Hiking in Sante Fe New Mexico

  Sante Fe, New Mexico is the oldest capital city in the United States, wonderful old west charm with a special uniqueness all its own. I think what makes it so special is that it has something to attract everyone. But Sante Fe is not just any city, it has centuries of native history and culture that continues to the present.

After I shop and dine my way through the downtown Plaza (which we will divulge in a future post), it’s time to head to the mountains.

New Mexico is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. We head out to hit the trails. Just on the outskirts of Sante Fe are several trail systems to hike and explore.  The one we tried first is a favorite of the locals, the Dale Ball Trails nestled in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. About 22-miles of terrain that accommodates even beginner hikers and cyclists. We pick up the trail at the Cerro Gordo Trailhead at Upper Canyon Rd and begin our ascent to Picacho Peak.  This is a four mile round trip with a lot of switchbacks. Your climb weaves you through narrow juniper lined track sections to more open areas with quick descent.  Surprisingly, we reached the top quickly. The views are impressive standing at an 8,500 elevation. To the west the Jemez Mountains, the south, the Ortiz & Sandia ranges and to the northeast, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and a nice view of the Sante Fe Skyline.

We spoke with a few locals at the top as we rested and enjoyed the views.  They encouraged us to do Atalaya Mountain is just a short drive down the road for more of a hiking challenge.


We picked up the Atalaya Mountain Trail at the St. John’s College parking area a few miles away. This is a seven mile round trip to the top through the Sante Fe National Forest. We begin our ascent through piney woods and crossing small streams.  The hillside becomes much steeper and more narrow as you work your way to the top.  There was a little more variety of blooms and birds on this trail for us to enjoy.  This trail is definitely challenging and it is more suitable for moderate to experienced hikers.

When we finally reach the top of Atalaya Mountain the views are even more impressive at a 9,121 feet elevation.  Again, you take in all the mountain ranges we saw on Picacho Peak but with a bonus.  A local hiker pointed out to me Blue Bead Mountain to the west. How amazing and close up it looked, but it’s about 100 miles away!  The Sante Fe skyline is much more pronounced.  After resting and enjoying a snack we explored the mountain top and the unusual coloring of the rocks, boulders and plants. The complete hike will take about four hours but is well worth it when you see the views!

Views from the top of Atalaya Mountain


It can take some time to adjust to the higher altitudes.  It’s best to stop and rest if you find yourself winded or light-headed.  So many great trails in Sante Fe to explore and these two are exceptional!

Tips:  Always  remember to bring adequate water, snacks and of course good shoes. Both trails are open year round and are shared with cyclists. Dogs are allowed.  There are no fees for either trail.


Dale Balls Trailhead @ Upper Canyon Rd Sante Fe

Atalya Mountain Trail @ St John’s College: 1160 Camino Cruz Blanca, Santa Fe



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  1. This is a wonderful trail and I can see that you had a great time. Loved the wonderful views which i can see from your pictures. Would love to get out there someday.

    1. Hi Vyjay…New Mexico is great for so many things, hiking being just one. Hope you can visit and see these views for yourself!

  2. Wow looks absolutely stunning. I love the places you show in your posts, as us Brits normally only hear about the big US cities. Me and Phil are slowly getting into hiking, so maybe one day we’ll make it here! thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Garth & Phil….Glad you enjoy them…I’m an avid hiker so a lot of my post highlight those areas. Hope you can visit soon!

    1. Hi Marcelle. New Mexico is one of my absolute favorite states. Warm days cool nights, good food, and plenty of places to hike…you will love it!!

  3. Great photos Lisa. I was lucky to have made it to Santa Fe last year but unfortunately I didn’t get to spend much time there and so wasn’t able to explore the surrounding area. Love reading about all your hikes!

  4. Santa Fe is beautiful. I only visited for a quick trip so didn’t have time to go hiking. I want to go back, would love to see the balloon festival and visit 10,000 waves spa (again).

  5. I really enjoy reading your articles Lisa because you show me places in the USA that I would never have heard of otherwise. Atalaya looks really peaceful and that view is great. 9000ft is high though!

    1. Hi Dave….I’m so glad you enjoy my posts, that means a lot to me. My goal is definitely to show the “off beaten path places” here in the US. 9,000 feet, piece of cake..haha

    1. Hi Angie, Hikers paradise that’s for sure. It was great that the some locals were there to point things out to me, amazing what you can see from the top!

  6. I love Santa Fe and you described it well. I especially love the hiking you did outside of the city. I have never had the chance to do that and the pictures show how beautiful it is. Where did you find the information on the trails and the starting points? Love the post, thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Stephanie…I love New Mexico! I saw the Dale Balls in a NM magazine and then the locals told us about the other ones. Fabulous hikes!

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