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Santa Fe Outdoors

Horseback Riding
Santa Fe Outdoors
The great outdoors are alive and well in Santa Fe thanks to thousands of acres of wilderness and a stunning display of mountain ranges, expansive skies, and unique topography.
By Kate Donnelly, AFAR Local Expert
Photo courtesy of Chris Corrie/Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau
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    Horseback Riding
    Horseback Riding
    Horseback riding goes hand-in-hand with the Southwestern experience of vast open spaces and wilderness. In the heart of Pueblo country, there are plenty of scenic riding trails and high desert landscapes with spectacular views of Santa Fe’s mountain ranges, the Tesuque Valley, and Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The 25 miles of La Tierra trails provide a nice introduction to the high desert landscape. Beginners can start with a gentle ride along the brush to the historic trails overlooking Bishop's Lodge, a resort that caters to both hotel guests and visitors. There’s also a kids' camp for junior riders. Soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the local flora and fauna as you saunter through the scenic hills, mountain canyons, and high desert. For a completely different form of interaction with a horse, enroll in the EQUUS program at the Four Seasons Rancho Encantado, where leadership and mindfulness is taught through exposure to horses.
    Photo courtesy of Chris Corrie/Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau
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    Glorious Mountain Hiking
    Glorious Mountain Hiking
    Hiking in Santa Fe is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who relish steep climbs, pristine air, and great views. Check out the Santa Fe National Forest, spread over 1.6 million acres, and lose yourself in the seemingly boundless aspen trees. Hike the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains along the Dale Ball Trails—23.4 miles of track—or the more challenging Aspen Vista Trail higher up. A summer hike at Ski Santa Fe gets you access to glorious mountain terrain; you can come back in the winter for downhill and cross-country skiing. In the mood for something steep? The Atalaya Mountain Trail, which rises behind St. John's College, is a 5.4-mile hike that'll earn you dessert tonight.
    Photo courtesy of New Mexico Tourism Department
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    Wellness and Spas
    Wellness and Spas
    Santa Fe has a fabled restorative and healing-arts history, and for centuries people have visited Santa Fe for its dry climate, natural hot springs, and clean air. Most wellness spots use scented elements in their treatments, based on ancient local remedies; some come from farther afield, like Thailand, Indonesia, or Japan. The famed Ten Thousand Waves spa is designed to feel like a Japanese hot springs and has both private and public soaking tubs. The Spa at the Four Seasons Rancho Encantado offers stimulating bodywork using juniper, sage, lavender, and adobe clay. It's easy to find studios for yoga and meditation in the area, too. Book your appointments in advance. At the stables outside, the EQUUS leadership classes teach a new kind of wellness, one that comes from the confidence and trust learned through working with horses.
    Photo courtesy of Ten Thousand Waves Spa
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    The High Road to Taos
    The High Road to Taos
    The High Road to Taos is a historic 76-mile excursion that's attractive to sightseers and photographers. Begin early and head into the dramatic shifting landscapes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Visit El Santuario, a historic adobe church and pilgrimage site in the town of Chimayó (don't miss nearby Rancho de Chimayó for its menu of simple and rustic cuisine). Continue your drive along the narrow roads, stopping often to capture the beauty. The road winds through small villages like Cordova, noted for its woodworking, and the summit town of Truchas, then Las Trampas, and Peñasco. End your trip at the San Francisco mission church in Rancho de Taos, an adobe structure noted for its striking simplicity.
    Photo by Jennifer Ley
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    Cycling Santa Fe
    Cycling Santa Fe
    Santa Fe is a wonderful biking town. The beauty of the light, the sunsets, the adobe buildings, and the splendor of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains all form a perfect backdrop for cycling adventurers. There are over 50 miles of scenic trails in the surrounding area, from the curvy 23.4-mile Dale Ball Trails to the steep, 5-mile downhill Winsor Trail. The Santa Fe Rail-Trail runs across town from the Railyard District and heads into the desert, ending in the town of Lamy, 18 miles away. Across the city, there are various bike trails and routes along quiet streets. Angel Fire Bike Park, open from May to October, takes advantage of a ski resort's slopes in the off-season.
    Photo courtesy of Mark Kane/Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau
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    Varied Running Trails
    Varied Running Trails
    Runners will delight in the various jogging paths along trails, mesas, and quiet city streets. Early morning is a good time to gain ground. The Arroyo de los Chamisos Trail is an easily accessible, paved road. The River Trail, which runs along the Santa Fe River, provides views of small farms and horse corrals. The steep winding roads and paths up near the scenic campus of St. John's College are more challenging, and Artist Road leads to running paths in the Santa Fe National Forest and Hyde Memorial State Park. Remember that the altitude in Santa Fe may be higher than you are used to; even people who exercise frequently should start slowly before attempting rigorous trails.
    Photo by Joseph C. Dovala/age fotostock
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    Ski Santa Fe
    Ski Santa Fe
    Just 16 miles from Santa Fe’s downtown, in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Ski Santa Fe is a great winter spot for beginners and accomplished skiers, with 77 marked trails spread over 660 acres. An average of 225 inches of snow falls on the slopes, which are maintained by grooming staff. The high base elevation, over 10,000 feet, provides your ski runs with panoramic mountain vistas; the Millennium Triple Chairlift takes you to almost 12,000 feet. Weekdays are less crowded and afford skiers the best powder. A well-regarded ski school has a variety of packages, group and private; half-, full-, or multiple days are available. In the off-season—August through October—recreational hikers and photographers can summit.
    Photo by Karl Weatherly/age fotostock
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    Whitewater Rafting and Scenic Floats
    Whitewater Rafting and Scenic Floats
    There are ample opportunities around Santa Fe for whitewater rafting and beautiful, scenic float trips. April and September are great times for half-, full-, and multiday river-rafting trips along the legendary Rio Chama and Rio Grande Gorge, and are appropriate for all levels. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the surrounding landscape of rock formations, cliffs, and clusters of cottonwoods at the river’s edge. The Santa Fe Rafting Company and New Mexico River Adventures are well-known outlets; both customize trips based on your preferences. A mellow, scenic float through the canyon of the Rio Chama is perfect for families or inexperienced rafters, while thrill-seekers prefer the Rio Grande Gorge.
    Photo courtesy of Chris Corrie/Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau
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    The Turquoise Trail
    The Turquoise Trail
    Ditch the freeway and take the (historic) road less traveled. The Turquoise Trail is the 52 miles along Highway 14 between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and is named after the rich turquoise deposits found in the country's oldest turquoise mining area. Along the way you will pass general stores, saloons, and historic churches. Madrid, formerly a ghost town, is now a thriving village with small galleries and cafés. Nearby Los Cerrillos was the cinematic backdrop of the 1988 film Young Guns. Those with a bit of time can venture out to hike in Cerrillos Hills State Park.
    Photo by Edison Vee
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    A Weekend Getaway to Taos
    A Weekend Getaway to Taos
    Visit neighboring Taos, a beautiful 90-minute drive from Santa Fe. Once you arrive, check out the awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage site of Taos Pueblo. Here, you can visit the homes of Pueblo artists, who display and sell beautifully handcrafted wares and jewelry. Have lunch at the venerable Doc Martin’s or enjoy dinner at the charming Love Apple. World Cup café serves local coffee and has a great selection of postcards. Starr Interiors carries hand-loomed Zapotec rugs, and the Nambé outlet sells beautifully designed home decor (the New Mexico–born brand has pieces in the collections of the British Museum and the Museum of Modern Art). Rest your head at the charmingly retro Taos Inn or at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, where renowned figures like Georgia O’Keeffe and D.H. Lawrence stayed.
    Photo by Mark Newman/age fotostock