Natural Treasures

8 Must-See Parks and Monuments

Discover ancient mysteries, rich history and fascinating geography at Santa Fe County’s celebrated parks and monuments. From haunting ruins and petroglyphs of ancient Puebloan people, to traces of old mining sites, a Civil War battlefield and gorgeous waterfalls, these outdoor adventures will take your breath away.

Bandelier National Monument

Journey back through time to the days of the ancestral Puebloan people with a visit to Bandelier National Monument. Walk along ancient paths that lead to cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, and a ceremonial kiva, where you’ll imagine what this area looked like as a bustling city more than  11,000 years ago. Don’t skip the gift shop. You’re sure to find a treasure or two to take home.


Tsankawi is part of Bandelier and though it's much less crowded, it's equally stunning. Ancestral Puebloan people settled on this high plateau in the 1400s, building homes atop a mesa and carving caves into soft volcanic stone below. Tsankawi's trail follows an ancient pathway worn into rock by those who once lived here. The 1.5-mile loop trail takes you through narrow passageways and up and down ladders to visit cave rooms and unexcavated ruins. Impressive petroglyphs and gorgeous views of the Jemez and Sangre de Cristo mountain ranges are part of the magic of this powerful place.

Cerrillos Hills State Park

Cerrillos Hills State Park is steeped in history that you’ll discover on five miles of interpretive trails. Hills formed by volcano remnants 30 million years ago hold a rich  mining history, including turquoise and lead mines established by ancient Native Americans and silver mines opened later by Spanish colonists. Today, Cerrillos Hills State Park offers something for everyone, including hiking, mountain biking, birding and picnicking.

A guided horseback tour with a nearby outfitter makes a great way to see this country. You’ll ride through rolling juniper-covered hills and take in majestic views of the surrounding mountain ranges. Don’t miss exciting events at the park, too, including star-gazing and programs devoted to snakes, high desert animals and other immersive experiences.

Insider Tip

A stop at the Pecos National Historical Park is a walk through history, as its home to the furthest west Civil War Battle, New Mexico ranch history, the Ancestral Sites Trail and more contemporary Route 66 history.

Pecos National Historical Park

With ancient ruins of a major Southwest pueblo, haunting remnants of an 18th-century Spanish mission church, wagon wheel ruts on the Santa Fe Trail and traces of a pivotal American civil war battle, Pecos National Historical Park brings the area’s riveting past to life. More than 6,000 acres of breathtaking wilderness makes this park a place to connect with nature, whether you’re hiking, fishing or simply gazing at the majestic views.

Glorieta Battlefield Trail

If you’re a Civil War buff, head straight to the Glorieta Battlefield Trail. This 2.25 -mile loop trail chronicles the Civil War Battle of Glorieta Pass with interpretive signs about the pivotal three-day battle between Confederate and Union forces in March of 1862. This battle, considered to be the “Gettysburg of the West,” was won by the Union, which kept control of New Mexico through the American Civil War. Part of Pecos National Historical Park, the Glorieta Battlefield Trail is accessed by a gate code that you’ll get when you stop at the park’s visitor center.

Nambé Falls and Lake Recreation Area

Waterfalls of wonder await you at Nambé Falls and Lake Recreation Area. Share a picnic and marvel at the thundering power of water, then set off on an uphill trail that rewards you with views of the falls from above. Another short trail leads through a river to a beach area by the lowest pool, so you’ll want to have water shoes as  you’re going to get wet. And isn’t that why you’re here?

Hyde Memorial State Park

Picturesque campgrounds in ponderosa pine forests offer an elevated getaway at  Hyde Memorial State Park in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Once you’ve pitched your tent, set out on prime hiking trails. There are trails for every hiker, whether you’re a novice or an ace. Look for deer and wildlife and in summer, you’ll see wildflowers bursting with color. In fall, miles of golden aspens draw leaf-peepers from near and far. In winter, the park is a popular spot for sledding, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

La Cieneguilla Petroglyph Site

More than 5,000 mysterious, fantastical images carved into rocks and boulders offer a compelling window to the past at La Cieneguilla Petroglyph Site, which sits on a mesa above the Santa Fe River. Carved by ancient Pueblo people between the 13th and 17th centuries, though some may date back to 8000 to 2000 BCE, these images of birds, deer, Kokopelli (the infamous hump-back flute player), and other figures are centuries old, yet they remain strongly connected to today’s vibrant Pueblo cultures of northern New Mexico.

Insider Tip

Hyde Memorial State Park has something for everyone. With wi-fi available at the Visitor Center and yurts equipped with propane heaters, fire rings and food safes (no electricity), campers can get a taste of the wild without giving up all amenities. For those looking to ‘rough it’ the park’s campsites provide great opportunities to spend time unplugged in nature.