Best Hikes Outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico

Stewart Lake is just one example of the beautiful scenery New Mexico has to offer
Stewart Lake is just one example of the beautiful scenery New Mexico has to offer | © Efrain Padro / Alamy Stock Photo
Ildiko Hetesi

Hiking in New Mexico is one of the most rewarding ways to discover the state. The varied, often harsh, natural conditions have not only challenged people since humans first showed up on the Colorado Plateau, but have also inspired art, literature and culture. Check out the fascinating landscapes outside Santa Fe with these scenic trails.

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Putting on your hiking boots, checking the weather conditions and making it out early to a trailhead is a good start to any day. Always check local information for trail conditions.

Santa Fe Rail-Trail

This hike follows the still-active rail line between Santa Fe and Lamy. The trail starts at the Santa Fe Railyard Park, on the southwest edge of the city center, and goes all the way to Lamy and Route 285. Another good starting point, with plenty of parking, is at South Capitol Station on Alta Vista Street. The trail is asphalt for the first 3.5mi (5.6km) and hard dirt for the rest of the 16mi (26km) route. The second part of the hike gets into some remote parts of the countryside and is wildly beautiful. It can be used by bikes, pedestrians and even dogs are welcome. This is one of the most popular hikes near Santa Fe and is easily accessible, with no major elevation change.

Atalaya Mountain Trail

This is another popular out and back hike just outside of Santa Fe. At 6.4mi (10km) it goes through a forested setting with stretches of steep inclines and is available year round. The trailhead is located near a large parking lot at St. John’s College and leaves the city heading north and then east. At certain parts the single-track trail wraps around the mountain and offers great views over Santa Fe, as does the peak at 9125ft (2781m). This hike is considered moderate to hard.

Sun Mountain Trail

For a quick but intensive fix, the Sun Mountain Trail is best. It’s very near the Museum Hill in the southeast part of town, so is technically still in the city. It is an out and back hike, all in all 1.6mi (2.5km). That may seem short, but there is quite some climb to pay for that. This easily accessible hike is a workout and sporty locals love the breathtaking views over Santa Fe and the surrounding mountains. The trailhead starts roughly a mile behind Museum Hill at 3881 Old Santa Fe Trail.

Nambe Lake Trail

As a 7mi (11.2km) round trip this out and back hike is on the longish side and there is some serious elevation gain, hence its moderate rating. After the first mile on the hillside, the trail enters Santa Fe National Forest and begins to ascend. Turn right at the trail junction to make the steep final stretch towards the lake itself – a stunning reward for your hard work.

Santa Fe Canyon Preserve Trail

The Santa Fe Canyon Preserve is a 15-minute drive from the city center and close to the Randall Davey Audubon Center. The trail is a 1.3mi (2km) loop taking the visitor through the Santa Fe River and historic dam site. The walk is easy, and focuses more on discovering the surroundings than providing a work out. There are signs all along to provide information on the preserve and the role it has played in providing Santa Fe with water. Trail maps are available at the visitor center.

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