Seems like more and more these days we’re hearing about how children need to spend time outdoors. So when traveling to a city known for its great arts scene, it’s safe to assume a young boy will be itching to get outside more than usual. And the same goes for dad. That’s why I found myself walking beneath the golden Aspens more than 10,000 feet high while my wife was down in the city of Santa Fe browsing art along the famed Canyon Road. Father and son needed some guy time in the great outdoors. And when in Santa Fe, that means heading up the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and hitting the trails. We found a perfect afternoon of Santa Fe hiking.
Santa Fe is one of this country’s great cultural cities. With plenty of art found in museums and galleries, not to mention lots of shopping, a great food scene and plenty of spa options for great relaxation, the New Mexico capital has something for every taste of city traveler. But sometimes an outdoors escape is necessary, especially when visiting a city more than 7,000 feet above sea level.
And when in Santa Fe, the easiest and best way to get into the great outdoors is to head up the mountain toward the ski resort known as Ski Santa Fe. On the 15-mile drive between the Santa Fe Plaza and the ski lift, there are several trails of various skill level, a state park, and loads of beautiful scenic lookouts.
Don’t feel like getting outside and hitting the trails? That’s OK because driving up the mountain is a worthwhile experience for even the most outdoors-adverse person.
And there are several places to pull off the road to enjoy the views.
When we started out on our drive up the mountain I had an important stop I needed to make before we could hit the trail. Even though the temperatures weren’t going to get above the low 60s, I knew it would be important to have water in the pack. I started driving toward the trails hoping there would be a gas station or store of some sort where I could buy a couple bottles of water. Only problem was besides a few neighborhoods of awesome houses toward the base of the mountain, there was nothing but campgrounds, trail heads and beautiful overlooks. And a sign that told me I had 14 miles to the ski lift at the top of the mountain.
So away we drove to the top of the mountain to buy water, while taking in the views along the way. I’m sure the mountain is beautiful during the winter. But it’s fabulous in the fall with the golden Aspens.
My ultimate goal was the Aspen Vista Trail, some 13 miles north of the Plaza. I found the trail, even taking some time to walk part of it.
Oddly enough, I didn’t realize we had found it. I was just stopping to enjoy the views and grab some photos while making our way up the mountain.
The Aspen Vista Trail is 10 miles long, and is considered one of the more popular day hikes in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
I might not have been able to hike the Aspen Vista Trail, but I did have a really nice backup in mind, the Chamisa Trail. We had passed it on our way up the mountain, about six miles north of town. And with a “more manageable” 8,500 feet of altitude, it probably made a little more sense for two people who live much closer to sea level.
The trail wasn’t too difficult. It is pretty tight in spots, with a steep drop off just off the side of the trail.
The walk was comfortable enough for a 6-year-old boy, but just challenging enough to make the hike up interesting.
We passed a couple of runners coming down the trail, and came across several people walking their dogs. The trail seems to be just close enough to Santa Fe to attract residents out for a late-afternoon walk.
The views weren’t quite as spectacular as being up in the Aspens, but being down in the cool pines was nice too. There was absolute silence in the air as we walked.
Instead of circling back the same way we came once we reached the top, we were able to take a different way that took us down into the canyon. Parts of the walk down were pretty steep and challenging, but not too much for us to handle.
The trail ends up in a meadow of sorts just before getting back to the small parking area along the highway.
Our afternoon exploring the mountains above Santa Fe was a really cool experience. Our three hours driving up the mountain, taking in the Aspens and enjoying a four-mile hike was just the kind of break we needed to be ready for more art the next day, when an afternoon of rain would keep us inside at several museums.