Best Hiking Areas Around Santa Fe

Nature-lovers will flock to New Mexico for outdoor activities in Santa Fe, and the vast areas of lush forest are especially attractive to hikers and trail riders. Avid adventurers and novice explorers alike will be able to find plenty of beautiful trails to explore at their desired difficulty level, length, and elevation. No matter what trail you pick, you’ll undoubtedly find some of the best trails the USA has to offer. 

Before we move on to specific hiking areas in Santa Fe, let’s first go over how to determine whether a trail is doable for you!

Best Hiking Areas Around Santa Fe

How To Assess Hiking Difficulty in Santa Fe

For the most part, hiking guides (and official information hubs like SantaFe.org) will be very forthcoming about the length of the trail as well as the difficulty. If you are bringing children along, for example, you’ll be able to see whether a specific trail would be doable for them or not. 

When accessing difficulty for hikes, you will have to consider not only the length of the trail itself but also the general elevation of the trail. If you aren’t sure how to assess the difficulty of a trail, there is an official quantitative guide that utilizes an easy formula to categorize different trails:

Elevation Gain x 2 x Distance (in miles), then take the square root of the number

Here’s an example using a 5 mile hike with a 2,000 elevation gain:

(2,000 x 2) x 5

4,000 x 5 = 20,000

√20,000 = 141.42

Once you arrive at this number, you can match it to the following categories:

Easiest: Less than 50

Moderate: Between 50-100

Moderately Strenuous: 100-150

Strenuous: 150-200

Very Strenuous: 200+

Based on this guide, we can determine that our hike is considered “Moderately Strenuous,” and can prepare appropriately. 

outdoor hiking

Santa Fe’s Best Wilderness Trails

Between Santa Fe’s Dale Ball Trails and La Tierra Trails, you have over 50 miles of vast hiking excursions. Other favorite areas include the Santa Fe National Forest and its vast wilderness trails.

Dale Ball Trails

The Dale Ball Trails are mainly split up into a “North” designation and “South designation, together spanning almost 25-miles of hiking trails that uniquely allow for views of both the wilderness as well as the Santa Fe cityscape. 

Trail difficulty can range from Easiest to Strenuous, but all trails are peppered with maps and arrow signage to lead you through. Many hikers especially like the Dale Ball Trails for not only its proximity to Santa Fe, but also other popular trails such as Atalaya Trails, Santa Fe Canyon Preserve, Little Tesuque, and more. 

La Tierra Trails

The La Tierra trails are especially popular with locals and tourists alike due to their multi-user system, which allows for hikers, equestrians, bikers, and even ATVs in a separate track area. Additionally, its proximity to other favored trails such as Camino de Los Montoyas and Dog Park Connector Trail. 

This is a tourist-favorite spot as both of these trails also allow for a city connection for those visiting Santa Fe. In fact, you’ll find that many trails lead directly (or very close) to the city, so it is extremely easy to take hiking day trips without going too far out of your way. 

Santa Fe National Forest

The National Forest is a great place for adventurers of all interests and skill levels to explore the Santa Fe wilderness. There are plenty of areas to enjoy fishing, hiking, and camping across the forest grounds. Elevation levels can vary significantly in this area, with the tallest peak measuring at 13,000 feet, and the lowest altitude at 6,000 feet. 

The Santa Fe National Forest is split up into four general areas, each filled with hikes and trails of all lengths and difficulties. These wilderness areas are:

  1. The Pecos Wilderness – view all of the trails in this area here
  2. San Pedro Parks Wilderness – view all of the trails in this area here
  3. Chama River Canyon Wilderness – view all of the trails in this area here
  4. Dome Wilderness – view all of the trails in this area here

Visitors can also visit the official Santa Fe National Forest website for more information about that area specifically. 

Santa Fe Canyon Preserve
Image Source: https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/places-we-protect/santa-fe-canyon-preserve/

Safety Reminders for All Hikes

No matter which level of difficulty your hike is, there are certain safety rules that should be adhered to by all people – after all, you are venturing out into the wilderness! You should be prepared for as much as possible, so be sure to get a hiking backpack that can hold enough supplies while also having adequate support for your back. 

Keep Yourself Hydrated & Fed

We cannot stress enough the importance of having adequate food and water with you on your hike. This means keeping plenty of fresh water on hand, as well as snacks to keep your energy level up. When looking for snacks to bring, focus on things like energy bars or healthy options that provide nourishment, rather than empty-calorie snacks that won’t help you out. 

Monitor Your Altitude Level

Knowing your altitude is an important part of hiking for a couple of reasons. Higher altitudes can be more chilly and icy in the fall/winter, and lower altitudes can be more dry/hot in spring/summer – meaning you will have to prepare ahead of time with appropriate clothing and food & water. 

Don’t Forget First Aid

Always make room in your pack for some first aid items – you can never be too careful. Remember, band-aids can be a great method of helping with heel irritation if you are breaking in some new shoes, or find yourself with blisters along the way. 

First Aid Kit

Sunscreen Is Always Important

Don’t be fooled into thinking sunscreen is only important during hot, sunny days. In the winter, the sun’s rays can reflect off snow or ice back onto you, so you have a similar risk of sunburn. 

Stay On Designated Trails

Trails are reviewed and shared for a reason – it is much safer to stay on designated hiking trails rather than go off into the uncharted forest. Trails are curated to avoid any dangerous obstacles and ensure you don’t lose your way.

Rest Easy After a Day Of Hiking at Inn On the Paseo!

Many of our bed & breakfast patrons are tourists looking for exciting outdoor excursions in Santa Fe. We are more than happy to assist you with planning day trips – whether hiking or otherwise – and can be beacons of information when it comes to choosing the right adventures for you and your family. 

We offer add-ons to all reservations such as picnic lunches that can be the perfect thing to bring on a day hike, or offer delicious home-cooked dinners that will be wonderful to return home to! Contact us today so we may assist you with crafting your next vacation!

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