Off the Beaten Path


With more than 600 magnificent miles of high desert trails, Santa Fe County is a paradise for hikers and mountain bikers all year long. Named by USA Today as the country’s top outdoor destination, the region offers an incredibly diverse range of terrain for hikers and mountain bikers of every level. Bring sunscreen, plenty of water and an appetite for adventure!

Insider Tip

The Dale Ball Trails are one of the best places to hike and run in the country, according to Travel + Leisure and Sherman’s Travel. In part, that’s because the trails are close to the city and the landscape is startlingly beautiful. There’s another reason that locals love these trails, and you will, too, when you make use of the advanced wayfinding system. It’s a cinch to follow the 1-2-3 signs and other numbered route markers.


Locals love the Dale Ball Trails, a 25-mile network through the beautiful Sangre de Cristo foothills. Pathways wind through juniper forests, across arroyos and by seasonally dry creek beds with rock gardens resembling Zen formations. Awe-inspiring panoramic views are everywhere, as the trails cover a wide area between Santa Fe County and the Santa Fe National Forest. Whether you’re a hiker or a mountain biker, prepare to spend hours of delight in one of the country’s most beautiful spots for outdoor adventures.


High up in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, on the Aspen Vista Trail, you can really get away from it all. Surrounded by wildflowers and wildlife, tall ponderosa pines and aspen trees, your cares just slip away. The round-trip hike to Tesuque Peak above Ski Santa Fe is a strenuous 12 miles, but you can meander along the first 2.5 miles of this trail, passing through groves of tall aspen trees.  However far you travel, there’s always a perfect picnic spot with a view.


Bird-watchers flock to the Randall Davey Audubon Center and Sanctuary, a 135-acre wildlife preserve on Santa Fe’s historic eastside. They spot red-winged blackbirds, red-tailed hawks and nearly 200 other bird species. Hikers enjoy the winding picturesque trails through piñon, juniper and ponderosa trees, visited by colorful butterflies that flit between the trees. If you arrive on a Saturday at 8:30 a.m., you can enjoy a free bird walk led by resident experts.


All aboard the Santa Fe Rail Trail! Discover the area’s fascinating railroad history on this popular 15-mile, multi-use trail that parallels Santa Fe’s railway line between the downtown Santa Fe Railyard and the historic railroad town of Lamy. The path from downtown is paved for 3.5 miles, but turns to dirt at Rabbit Road. Whether you’re on wheels or hiking, you’ll marvel at the expansive views around you as you travel up and down this hilly trail, bordered by juniper and piñon trees and occasional railroad trestle marking the route of the railway line.


With nearly 10,000 acres of serene Savannah grasslands, winding arroyos, sandstone formations and other pristine wilderness, the beauty of the Galisteo Basin Preserve will leave you breathless. Take a few minutes to simply admire some of the most majestic views in the region, then get out into this natural wonder, which offers almost 30 miles of hiking, biking and horseback riding trails. It’s a place to rediscover yourself by connecting with nature.


A stark, beautiful landscape awaits you at Diablo Canyon Recreation Area.  Basalt cliffs towering as much as 300 feet high make this an otherworldly place. Rock climbers consider the canyon to be one of the best climbing areas in New Mexico. Hikers love it, too, especially for the sandy trail that leads to the banks of the Rio Grande.


Little Tesuque Trail, a picturesque 3-mile loop, begins off of Bishop’s Lodge Road. You’ll cross the creek and then follow the easy trail as it takes you up one side of Tesuque Creek and back down on the Winsor Trail. This creekside trail is so peaceful and pastoral, with lots of shade and greenery, that it’s a popular place for people walking their dogs.


Rolling terrain and single-speed cross country rides make La Tierra Trails a mecca for mountain bikers. They try out jumps and other Freeride skills and tackle fast single-track trails popular with bikers of any level. The 25-mile maze-like trail system also appeals to hikers and horseback riders with its wide, sandy network of trails. The allure of this sprawling trails system northwest of the city is just one of the many reasons USA Today ranked the area as one of America’s Top Mountain Bike Towns.

Insider Tip

If Diablo Canyon looks somewhat familiar, you may have seen it on the big screen. The area has provided backdrops for many films, including “Cowboys and Aliens,” “3:10 to Yuma” and “The Missing.”