Discover New Mexico Outdoors

Aspen Vista Trail

Views from the Aspen Vista Trail near Santa Fe. (Photo Courtesy of Eric Smith)

New Mexico, it’s known as the Land of Enchantment and I’m excited to discover why that is. We’ve talked about visiting Santa Fe for years, mostly because of the legacy of the great American artist Georgia O’Keefe, but also because of what we hear is a beautiful town filled to the brim with art galleries. Just Stacey’s speed.

But I’ve never really experienced the great American West, especially the Southwest. I’ve always been mesmerized by the idea of deserts, canyons, river valleys and snow-covered peaks. And in New Mexico, this Land of Enchantment has it all.

In early October, we’ll be spending a week in Albuquerque, Taos and Santa Fe exploring the great Southwestern food, the region’s art museums and galleries, viewing the great adobe architecture, attending the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and getting into the beautiful outdoors. And while I’m excited about everything we’ll be doing, I’m absolutely thrilled at the prospect of hitting a trail or two and enjoying the amazing natural beauty of New Mexico. There is a reason some of this country’s great artists congregated in Taos, not to mention that Santa Fe has more than 200 art galleries and several museums. I can only assume it’s because of the beautiful landscapes of North New Mexico.

The beautiful Sangre De Cristo Mountains near Santa Fe. (Photo Courtesy of Chris Corrie)

The beautiful Sangre De Cristo Mountains near Santa Fe. (Photo Courtesy of Chris Corrie)

With the idea of exploring the great outdoors, not to mention the much higher elevations than what my body is used to living near the Mississippi River, I realized I should start training just a bit. Of course we won’t be doing daylong hikes or anything too risky. With a 6-year-old and a wife who isn’t a big fan of sweating, my outdoors options are limited. But I have started running again after taking the past couple of months off.

As I began researching potential outdoors activities for our New Mexico adventure I stumbled on the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument roughly halfway between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. This park mesmerized me pretty quickly.It has cone-shaped tent rock formations that were created by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. I hope we’re able to last long enough on the trail to reach the slot canyon.

Tent Rocks

Exploring the slot canyon in Tent Rocks. (Photo by Doug Merriam)

Knowing that if my outdoors adventures in New Mexico are to include the whole family, they will have to be in manageable bits. And what I like about Tent Rocks is the ease of the trail. The Cave Loop trail is just 1.2 miles long and is rated as easy. The more difficult Canyon Trail is 1.5 miles and goes up into a narrow canyon. I expect we won’t make too much of that hike, but it”s cool that we can just hike a piece of it before turning for home.

I watched this video and was in awe of the beauty of the Tent Rock formations, but wasn’t positive it would be the best hiking excursion for us.

But then I watched this one, and was amazed at the beauty of God’s creation that appears in this slot canyon on the trail. It makes me really think we need to make our way into the Canyon Trail.

It seems that my mind is set on visiting Tent Rocks, and I’d say probably so. It will be an easy detour off Interstate 25 as we make our way between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. But we have a few other options around Taos, Santa Fe and Albuquerque to get out into the great outdoors.

There are several day hike options out of Santa Fe, including the Aspen Vista Trail. It’s close enough and simple enough that we can tackle it as a family, or I could venture out for a nice trail run.

Aspen Vista Trail

Views from the Aspen Vista Trail near Santa Fe. (Photo Courtesy of Eric Smith)

The Aspen Vista Trail is a moderate 10-mile trail about 13 miles out of Santa Fe. It’s one of the more popular trails in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Its uphill climb is more gradual, so I’m confident we can tackle at least a portion of the trail.

Closer to the Santa Fe Plaza is the Chamisa Trail, a 4.75-mile roundtrip trail considered to be pretty easy. It’s just six miles from the plaza and is over rolling terrain and meanders through large evergreen trees.

But before we even drive north to Taos and Santa Fe, we’ll start our New Mexico adventure exploring the Albuquerque culture. And part of that will be seeing the views from atop Sandia Peak via the Sandia Peak Tramway. There is hiking up top, but at 10,000 feet above sea level, I’m not sure how these sea level-residing lungs will handle the thin air. We might just enjoy the views of Albuquerque below.

Sandia Peak

The Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway travels to the 10,378-foot Sandia Peak. (Photo Courtesy of Michael Hayes)

After that excursion up Sandia Peak, we’ll drive the two hours north to Taos. Our time there will be short, so I expect our focus will be on the beautiful town instead of the nearby mountains. But there is one place I’m determined to get out into nature, and that’s at Taos Pueblo.

But if we have a chance to do any hiking around Taos, it is likely to include at least partial views of Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico. It’s just north of Taos.

Wheeler Peak

Hiking just north of Taos near Wheeler Peak. (Photo Courtesy of Eric Smith)

Ultimately, I won’t know how much we venture into the beautiful New Mexico outdoors until we’re there. But if the most outdoors I get to experience is just walking the streets of Albuquerque, Taos and Santa Fe and seeing the mountains in the distance, I’ll take it.

13 thoughts on “Discover New Mexico Outdoors

  1. Definitely follow on me on Twitter @tripsbylance. I’ll tweet much of the action, although something tells me the phone won’t work so well out on some of these trails. And that is quite OK.

  2. Thanks for using to find the most unique and authentic Santa Fe experiences, and the best maps for tripping around the Historic Santa Fe, Northern New Mexico, The High Road to Taos etc. And remember, I’m available to answer your questions to help you get better acquainted.
    Have a terrific visit. Cheers! Maria

  3. Pingback: Santa Fe Hiking

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