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Savor the Southwest on Santa Fe's Best Hiking Trails

Santa Fe, New Mexico provides the quintessential southwestern hiking experience!

Hiking Moderate, Difficult

Photo: Shutterstock


Most people don't realize that Santa Fe is the highest-elevation state capital in the United States. The town of 84,000 rests at a sky-scraping 7,199 feet above sea level—Colorado's mile-high city ain't got nuthin' on this.

Santa Fe might be high, but its roots are deep. The town was first settled 13 years before Plymouth Colony was established by the Pilgrims from the Mayflower. It's also home to the oldest church in the USA, the San Miguel Mission Church, originally built in 1610. Prior to European inhabitation, the Puebloan culture goes back thousands of years. In short, humans have been living in, visiting, and traveling through Santa Fe for millennia.

This travel trend continues with today's tourism boom. While most of the tourists to Santa Fe might be focused on the art, history, architecture, and food, outdoor tourism is a massive contributor to the economy and culture. The terrain surrounding the city is an arid high desert environment filled with pinon pines, narrow arroyos, and dry, dusty trails. But when you look to the east, a mountain range rises dramatically above downtown. As you look around at the sagebrush and sand, it might be difficult to imagine the lush alpine environment that's accessible just minutes up a nearby mountain pass... but it's there, and it offers fantastic hiking opportunities!

Whatever type of hike you're looking for, you can find it in Santa Fe. The Dale Ball trail system offers easy, family-friendly hiking trails accessible directly from the town of Santa Fe. Picacho Peak and Atalaya Mountain offer easily-accessible peak climbs that similarly don't take much driving to access. All of the trails close to the city remain dry and hikeable the vast majority of the year, thanks to the high desert environment.

To access the hikes higher up in the mountains, you'll have to go during the peak of summer. Nambe Lake is easily the most popular alpine lake in the region, rewarding hikers with fantastic views of crystal-clear water and vaulted peaks. You can also bag some serious summits, most notably Santa Fe Baldy, the 5th tallest mountain in the state, and Penitente Peak—a local favorite.

These top hike selections will help get you started exploring this incredible outdoor destination, but once you've checked all these boxes, your exploration isn't at an end. You'll only continue to discover more and more trails spreading across the New Mexico desert and mountains surrounding Santa Fe. This fantastic destination truly offers a lifetime of adventure!

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