Explore the best trails around Santa Fe, New Mexico.
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 trail running opportunities!
Whatever type of run you're looking for, you can find it in Santa Fe. In fact, this small city is home to a host of elite trail runners and outdoor athletes. The temperate climate combined with challenging mountain summits makes for ideal training grounds, allowing many local runners to compete in the highest echelons of trail running!
The Dale Ball and La Tierra trail systems offer easy running accessible directly from the town of Santa Fe. Atalaya Mountain is similarly easily-accessible, but it offers a peak climb with much more elevation gain. Further out, Galisteo is another popular low-elevation loop that offers excellent winter running. All of these lower elevation trails are accessible essentially year-round.
To access the trails higher up in the mountains, you'll have to go during the peak of summer. You can bag some serious summits near Santa Fe, most notably Santa Fe Baldy, the 5th tallest mountain in the state, and Penitente Peak—a local favorite.
In the mid-elevation reaches, you'll discover a whole swath of challenging trail running. If you have to pick just one route, the loop from Saddle Back to Chamise is guaranteed to deliver the goods.
These top trail run 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!