at the top with sweeping views of the valley and town below. From Picacho, there also the option of continuing the hike to the adjacent peak, Atalaya Mountain, which adds an additional 600 ft in elevation gain. This peak is a little more challenging because of the additional elevation gain, but the views are that much more grand of the town below.
Shidoni Sculpture Gardens
Santa Fe is the third biggest art market in the US, behind New York and Los Angeles, so there’s even time for the outdoorsy adventurer to enjoy a gallery. Shidoni sculpture Park and Gallery is an open air art exhibition just northwest of Santa Fe. The galleries are open Tuesday – Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm. Entering the outdoor sculpture park is free, and it’s a nice place to roam around and admire nature and art in the same area.
Bandelier National Park
If you have time and are a fan of ancient history, Bandelier is a worthy visit. It’s a national monument and protected park area. A civilization from almost 1000 years ago once lived here, carving their homes into the soft rock of the canyon walls. Meandering around, you’ll find petroglyphs dating back to a human presence in the area over 11,000 years ago. You can walk the paths to learn about their history, climb the ladders into their dwellings, and tour the fields where they once planted their crops.
Santa Fe Opera
During the summer, it’s worth a visit to the Santa Fe Opera for one of the many shows. The unique open air design of the building beautifully captures the performances, in sync with both nature and art. To take in the performances in the drop back of the dessert is a mesmerizing experience. This is one of the only opera experiences where tailgating is encouraged, providing fans of the opera a way to imbibe with snacks and wine in the parking lot before the show. Don’t have your own picnic gear? The Inn of the Turquoise Bear offers special picnic packages just for this purpose!
Ski Santa Fe
This quaint ski area is only a 20 minute drive from town. In the summer, you can still hike the hills for an enjoyable workout, but the real magic happens in the winter. Reaping the benefit of sitting at the base of the Rockies, the powder here is fluffy, and the slopes are temptingly steep. There’s fun for all levels of skiers, and the prices are reasonable compared to the slopes in neighboring Colorado.
This is just one of the many ways to experience enchanting New Mexico and the Santa Fe area. Check out my other post about Santa Fe: A One Day Itinerary For the Art Lover. Feel free to pin it!