Make Your Next Visit to Santa Fe a Tour de Force

Do you occasionally feel like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, pressed for time and harnessed to a big watch? Discover the spirit of Santa Fe! We take relaxing-into-the-moment seriously, so I think you should leave the planning to us. Making the most of limited time means doing only what’s necessary, then letting the professionals take over. Once you’ve made plane reservations or tuned up the truck, pick out a great hotel (a tough choice you’ll have to make for yourself), then take a break by touring with adventurous experts who make it their business to see that your getaway is grand.

Train, plane or automobile — just get yourself to Santa Fe and let the locals share the best!
Train, plane or automobile — just get yourself to Santa Fe and let the locals share the best!

Lose Yourself in a Legendary Landscape

The vistas here are so large and the possibilities so many that it takes a pro to know where to start. You can’t do better than Georges and Sue Mally of Santa Fe Walkabouts, ranked #1 for Santa Fe activities on TripAdvisor. This dynamic duo and their powerful Pinzgauer (not their dog, it’s their fun all-terrain vehicle) get you out of town and into nature in informative and entertaining style. Want to explore the otherworldly Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks? You can scramble to the top or gaze at the azure sky from the bottom of a slot canyon. Hiking can be an easy excursion past ancient petroglyphs or a challenging climb in Georgia O’Keeffe country.

Gaze at the gorgeous landscape that inspired Georgia O’Keeffe with Santa Fe Walkabouts as your guide. (Photo credit: Santa Fe Walkabouts)
Gaze at the gorgeous landscape that inspired Georgia O’Keeffe with Santa Fe Walkabouts as your guide. (Photo credit: Santa Fe Walkabouts)

Mountain biking your thing? Take a canyon-rim cruise or a strenuous trek straight up the mountain, as Georges paces you pedal for pedal. And then, there’s the Pinz … be it a rocky road to a remote area or a glorious sunset tour to say goodnight to Santa Fe, this is a one-of-a-kind ride you won’t forget in a hurry! You may lose yourself in wonder at what you see, but in the expert care of Walkabouts, you’ll never get lost in anything but dreams!

 

Feed Your Fantasies in Santa Fe

Fun in the sun makes for a delicious day, but you can combine seeing sights with scrumptious flavors in a foodie-style adventure with Food Tour New Mexico. Ranked as TripAdvisor’s #1 Santa Fe sightseeing tour, these rambles through regional specialties should not be missed. And there’s more than one recipe for a nosh through our noteworthy cuisine.

The green leafy courtyard at La Casa Sena is a thing of beauty — and so is the food.
The green leafy courtyard at La Casa Sena is a thing of beauty — and so is the food.

The Taste of Santa Fe includes such notable spots as La Casa Sena (tucked inside Santa Fe’s most beautiful courtyard), Taberna La Boca, James Campbell Caruso’s temple of tapas, and Kakawa Chocolate House, recognized as one of the country’s best places for hot chocolate. The Sample Santa Fe tour takes a similar tack, with stops at the San Francisco Street Bar & Grill (a locals’ favorite), Upper Crust Pizza, and Senor Murphy, Santa Fe’s historic chocolatier, tucked alongside the historic La Fonda Hotel. And for those who love a sippin’ sampler, there’s even a Culinary Cocktail Tour — that’s one with shaken or stirred skills to take home!

On the subject of testing the palate with pleasurable potions, be it wine, beer, or spirits, the City Different accommodates different drinking desires. Given that foodies like us like vino, it’s no surprise to learn that you can spend an awesome afternoon tasting local vintages at Estrella del Norte Vineyards.

Discover the vines in the oldest wine-growing state: New Mexico! (Photo credit: Estrella del Norte Vineyard)
Discover the vines in the oldest wine-growing state: New Mexico! (Photo credit: Estrella del Norte Vineyard)

A 15-mile drive north gives wine lovers the flavor of the northern New Mexico terroir and a scenic road trip. Throughout summer, there’s a smattering of wine dinners and classes, and there’s even an April 19th vineyard planting if you want to literally get into la tierra.

If beer’s a beloved buddy (I cherish my hoppy memories), there’s always plenty of brew bubbling. My recommendation is Small Batch Saturday at the Santa Fe Brewing Company. Originating with a local homebrew organization, these 10-gallon gatherings give local beer-loving club members a chance to brew with the experts and share the craft results. Brewery tours or tastings are every bit as tasty as you’d expect from Santa Fe’s oldest brewery, with 20 or so beers in rotation; favorites are always on tap!

It’s always “brewtastic” to taste what’s on tap at Santa Fe Brewing Company. (Photo credit: Max Otwell)
It’s always “brewtastic” to taste what’s on tap at Santa Fe Brewing Company. (Photo credit: Max Otwell)

Santa Fe is a spirited town, and the inroads made by Santa Fe Spirits are proof positive. In just a few short years, Colin Keegan, the don of distillers, has managed to put not only whisky, but vodka, gin, and an apple brandy into the mix. A short drive takes you to an artisan adventure in locally crafted spirits, and it’s enlightening to discover that what we enjoy at leisure commands so much expert attention. A distillery tour is my choice, because I like combining a sip with an education, but knowledge is on hand at the downtown tasting room if you’re afoot and footloose on a sunny Santa Fe afternoon.

It’s a barrel of fun to discover the spirits of Santa Fe and taste them too! (Photo credit: Santa Fe Spirits)
It’s a barrel of fun to discover the spirits of Santa Fe and taste them too! (Photo credit: Santa Fe Spirits)

Follow the Leader and Do It Yourself

If you’re one for marching to the beat of your own drum, make the most of Santa Fe by merely following a beaten path laid out by trail-blazers just like you. If you’re firmly convinced (I am) that a chocolate a day is the key to keeping the doctor away — it is a proven fact that chocolate is good for you – spend a sweet afternoon on a Chocolate Lovers’ Odyssey. You might want to pair that sweet tooth with a caffeine fix, in which case, a Coffee Tour will hit the spot.

One way or another, all paths lead to green chile in Santa Fe.
One way or another, all paths lead to green chile in Santa Fe.

And eventually, when it’s time to settle down for a real meal, a detour to hunt down your favorite version of our famed Green Chile Cheeseburger simply has to be on the agenda.

Leave the Driving to Us

Even if your trip is just a short hop, I commend you for coming … and I assure you, you’ll be back. The spell of Santa Fe is simply too magical. But if you only have a weekend, take a tram tour to plan for deeper exploration next time. Seeing the sights seated on your keister saves time and foot-power, because there’s just so much to see.

 

Custom Tours by Clarice shuttles the curious on daily tours of our historic downtown four times a day, seven days a week, and if Clarice herself is at the wheel, the friendly flow of conversation is wide-ranging. The Loretto Line Tour Company is Santa Fe’s oldest tram tour, but the enthusiasm and expertise of their guides is fresh as a daisy. Running three times a day every day of the week, Loretto tours cover all the legendary downtown spots, leaving you with a comprehensive overview and a plan for returning to places that piqued your interest.

There’s more than one way to ride in Santa Fe. (Photo Credit: Loretto Line Tours)
There’s more than one way to ride in Santa Fe. (Photo Credit: Loretto Line Tours)

 

Leave the Planning to Us

We’ll take good care of you once you get here; after all, we appreciate our renown as the cultural hotspot of the Southwest. And that means lots of locals make their living by welcoming with open arms and minds full of fascinating facts the visitors who want to enjoy our historic city. Why not leave the selections, explanations, and driving to us? You just kick back and enjoy the scenery, the flavor and the fun! My way of getting the best of the adventure is by spending the least amount of energy planning. Try seeing Santa Fe my way — I know you’ll like it!

Santa Fe: The Ultimate Treat for Dogs

What’s not to love about two adoring eyes gazing up at you from a four-legged friend? When you have a dog, you know you are loved. So why would you travel without your BFF (that’s Best Furry Friend)? Time was, the pooch was passed up, but we’ve become more conscious that though our pets can’t speak, they experience feelings of abandonment when we go off without them. Hence, the big mournful eyes that ensue as your packing begins. A fun adventure in Santa Fe, ranked as a top spot for canine travel, can definitely include Fido if you know where to go — and I’m happy to share my hound-dog’s favorite haunts.

A Companionable Stay in Santa Fe

The first order of travel business is finding the perfect perch with all the comforts of home. I’ve invited my Kitty-Q to travel too, because “Pets R Us,” but she let me know in no uncertain terms that cars aren’t her thing, so I’ll concentrate on the pooch patrol.

Macie Mae snuggles in for a snooze at the Santa Fe Sage Inn. (Photo credit: Sheila Williams)
Macie Mae snuggles in for a snooze at the Santa Fe Sage Inn. (Photo credit: Sheila Williams)

Whether it’s dogs, travel-tolerant cats, or iguanas (okay, not many of them travel either), Santa Fe is on point with pet travel; in fact, picking pet-friendly lodging boils down to location, price, and style. You can’t go wrong near the happening Santa Fe Railyard, and that means a stay at the affordable Santa Fe Sage Inn. As the inn of choice for the folk artists who come annually for the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, this hotel is used to making all kinds of guests feel right at home, and four-legs enjoy the same genuinely welcoming experience. Your pup gets yummy check-in treats from Zoe & Guido’s Pet Boutique, and you get breakfast daily and free shuttle service. Cozy pet beds are provided, and what better place to walk Walter the Wire-haired Terrier than the 10-plus acre Railyard Park right across the street?

Let your pup take you to the Railyard Park for a sunset stroll. (Photo Credit: Santa Fe Sage Inn)
Let your pup take you to the Railyard Park for a sunset stroll. (Photo Credit: Santa Fe Sage Inn)

If your Coco is a city dog who likes sidewalk action, you can both be comfy downtown near the Santa Fe Plaza at the Hotel Chimayo. Named for the northern New Mexico village of Chimayo (which some of us believe grows our state’s tastiest chile), this hot spot boasts a Pet-Friendly Package that waives nightly pet fees. And along with a pet swag bag, you get a 15% discount at BOTH Teca Tu Pet Emporium and Zoe and Guido’s — hard to argue with that deal! And while your sweet Shih Tzu Suzie takes a snooze up in the room, you can catch some authentic Santa Fe flavor by kickin’ back on the tuck’n’roll seating in the hotel’s Low’n’Slow Lowrider Bar.

You can get the lowdown on Santa Fe at the Hotel Chimayo’s Low’n’Slow Lowrider Bar. (Photo credit: Hotel Chimayo)
You can get the lowdown on Santa Fe at the Hotel Chimayo’s Low’n’Slow Lowrider Bar. (Photo credit: Hotel Chimayo)

A bed-and-breakfast could well be the optimal option for that old pal who relishes curling up at your feet in an intimate home-like setting. Picture Pancho the Pug taking an afternoon siesta in one of the five individually designed rooms at the Antigua Inn, tucked in a residential neighborhood in the heart of downtown. Small size doesn’t mean any skimping on amenities, which include in-room Jura Espresso machines and loose-leaf tea from the Teahouse any time of day. As befits a classic B&B, the breakfast is a marvel, with fresh croissants and quiche from Clafoutis, along with fresh fruit and juices, organic bacon, yogurts, granola and cereals. And the fresh roses in your room every day? Oh my, you’re the one getting petted here!

A day of doggie delights in Santa Fe begins with a breakfast of champions for humans at the Antigua Inn. (Photo credit: Antigua Inn)
A day of doggie delights in Santa Fe begins with a breakfast of champions for humans at the Antigua Inn. (Photo credit: Antigua Inn)

The “Paws” That Refreshes

When you’re a member of the four-legged species, sometimes you just gotta run! Oh, it’s fine to sniff out new smells at the end of a leash as your human walks along the Santa Fe River, strolls artistic Canyon Road, or browses the shops, but sometimes a pup needs a “paws” for action! The Frank Ortiz Dog Park is the locals’ destination for dog-day cavorting with others of their tribe. There’s an off-leash area for romping, and picnic tables if you want to nosh while Rover does rollovers with Rex, but as always, pet courtesy must be observed, so be aware and have your leash handy.

Pets get off-leash and on the run at the Frank Ortiz Dog Park. (Photo Credit: Bring Fido)
Pets get off-leash and on the run at the Frank Ortiz Dog Park. (Photo Credit: Bring Fido)

Let’s Get Cleaned Up and Chow Down

Living with four paws means picking up more trail dust than two feet do, so perhaps baby will need a bath. Pooch Pantry Bakery and Boutique to the rescue! Not content with baking fresh treats daily, this pet emporium on the north end of Guadalupe Street also offers a self-serve dog wash.

 

A bathing beauty takes a break at the Pooch Pantry. (Photo credit: Pooch Pantry Bakery & Boutique)
A bathing beauty takes a break at the Pooch Pantry. (Photo credit: Pooch Pantry Bakery & Boutique)

Open every day except Monday, the best part of this experience is that once you’ve cleaned your pet, they clean up after you. Now that’s service.

Once doggy is fresh as a daisy, you can pick up pet snacks to go, as well as vitamins (don’t you travel with same?), leashes and collars, new toys, or a colorful dinner bowl.

Speaking of dinner, are you hungry? Just leash up as you leave the Pooch Pantry and lead that clean canine south on Guadalupe Street. You don’t have to let Samson suffer the left-behind blues, because he can come with you when you eat at the Cowgirl Santa Fe.

Get along little doggies, and head for the Cowgirl!
Get along little doggies, and head for the Cowgirl!

 

Spanning almost an entire block, this happening haven has a pleasant patio space for well-behaved pooches to laze while we partake of music and a meal. The craft beer selection has just doubled, the daily specials always get my attention, and portions here are beyond ample.

Bring the Four-legged Family

Maurice says, “Make Mine Santa Fe!” (Photo credit: Candace Martinez)
Maurice says, “Make Mine Santa Fe!” (Photo credit: Candace Martinez)

Traveling with Toto is a treat. As Dave Barry so memorably puts it, “Dogs love to go for rides. A dog will happily get into a vehicle going anywhere.” Pets are welcome guests in Santa Fe; after all, the patron saint of our city is St. Francis of Assisi, lover of the animal kingdom. Our fine furry friends are likely to have more than one travel tale to tell us, but until we speak their lingo, you’ll just have to settle for a look at that eager tail wagging to get full-fur approval on a visit to Santa Fe.

 

Want the Ultimate Guys’ Getaway? Head to Santa Fe, Bro.

Editor’s Note: We welcome a guest blogger this week, recounting his guys’ adventure in Santa Fe last Spring.

I know it’s a trend for guys and their buddies to take getaways together these days, and I often get asked to recommend a destination. So I offer the following as a public service to those guys trying to agree on a location for their “broventure.” Last April, my buddies and I debated where we should go, and we decided on Santa Fe. We expected a great time, but what we found here totally blew our minds. See, we discovered an outdoor mecca for dudes, complete with light-up-your-taste buds Santa Fe food and amazing micro-brewed beer.

Great Buds + Great Outdoors = Great Santa Fe Memories

We were anxious to embark on our outdoor spree the very first day. Should we strap on the waders and do some fly fishing? Maybe hit the area’s legendary mountain bike trails? So many options! We had some avid skiers in the group, so we started the trip with the world-class slopes at Ski Santa Fe. At the time, Ski Santa Fe had one of the deepest bases of any mountain in New Mexico—a total skier’s paradise. Man, the skiers and boarders among us shredded away on our first morning in Santa Fe. But the day was still young, so we decided to head down the mountain and squeeze in a round of golf. Where else but Santa Fe can you do this?

My friends and I have been known to hit a golf ball or two before adjourning to the 19th Hole. In fact, one of the guys is a full-on scratch golfer. I’m here to tell you Santa Fe offers mind-blowing options for novice and advanced golfers alike. The Northern New Mexico Golf Trail, with its ten 18-Hole courses, is a wonderland of golf. We’re talking everything from mountain to high-desert courses, all with stunning views of the New Mexico landscape. At the top of the must-play list is Marty Sanchez Links de Santa Fe, just eight miles west of downtown. This legendary muni course is in high-end country club condition, with 360-degree views of the mountains. And yes, we did retire to The Links Bar & Grill after an amazing round. As you might expect, all that outdoor action made us mighty thirsty.

All other muni courses pale in comparison to Marty Sanchez Links de Santa Fe.
All other muni courses pale in comparison to Marty Sanchez Links de Santa Fe.

Santa Fe: Home of Craft Beers, Small-Batch Spirits, and Blissed-Out Guys.

Blue Corn Brewery handcrafts amazing ales and stacked enchiladas.
Blue Corn Brewery handcrafts amazing ales and stacked enchiladas.

So, guys being guys, we decided the next item on the vacation agenda should be glue that holds friendships together: beer. Lucky for us, Santa Fe is a goldmine of craft beer brewpubs. Our first stop was Blue Corn Brewery. To get a sampling of their many heavenly hops, we ordered beer flights including everything from Atomic Blonde Lager to the Roadrunner IPA and Gold Medal Oatmeal Stout. Blue Corn recently medaled at the Great American Beer Festival, so this place is more than legit. And if you want a plate of bona fide Santa Fe New Mexican food, their stacked enchiladas and braised pork stew ruin you for the same-old Mexican food back home.

Cheers to the folks at Santa Fe Spirits for the guided tour of their distillery.
Cheers to the folks at Santa Fe Spirits for the guided tour of their distillery.

With an amazing meal and a tasty flight of beers under our belts, we opted to raise our spirits even further at Santa Fe Spirits. These folks distill a dizzying array of small-batch spirits ranging from single-malt whiskey to gin and vodka to brandy. The master distiller gave us a guided tour of the entire distillery, and we sampled various cocktail concoctions in the tasting room. It was the ideal way for us guys to wind down the day. And yes, we took a cab back to the hotel. And oh, what a hotel: the Inn of the Governors.

Guys Kicking It Santa Fe Style at the Inn of the Governors

The Inn of the Governors’ heated pool offers even more liquid refreshment.
The Inn of the Governors’ heated pool offers even more liquid refreshment.

Okay, full disclosure about hotels in Santa Fe: There are a mind-boggling number of amazing choices. A) That’s a very good problem to have. B) You and the crew will get all the details you need to reach a consensus here. After much discussion, the guys and I settled on The Inn of the Governors. It’s located right in the heart of the Santa Fe action, and it’s loaded with old school Santa Fe vibe—adobe fireplaces and all. And get this: Their complimentary “Mountain Sunrise Breakfast” is enough to keep a guy satiated for an entire day. We’re talking Southwestern scrambled eggs, apple cured bacon, hashbrowns, and lots more. Unbelievable in terms of quality and quantity.

 

The red and green chile posole at Del Charro Saloon is a life changer.
The red and green chile posole at Del Charro Saloon is a life changer.

The Inn of the Governors has it all, including the Del Charro Saloon. Lots of hotels have a bar. But the Inn of the Governors has a saloon. Voted Santa Fe’s Best Bar by the Santa Fe Reporter, the Del Charro serves up dude-sized margaritas and local craft beer on tap. And its rugged, old west interior and constant stream of sports on flat screen TVs make it the perfect place to celebrate your guydom. If you’re hungry, well, you better be up for a challenge. From the Stuffed Green Chile Cheese Burger to the Chipotle Wings to the Frito Pie, Del Charro serves up heaping helpings that’ll have the biggest, baddest hombre begging for mercy. Del Charro is open til midnight daily, so there’s no excuse for missing out.

It’s Good to Be a Guy in Santa Fe.

Broventure awaits in The City Different.
Broventure awaits in The City Different.

Skiing, hiking, mountain biking, golf galore, food you’ll find nowhere else, a rocking microbrew scene, live music…the list of reasons why Santa Fe offers the perfect getaway for guys goes on and on. It’s hard to explain, but you’ll return with a feeling of invigoration. (Trust me on this.) If you’re thinking of getting away with your bros, think Santa Fe, Bro.

 

Portrait of the Perfect Ski Day

Words like “perfect” always scare me a little. I feel like I’m tempting fate and asking for too much by using it. But there are times when the thesaurus can’t show me a word that describes more perfectly (here I go) a day sent from heaven. I do my share of grousing about the little inconveniences of winter, but the antidote is embracing the white wonderland in all its glory by heading for Ski Santa Fe with a seamless ski day in mind.

Start the Day by Eating the Santa Fe Way

We ski fans are ready to go early, but we need to fuel up first. There’s no point in getting so close to the sky if you don’t stay all day, so acknowledge that old adage that begins, “Breakfast like a king … ”

To me, the best bite of the day isn’t a bite; it’s the first sip of coffee from Ohori’s, setting a Santa Fe standard for independent coffee shops since 1984. After all, a locally roasted cup supports local talent! Santa Fe boasts an impressive crew of coffee brewers, and a coffee tour is part of the adventure for my caffeine-loving visitors. The scintillating downtown aroma of Ohori’s roasting makes everyone a loyal sipper.

There’s a brew just right for you at Ohori’s.
There’s a brew just right for you at Ohori’s.

Once the caffeine kicks in, food follows. If there’s fresh powder, grab a Santa Fe classic:  the breakfast burrito to go. Finding the perfect (!) iteration of this tasty item is a hotly debated topic. Everyone has their favorite, hand-held or smothered, with meat or veg, big enough to share or hands-off. Me, I head for the Santa Fe Baking Company, with burritos and baked goods to suit every taste.

The reason why it’s called Santa Fe Baking Company is simple to see!
The reason why it’s called Santa Fe Baking Company is simple to see!

When there’s no new snow, we may opt for a sit-down breakfast. In that case I’m digging into the Paranormal Pancakes (they’re that good), while I peek over my plate to identify the day’s guest on the KSFR Radio Café. This weekday talkfest is broadcast right from the Baking Co., and later I can catch the podcast of a potent conversation with a Santa Fe thinker.

Scout’s Motto: Be Prepared

With the good fortune to live here, I’m already outfitted, but when ski pals visit, make it easy and rent gear, either in town or up on the hill at Cottam’s Ski Shop. Known since 1976 for great customer service — and for storing visitors’ skis overnight — Cottam’s makes a trip to Ski Santa Fe a one-stop deal. Rental packages cover everything for spending a day up top without the hassle of hauling it from home. But I do recommend reserving in advance — super-simple, no deposit — to be sure you have all you need.

You may very well want a little of everything at Alpine Sports
You may very well want a little of everything at Alpine Sports

If you love being tempted by a gorgeous spread of every outdoor gear item you could possibly desire, renting (or buying) at Alpine Sports is an ideal (that’s another way of saying perfect) option. With 50 years of service to Santa Fe skiers, this family-owned downtown business is one I gladly patronize. The socks alone are a foot fantasy, and a real ski sweater ranks as stylish winter-wear on or off the hill. Rentals are easy online, and the staff is knowledgeable, helpful and most of all, passionate about capturing a perfect (can I use the “p” word again?) Santa Fe ski experience.

The Hills are Alive … With Snow Sports!

Enough talk, time for action! A 16-mile drive leads from the Santa Fe Plaza into the beauty of the Sangre de Cristo range, tail end of the Rocky Mountains, drifting down from Canada to their stony end in New Mexico. While I endeavor to heed the stay-fit advice of the Snow Sports School, there’s usually a year between my ski experiences, so I want a reminder — okay, a lesson. With the variety of skill levels in our crew, lessons thankfully accommodate all.

It’s hard to believe breakfast gets used up so quickly, but brisk winter weather combined with full-body activity has a high calorie-burning quotient, so after lessons, sustenance is required before hitting the mountain. It’s gotta be lunch at Totemoff’s! Fantastic views, skiers zipping by on the Thunderbird run, what’s not to love? Hot drink specials are available all week long, but waiting to mix alcohol until day is done is my motto.

Skiing in a winter wonderland means doing it in Santa Fe! (Photo credit: Ski Santa Fe)
Skiing in a winter wonderland means doing it in Santa Fe! (Photo credit: Ski Santa Fe)

I start with a few easy runs; an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Once I’m sure I have my sea legs — oops, ski-legs — I’ll move on to a few trips down Lobo to prime myself for Burro Alley. I only dream of tackling Desperado; I admit that’s a Western adventure for a gal whose quick-draw skills are faster than mine. Although my snow-abilities will never merit showing off on a board at the Freestyle Terrain Park, you can bet I’ll make a stop to admire those who can ace it.

Day Is Done, Gone Is the Sun, Time to Gather for More Fun

When the sun starts to sink into the horizon, it’s time to round up the troops because I have my mind set on happy hour at Agave Lounge, one of my favorite Santa Fe go-to’s. I love sinking into a leather banquette near the fireplace when I have totally earned the right to relax. The Pomapolitan is my premium pick in a martini, perfect (sorry, I had to say it) for perusing plates to share. I adore snacking on the green chile sliders, but after a full day outside, the quesadilla is coming along on this refueling ride. Yes, you figured that out, this is not the last stop — we’re going to soak these tired limbs!

Day is done, relaxation won … at the Agave Lounge.
Day is done, relaxation won … at the Agave Lounge.

Indulgence Earned, Indulgence Found

Mighty achy muscles mean a bit of pampering is in order. I’ve always felt that if health plans included regular alternative therapy, we’d all be healthy centenarians. Given the plethora of Santa Fe massage schools, whose graduates often stay on in our healthy city, it’s no wonder there are healing hands at many hotels and spa facilities. But I’m not just talking massage, I’m thinking of pairing therapy with a soothing soak.

Mountains, wood and water mean relaxation at 10K Waves (Photo credit: Ten Thousand Waves Japanese Spa & Resort)
Mountains, wood and water mean relaxation at 10K Waves (Photo credit: Ten Thousand Waves Japanese Spa & Resort)

To mix massage with hot tub heaven, it’s back up the hill to Ten Thousand Waves Japanese Bath House. A sense of total escape ensues when a hot stone massage is followed by an hour in a private outdoor hot tub under a peaceful moon. And now that 10K has added their new restaurant, Izanami, (Sunset Magazine named it #3 on their list of great things in 2014), if we’re still hungry there’s an answer close at hand. We can simply stay for the 9 pm happy hour to cap an active day in the City Different, an especially good notion right now, since Happy Hour is 33% off through February to celebrate Ten Thousand Waves’ 33 years of making people feel terrific!

Get Into Gear and Get Out for a Great Day in Santa Fe

Didn’t realize that Santa Fe had such a super snow scene? Now you’re the one in the know, so go ahead and share the good news! With an early Thanksgiving Day opening and recent snows continuing to plump up the powder at the Ski Basin, Santa Fe skiers are having a fantastic season of sunny fun under a bright blue sky. You simply can’t ask for a better — dare I say it, more perfect — combination of snow and sun (and great deals) than the blessings we’ve received from Old Man Winter. So don’t hold back, come enjoy a Santa Fe snow day yourself!

New Direction + New Year = Feeling Newly Santa Fe

One year leaves, another begins. Things change, and with the past gone, we have only the now. Einstein said “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” With the calendar’s turning, I’ve been ruminating on how to re-visit and renew my connection to myself, and to my mind, body, and soul via the revitalization of change. Be it known that I intend to “Be Here Now” in Santa Fe by shuffling my deck of experiences to become a more tuned-in, turned-on version of me … call it happiness 2.0(14)!

Divining A City Different Direction

“It’s in the cards” is one of those phrases I’ve heard bandied about over the years, and I decided it was high time I found out what that meant. Chances are you’ve seen a Tarot deck yourself and wondered what a reading might reveal. Not actually a predictor of the future, the Tarot is rather an aid to help one navigate through life’s present challenges. With so many pictorial designs, there is no one deck of cards used by all, but each set consists of cards known as the Major and Minor Arcana. The four suits of the Minor Arcana (wands, swords, cups, and pentacles), each with a king, queen, knight, and page, offer a specific meaningful approach to life’s practical daily ups and downs. By contrast, the Major Arcana is comprised of picture cards that represent principles, concepts and ideals reflecting powerful, long-term energy or big events in certain areas of life.

Let the cards talk to you through Tamara Janúz at BODY of Santa Fe.
Let the cards talk to you through Tamara Janúz at BODY of Santa Fe.

To move myself thoughtfully forward further into a new year, I turned to Tamara Janúz, who reads Tarot at BODY of Santa Fe every Wednesday, 9 am to noon, and Sundays 3 to 5 pm. Seated quietly, she lays out the cards without fuss and lets the story unfold before your eyes. You’ll excuse me if I don’t reveal the essence of my reading, but I will say that both the Angel and the Queen of Hearts made an appearance.

Turning Two Fitness Ideals into One with a Yoga Hike

I don’t need the cards to tell me to stay in shape (my doctor dad did that), and thanks to any number of yoga and fitness classes all over the city, I have a regular practice schedule flexible enough to keep me flexible. But I’ve been intrigued by the thought of combining two activities I enjoy — yoga and hiking — into one unique outing this year. Thanks to Stacy Kinsley and YogiHiker, it looks like I have an excellent plan to spring into action once winter says goodbye and warmer weather returns. The notion expressed in the YogiHiker tagline, “stillness in action,” embodies much of what I hope to achieve, a centered space for conducting another year on this planet.

Get a mountain high with a yoga hike in Santa Fe. (Photo credit: YogiHiker)
Get a mountain high with a yoga hike in Santa Fe. (Photo credit: YogiHiker)

Recognizing that any practice based on repetitive movements can easily become stale is the essence of the YogiHiker philosophy, which encourages curiosity about both outdoor environs and inner connections to the self in nature. Scheduled for an average 2.5 to 3 hour outing, each of the yogi-hikes takes place close to town, so just like me, you can engage in a centering experience in the morning and still have the rest of the day, as well as a newly-heightened appetite, to mosey back into town for a healthy and well-deserved lunch.

Get the Skinny on Santa Fe Skincare

Paying attention to feeling more blissful has been all well and good, but catching a glimpse of my skin in the mirror after the holidays was not exactly a blissful experience. Okay, it was a magnifying mirror, meaning this was a helpful but brutally honest friend. After that revelation, it hasn’t taken much convincing to steer me towards better skincare. And Living Bliss Skin Care and Botanicals is my new solution.

M-M-M-My skin says thank you, Living Bliss! (Photo credit: Living Bliss Skin Care and Botanicals)
M-M-M-My skin says thank you, Living Bliss! (Photo credit: Living Bliss Skin Care and Botanicals)

A home-grown small business, just the sort of operation I love to support, Living Bliss creates its products with vegan-friendly, non-GMO, organic ingredients, which in simple terms means “fear not, we’re good for you.” And as a dyed-in-the-wool Santa Fean, knowing they’re made according to the phases of the moon for potency makes me feel that’s there’s extra magic working to make me look my best. These goodies, tailor-made for our high-altitude living so close to the sun (not that I’m complaining about 300-plus days of sun, mind you) are available online, but I like to visit the tester samples right here at the Santa Fe Artisans Market in the Farmers’ Market Pavilion on Sundays. I’m even dancing around with the temptation of a personal consultation — nothing like getting advice on best practices in person.

Delight in a New Dance

My waltz with errands around town often includes a welcome stop at a building I once knew as a Piggy-Wiggly grocery, re-incarnated as a Safeway and then Alfalfa’s Natural Grocery before reaching an apex with its current occupant, BODY of Santa Fe. A many-things-to-many-people operation, BODY opened in 2004 and has morphed organically over time into a boutique, natural foods café, a yoga and exercise studio, and spa facility responsive to visitors in search of a health-conscious and sustainably-focused lifestyle. Count me in because you’ll see me there!

A Nia class at BODY is a joyous experience! (Photo credit: BODY of Santa Fe)
A Nia class at BODY is a joyous experience! (Photo credit: BODY of Santa Fe)

Thankfully, I awoke on January 1 with only a few extra pounds donated by holiday fun, but I did not wake up with zest for my usual exercise routine. I don’t know about you, but frankly, I’m a little tired of the same old squats to the same old music.  An inspiration to try Nia delivered a perfect aural and physical detour. A barefoot movement practice drawing equally from martial arts, dance arts and healing motivation, Nia teaches practitioners to cultivate a body-centered awareness through movement to music. Discovering this dance-centric technique at the hands — and feet — of a roster of masterful instructors who teach at BODY was a revelation. The playlists are electric and eclectic, and the dance aspect let me forget about exercising for health and just flow into the freedom and fun of moving. No, I’m not ready for the Nia School White Belt Training at BODY in February (if you are, pencil in Santa Fe for February 20-23), but I’m all set to dance my way into 2014 with a lighter heart.

Appreciating the Appeal of a Young Year

You probably read it here already: the entrance into a new year should be a source of adventure not agonizing. And finding and embracing new experiences is a joyous way to live in the now. If you’ve penciled in joy on your calendar, then follow your bliss to Santa Fe. You’ll find delight in discovering so many pleasurable ways for self-revelation and renewal as a living, breathing being in this still-young century.

Make Awe-Inspiring Outdoor Adventures in Santa Fe a New Year’s Resolution

I know, I know. We usually enter into New Year’s resolutions out of guilt, and typically abandon them out of frustration right around February. But I propose a resolution you’ll stick with joyfully: Resolve to get back to nature and make some truly life-affirming discoveries in the great outdoors in and around Santa Fe. My off-the-beaten-path experiences bring me personal inspiration and much-needed rejuvenation. And what better way to kick off the New Year than to start planning your getaway to personal renewal in 2014? Okay, buckle up for adventure and let’s go.

Tour An Outdoor Museum with Stunning Views at Pecos National Historical Park

The ceremonial Pueblo kiva at Pecos National Historical Park never fails to awe and inspire.
The ceremonial Pueblo kiva at Pecos National Historical Park never fails to awe and inspire.

I can think of nowhere on earth where getting a hands-on history lesson is more visually stunning than Pecos National Historical Park. Located just 17 miles east of Santa Fe, the Park treats you to such unforgettable sights as the Pecos (or Ciquique) Pueblo dwellings dating back to 1100 AD, the remains of the Mission Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles de Porciúncula de los Pecos (a Spanish mission built in the early 17th century), and even a stretch of wagon ruts left by pioneers traversing the Santa Fe Trail. In all, you get a vivid snapshot of how human culture has travelled to and from the Pecos Valley for thousands of years. The Park is a wonder to behold, with piñon, juniper, and ponderosa pines towering above the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. I’d suggest bringing a lunch and setting aside plenty of time for gazing and sighing, because this place is a wonderland.

Go Back in (Geologic) Time at Bandelier National Monument

The unexcavated Tsankawi section of Bandelier National Monument offers a rustic, off-the-beaten-path experience.
The unexcavated Tsankawi section of Bandelier National Monument offers a rustic, off-the-beaten-path experience.

Bandelier National Monument will give your jaw a real workout, because it will be dropping over and over again. Take it from someone with first-hand experience of the place: The pristine nature, postcard-worthy terrain, and stunning pueblo dwellings will be forever imprinted in your mind. More than one million acres of the Santa Fe National Forest surround the Monument on all sides. This is the stuff breathtaking hikes and mountain bike rides are made of. Within the park, you’ll explore pueblo dwellings dating back to the 1300’s that appear both ancient and totally modern in design. These structures are among the Monument’s abundant evidence of a human presence going back over 11,000 years, which includes Petroglyphs, and dwellings literally carved into rock cliffs. That’s because nomadic hunter-gatherers followed migrating wildlife across the mesas and canyons here, and later, the Ancestral Pueblo people built the more permanent adobe settlements. In all, Bandelier National Monument comprises a visually staggering 33,000 acres of beautiful canyon and mesa country.

There’s also a relatively undiscovered gem at Bandelier: The unexcavated Tsankawi section of the Monument. Here, you can hike the very same trails used by the Ancestral Pueblo people, while marveling at numerous archeological sites and petroglyphs—all set against Tsankawi’s spectacular vistas. Be sure to bring your camera, because your friends are in for one legendary slide show! You can make the short one-hour drive to Bandelier from Santa Fe by heading north toward Los Alamos.

Looking for a Real Hot Spot? Valles Caldera National Preserve is Downright Volcanic

Your outdoor wish is Valles Caldera’s demand.
Your outdoor wish is Valles Caldera’s demand.

If you’re looking to get back to Nature, the natural choice is Valles Caldera National Preserve, located a short jaunt north west of Santa Fe. Expect to see wildlife, sweeping vistas, and the Preserve’s defining features: Hot springs, pristine streams, volcanic domes and “fumaroles,” or cracks in the earth’s crust that emit steam and gas. You see, Valles Caldera (also known as Jemez Caldera) is a wide volcanic caldera (or collapsed volcanic dome) that runs for almost 14 miles along the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico. The Preserve climbs to its highest point at Redondo Peak, an 11,253-foot resurgent lava dome located entirely within the Preserve. During the winter months, sleigh and wagon rides (complete with a guided tour) within the Preserve offer a magical experience for the whole family. Just be sure to check the available dates for sleigh and wagon rides when planning your trip. Warmer months at Valles Caldera offer a mind-blowing array of outdoor adventures that ranges from fly-fishing and elk hunting, to equestrian trail riding and mountain biking.

Valles Caldera is also home to several lush grass valleys teeming with wildlife. And get this: Only one of these valleys is accessible by a paved road. (Talk about getting back to your natural state!) Trust me, you’ll get the feeling you have this glorious natural setting to yourself, because the Preserve limits the number of visitors each day to ensure an optimal experience. Here, you’ll experience a tranquil sense of solitude that no man cave or bubble bath can touch.

Lose Yourself (and Find Yourself) at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

You’ll Feel Transported at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.
You’ll Feel Transported at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.

Just 40 miles southwest of Santa Fe lies the doorway to another world. Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument (Kasha-Katuwe means “white cliffs” in the Pueblo tongue) achieved its cinematic beauty to layers of volcanic rock and ash deposited by flows from a volcanic explosion 6 to 7 million years ago. Time and water then carved canyons and the legendary tent rocks that are cones of soft pumice stone that range in height from a few inches to 90 feet.

I must confess, Tent Rocks was a life-changer for me. When I first visited, I wandered in awe through the water-etched canyons and arroyos, then summited a bluff that overlooked these otherworldly tent rock formations. The best way I can describe them is a cross between prehistoric stone monuments and fanciful backdrops from classic Roadrunner cartoons. “How did the hand of Nature create something this surreal?” you’re left to wonder.

A hiker’s paradise, Tent Rocks offers trails for novices and adrenaline junkies alike. These trails reveal birds and other wildlife rarely seen by vacationers, not to mention countless meditative moments, and yes, envy-inducing photo-ops. I urge you to make Tent Rocks part of your resolution to explore the wonders of the outdoors. Here, you get a little of that outdoor “I did something adventurous” boost, while nourishing your soul with soul-stirring vistas and the hushed whispers of the canyons.

Make Outdoor Discoveries in Santa Fe a 2014 Resolution

Frijoles Canyon Inspires Santa Fe Visitors 365 Days a Year.
Frijoles Canyon Inspires Santa Fe Visitors 365 Days a Year.

Hey, there’s no law that says New Year’s resolutions have to be something you agonize over. Break out of that same-old thinking about the new year and plan your escape to the outdoor marvels you’ll find at every turn near Santa Fe. You’ll feel rejuvenated, reenergized, and reconnected to nature. And that’s a resolution you’ll love keeping.

 

 

 

 

When Santa Fe Hands You Snow, Make a Sport Out of It

As snow begins to dress Santa Fe in her winter garb, we bless our good fortune at living where the sun makes the slopes sparkle with brilliance, under an arc of bright blue sky. When we see a snowcap stay put on Santa Fe Baldy (we take a direct approach to naming tall peaks above the tree line), we know it’s time to start waxing skis, airing out gaiters, and planning a trip into the high country to embrace the best of winter in the pristine natural setting of Santa Fe.

Aspen trees take on a new vertical look as they cast long shows on a mountainside. (Photo courtesy of Outspire)
Aspen trees take on a new vertical look as they cast long shows on a mountainside. (Photo courtesy of Outspire)

Take Out the Wax and Head to the Mountains

The 12,075-foot summit at Ski Santa Fe looks down over 1,725 feet of skiing and snowboarding, spread across 660 peaked acres of the Sangre de Cristo range, just 16 miles east of downtown Santa Fe. There are a whopping 77 trails to experience, with 20% earmarked for amateurs like me, and the other 80% ranked as difficult to very difficult (hint: expert). I admire Ski Santa Fe’s claim, “no lift lines,” and 7 lifts accommodating 9000-plus skiers per hour make it generally do-able. The ski hill always aims for a Thanksgiving Day opening, and with early snows turning the mountaintop frosty white, it seems like a distinct possibility to me. My eager snow buddies have their gear at the ready and are chomping at the bit for us to get out there!

Get up, up, and away at Ski Santa Fe! (Photo by Kevin Rouff, winner of 2008 Ski Santa Fe photo contest)
Get up, up, and away at Ski Santa Fe! (Photo by Kevin Rouff, winner of 2008 Ski Santa Fe photo contest)

Snowboarders hone their skills at the Freestyle Terrain Park, with 15 individual features to conquer, from numerous box designs to a tree-ride. I know my limits, but I’m in awe — and a little envious! — of the aerial artistry. Of course, safety first is the mantra here. Since the ski area maintains a professionally trained, EMS-certified ski patrol, ski and board traffic is monitored with an eye to making an afternoon at Ski Santa Fe enjoyable and safe for the whole gang.

The Ski School accommodates ages 10 to 100, and both group and private skiing and snowboarding lessons are available. Face it, who among us can’t use a tune-up now and then, yours truly included? And, Ski Santa Fe’s acclaimed Adaptive Ski Program shares the joys of winter with the mentally and physically challenged — precisely the reason I buy my holiday wreath from them!

Getting Down to It Without too Much Downhill

A whole subset of winter-lovers exists for whom the swift descent down a vertical pitch holds no appeal. Yes, cross-country skiers, I mean you. There is something about the rhythmical motion of arms and legs as one passes through the quiet white countryside that makes cross-country a distinctive seasonal pleasure. Several of the Sangre de Cristo hiking trails double as cross-country opportunities, but those in the know head for the Norski Trail, dedicated to X-C skiers once the magic of winter has arrived. It’s a rare gift to be one of the early birds blazing a trail, enjoying the solitude and the feel of new powder puffing up underfoot.

Take to the tracks on the Norski Trail. (Photo courtesy of Santa Fe Walkabouts)
Take to the tracks on the Norski Trail. (Photo courtesy of Santa Fe Walkabouts)

Located below the Ski Basin, the Norski Trail has enough up-and-down to satisfy experienced skiers, but is designed to be appropriate for beginners and the legs of the younger set. The total distance is 2.5 miles, with several loop short cuts if you’re tired.  When you enlist the entertaining Santa Fe Walkabouts guides, Georges and Fritz, no matter where you end your run, you’ll benefit from their expert tips and tricks as you glide along the looping trail. Norski Trail fanatics offer a gentle reminder to non-skiers that footsteps and paw prints compromise the quality of the X-C trail and degrade the cross-country experience, so if you’re hiking with your pooch, it’s much appreciated if you kindly pick another of the many trails available.

Put on the Snowshoes to Enjoy Snow a Little More Slowly

Being out on a winter hike as the sun shines above in the blue sky is a beautiful experience, but the thrill of going “where no man has gone before,” i.e. making your own trail on fresh snow, is extra-special. By bundling up and strapping on some snowshoes, even trails we’ve hiked before are transformed into a winter wonderland. The virginal white landscape is spread out ahead for discovery, with intriguing animal tracks and trails that give hints of winter activities.

Snowshoeing has enjoyed a growth in popularity as the equipment has improved.  I appreciate the modern design and ample cleats, so I can relax into the flow without worrying about slipping and sliding. And being more maneuverable than skis, snowshoes let me step off-trail to more closely examine a fallen Ponderosa or trace the doings of four-footed forest dwellers.

Just put one snowshoe in front of the other — that’s all it takes. (Photo courtesy of Outspire)
Just put one snowshoe in front of the other — that’s all it takes. (Photo courtesy of Outspire)

Unlike skiing, the average person develops a snowshoe rhythm with ease, particularly in the company of the experienced guides from Outspire. Owner/guide Karen Denison notes that when she and her guides “take folks out on guided snowshoe outings, we do a lot of coaching over the telephone ahead of time about what to expect and what clothing would be appropriate to bring.” Outspire makes sure that snowshoes are correctly fitted, provides poles, and waterproof gaiters, and gives sound suggestions on finer points of technique.” Sounds like a plan to me, since winter safety is always part of my equation.

Show Off Your Salchow

With the Winter Olympics just around the corner, I imagine it’s likely that someone in your family is as fascinated by the footwork on the ice as I am. When I see a skater soar in a double axle or lift off the back edge of a blade for a Salchow, I hold my breath. And while I will never — and I mean ever — be as sure-footed as the budding Stars On Ice I see whirling and twirling at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center Ice Skating Rink, I still like to lace up a pair of blades and hope to stay upright for an hour or so.

Brilliant blade work is on display at the Genoveva Chavez Center Ice Skating Rink.
Brilliant blade work is on display at the Genoveva Chavez Center Ice Skating Rink.

The Chavez Center has been a local hit since it opened, with a weight room, pool, indoor track, and basketball courts, but the addition of a skating rink to our sports-loving town really filled a void. Hockey games and practices, ice dancing, even a public skate hour at a jaw-dropping 5:30 am means that rink time is available for all manner of ice escapades.

And there are even some special holiday events: Chanukah on Ice takes place December 2, and I’m really psyched to see how skaters match their footwork to the Dreidl song. A little later in the month, we’ll enjoy a tribute to the Sochi Winter Olympics, as the Santa Fe Skating Club sharpens their blades for a holiday skate show on December 14–15.

Getting into Gear

Playing outdoors in comfort and safety means having the right stuff. As Karen Denison of Outspire wisely counsels, “One of your worst enemies in winter is moisture, whether it comes from the outside leaking in or the sweat that you might generate yourself.” Multiple thin layers roomy enough to trap air ensure you stay warm and allow for adjustments as you work up internal heat. Extra socks are fine, but remember your footgear needs to accommodate them, so loosen your laces or consider getting bigger shoes or boots for winter.

If you don’t want to pack the skis … or the board … or the snowshoes … or the skates, remember you can rent gear from both Ski Santa Fe and the Chavez Skating Rink. And our friendly and proficient local guides will definitely make sure you are outfitted properly before you embark on any winter adventure with them.

Don’t pack it — find it in Santa Fe at Alpine Sports!
Don’t pack it — find it in Santa Fe at Alpine Sports!

Our local ski shops thrive on rentals as well as sales throughout the winter months. Alpine Sports has been in the same location on Sandoval Street for as long as I can remember. Bindings and boots, parkas and packs, skis and boards, this family-owned and -operated store has it all. Another option is Ski Tech, located on St. Francis Drive just north of the Cerrillos Road intersection. You gotta love a retailer who has a Ski Butler — AND who’s open on holidays.

A Santa Fe Winter Wonderland Awaits

Days may have grown shorter with the recent time change, but a winter getaway to Santa Fe still packs a punch. Our friendly sun does a quick job of melting the snow from our roadways, and glorious sunsets make the snow-capped peaks glow. Special deals and great meals are available all over town, and burning some extra calories on snow or ice means you can dig into that platter of nachos without guilt. The City Different has earned its reputation as a one-of-a-kind destination, and a visit for a snowy sporting adventure shows you another side of Santa Fe, one that will be warmed by memories of a white winter paradise.

Santa Fe Puts on a Perfect Fall Peep Show

The mountains above Santa Fe received their first snowy frosting on the first day of autumn, a timely reminder the leaves are about to treat us to their colorful autumnal appearance. Our city is renowned for its diverse visual arts, but Mother Nature herself manages to put on a pretty stunning exhibit at this time of year. With so much beauty nestled under the azure Santa Fe sky, it’s a good thing there’s more than one way to experience it.

Golden aspens give notice that autumn has come to Santa Fe.
Golden aspens give notice that autumn has come to Santa Fe.

Take the High Way

Looking up from the heart of downtown Santa Fe to see the 12,000-foot peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains turn bright gold is pleasant, but wouldn’t you like to get closer … lots closer? Catch this fleeting fall drama by taking an upper-level tour of the mountainside on the Ski Santa Fe scenic chair lift service. This bird’s eye view is mesmerizing, as aspens leaves shake and shimmer below in all their glimmering glory. It may even entice you lovers of winter to return for a visit when the hillsides are covered with fluffy white powder, especially since season passes are now on sale. Just be sure your camera is fully charged, because you’ll be snapping away non-stop from this heavenly height.

Lift your spirits with fall highlights at the Santa Fe Ski Basin.
Lift your spirits with fall highlights at the Santa Fe Ski Basin.

Pedal Power Puts You at the Leading Edge of Color

A quick getaway may preclude bringing your own beloved mountain bike, but Santa Fe’s bike buddy Mellow Velo can quickly fill the gap for avid pedal pushers. With a unique collection of high-end people-powered vehicles on hand, this well-established rental and service shop will spend time getting you outfitted appropriately and send you off the trail they think will best suit you. Yes, you can bring your own pedals for them to install! And it’s not only the mountainsides that change hue – the city has some mighty colorful cottonwoods (one of Georgia’s O’Keeffe’s favorite trees) turning yellow each fall, so taking a trip around the city by bike is also an admirable autumn option.

Take it to the top on two wheels with Mellow Velo.
Take it to the top on two wheels with Mellow Velo.

Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now

Santa Fe Baldy is the mountaintop we locals scan to see what the weather has in store for us. Baldy is a rather jocular way to refer to being above tree line — altitude 12,631 feet, in case you were wondering — but a sense of humor is always helpful on an upward-bound hike. Located 15 miles northeast of the city, Baldy is the last tall peak in New Mexico, as the mountains slowly lower on their way down through the state. The well-marked trail climbs to a saddle about 1,000 feet below the summit, and the remaining distance is a steep trek up along the ridgeline. The walk 7 miles up takes you through golden aspens and stands of stately Ponderosa pines, until you pass the tree line at about 700 feet below the peak. Just don’t forget it’s also 7 miles back down.

Your companions? Day Hikes in the Santa Fe Area, published by the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, and the maps in the wonderful High Desert Field Guides. Both are available for purchase at Collected Works Books. Your reward? Seeing dazzling Lake Katherine under the spotless sky of New Mexico.

Take a moment to revel in the beauty of Lake Katherine before making your descent.
Take a moment to revel in the beauty of Lake Katherine before making your descent.

Driving Around on a Santa Fe Day

Not a hiker or biker? No problem. Take in the scenery from the cozy comfort of the car and park for a pretty picnic when your appetite bests the outlook. The High Road to Taos winds through the plateau west of the mountains, slowly rising until it pops out at the Truchas Peaks, named for the trout (truchas) that have fed northern New Mexicans over the years. Along the way, you’ll see scattered villages and clusters of old adobe homes, no doubt at this time of year with a wisp of pinon smoke drifting from the chimney. This scenic byway takes you through Chimayo, with its famed Santuario, the villages of Truchas and Las Trampas, Picuris Pueblo and finally on into Taos via Talpa and Ranchos de Taos. Return via the Low Road before the sun sets, and you’ll see vivid yellow stands of old cottonwoods casting color over the waters of the Rio Grande.

Trees glow as the river waters flow along the Low Road from Taos.
Trees glow as the river waters flow along the Low Road from Taos.

Curious to know what happens to the landscape long after a volcano explodes? Point your vehicle westward and visit the Valles Caldera National Preserve, a 13.7-mile wide crater created 1.5 million or so years ago. The massive scope of the Valles Caldera encompasses so much – archaeology, wildlife, history, geology – and autumn is a great time to see the grasslands turn gold and watch hawks soar overhead. Valles Caldera has miles of ranch roads, livestock and game trails, including a network of trails designated for horseback riding. The many outdoor activities are open to the public, but some require reservations, especially things like winter sleigh rides (definitely something to come back for).

Sometimes the Santa Fe wildlife is just as curious about us as we are about them.
Sometimes the Santa Fe wildlife is just as curious about us as we are about them.

Get Me a Guide Please

In such a pristine natural setting, you’d imagine there would be those who spend their lives out of doors, making their living doing it, and you’d be right. Having an experienced guide along to point out the things you might miss turns an autumn hike from interesting to incredible. The vast Pecos Wilderness encompasses almost a quarter-million acres to the east of Santa Fe, and that’s a lot of ground to cover on your own. The knowledgeable guides from Outspire figure it out for you with a 4-6 hour hike (don’t worry, lunch is factored in) through the mountains and valleys characteristic of this protected wilderness area spread across the Santa Fe and Carson National Forests.

Following the leader is a pleasure when the guiding is so good.
Following the leader is a pleasure when the guiding is so good.

A little closer to your home base of Santa Fe are the hiking trails of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, perched above the city on the way to the Santa Fe Ski Basin. Named by Catholic settlers) the mountains turn vibrant red and yellow at sunset, and the Sangres are a favorite destination for locals to fit in a hike that doesn’t consume an entire day. Santa Fe Walkabouts can get you out and hiking on a 4- or 5-mile roundtrip through the aspens as soon as you finish eating breakfast. These Santa Fe area hikes (and fun Pinzgauer tours) are always tailored to your ability, since Georges and Sue Mally want to leave their guests with magical memories, not sore knees.

Santa Fe Walkabouts will drive you up by Pinzgauer, but you’ll want to slow down for a walk in leafy beauty.
Santa Fe Walkabouts will drive you up by Pinzgauer, but you’ll want to slow down for a walk in leafy beauty.

Color Your Visit with Santa Fe’s Outdoor Hues

The sun shines over 300 days a year in Santa Fe, and autumn brings ideal weather for experiencing the crisp cool air and the bright blue skies of New Mexico. Lace up your shoes and pack a picnic, or let an outdoor specialist lay out an enticing plan for you, but make a visit to Mother Nature part of your visit to Santa Fe. She has so much to share, and it’s all waiting out there in the hills and valleys to enchant you.

 

All the Fall You Need in Santa Fe

It always feels like the year begins anew in autumn, even if logic tells me the year is winding toward its wintry season end. When Santa Fe’s fall leaves begin to show red and gold hues, we locals are called to the outdoors, knowing it won’t be long before sunsets sparkle over a frosty landscape. I definitely have a full fall agenda to complete before Old Man Winter arrives for his annual visit to the City Different.

Be Uplifted when You See Fall’s Foliage from Above

Santa Fe gets all dressed up in autumn colors when the aspens covering our Sangre de Cristo Mountains stage their annual show. We locals watch eagerly as the mountainside turns from green to gold, and we try to pick the perfect time to go up and bask in the resulting glow. But seeing the trees change their hue from down here on the plateau isn’t the only way to catch their fleeting fall drama. Ski Santa Fe turns the last holiday of summer into an outdoor happening, with live music and a beer garden hosted by Santa Fe Brewing Company on Labor Day weekend. Their scenic lift service begins September 7, with the Super Quad Chair Lift running daily through October 13 to give you a bird’s eye view of the mountaintop. And along the way, you lovers of winter will likely be enticed by thoughts of the same hillsides covered with fluffy white powder. Lift tickets will be on sale beginning Labor Day Weekend. 

Climb aboard for a trip down the golden line of aspens at the Santa Fe Ski Basin.

Santa Fe Welcomes Lords and Ladies

Prithee, wilt thou lend eyes and ears to the entertainments of yore? Yesteryear’s amusements will ensue when thee and thine head for the Renaissance Fair at El Rancho de las Golondrinas September 21-22. This annual funfest is full of color, music, and dramatic feats fit for the whole family. The Fair is a community event, which originated in 2007 as a fund-raising partnership with a local nonprofit. It brings out colorful locals dressed to the nines as their Medieval alter egos — thou mayest address me as Milady of Mischief. It’s gratifying to know that the proceeds benefit the continuing educational mission of Golondrinas itself, as well as the homeless outreach programs of The Interfaith Community Shelter. Look for Clan Tynker, Santa Fe’s favorite family of street performers, who will be on hand to amuse and amaze the crowd with juggling feats and some fire-eating derring-do!

It wouldn’t be a Renaissance Fair without a pirate or two.

Prime Your Palate for Global Flavors at the Wine + Chile Fiesta

The gorgeous setting of the Santa Fe Opera definitely provides many a summer delight, but it’s also the action-packed venue for one of Santa Fe’s fall signature events, when the Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta holds its Grand Tasting Event there September 28. And although it’s the Santa Fe apex of an appetite for wine, that event is just one among many. Vintners and chefs from around the world gather annually to pair the best of their vineyards and kitchens with the taste of our spicy world-renowned cuisine. Winemaker dinners, educational seminars, pairing suggestions, sipping, supping, it’s all here. There’s even a sommelier throw down — we sure love a challenge in this town, especially when food and wine are involved. 90 wineries join forces with 75 restaurants, creating a vintage and a flavor for every one of us. We locals will be cheek-by-jowl with our visitors scoping out both the new and the tried-and-true bottles to stock our wine cellars.

Pace your progress as you test your wine palate at the Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta.

Harvesting the Season’s Best

El Rancho de las Golondrinas just keeps ‘em coming, with the annual Harvest Fest coming hot on the heels of the Renaissance Fair. Lots to love when grapes are crushed by hand — oops, excuse me — by foot! Built in 1972 on a site with some original structures dating back to the 1700’s, Golondrinas brings the past vibrantly to life, harvesting some of the same bounteous produce found at the Santa Fe Farmers Market at this time of year. And this particularly popular community celebration mirrors all the autumn traditions of Territorial New Mexico, as chile ristras are strung and the smell of bread and fresh tortillas wafts out over the 200 acres of this living history museum. Go back in time with a visit to this historic ranch setting October 5-6, and you’ll go away with a vastly enriched understanding of the Santa Fe of today.

Chile ristras – the long strands of chile traditionally strung up to last all winter – decorate many Santa Fe porches.

Creativity Comes to Life on Canyon Road

Snaking along on the south side of the Santa Fe River, Canyon Road has been the heart of the arts for so many of the creative souls who pass through the City Different and decide to stay. You can see some of these colorful characters in action October 18-19, when the Canyon Road Association paints a picture of Santa Fe at the Sixth Annual Canyon Road Paint-out. The “plein air” technique, which is simply a French term for “in the open air,” gives the artists an opportunity to respond directly to ambient conditions and capture not only the visuals but also the sensations of the moment. And it won’t be just painters in the mix; there’ll be sculptors and jewelers and craft demonstrations and even an appearance of the high school marching band in a noontime parade. This comprehensive street side art exhibition turns Canyon Road into one big outdoor gallery, as paper, pens and paint become art before your eyes.

Art happens on the spot at the Canyon Road Paint-out.

Don’t Let Autumn in Santa Fe Escape Your Gaze

The months of September and October are my favorite time to travel anywhere, but it’s always hard for me to make vacation plans when I realize what I might be missing right here in my hometown. Whether it’s family fun, or fine wines and fine art that tickle your fancy, Santa Fe is a memorable autumn travel adventure.

Santa Fe Nature is All Around Us

It’s so satisfying to wake up on a summer morning with a cool breeze playing through the piñon tree outside my windows. One terrific – and often unsung – benefit of living in Santa Fe is the weather. Santa Fe’s high elevation keeps it cooler than other parts of the state in summer. Standing in the shade of an old cottonwood is sublime, but instead of just standing, I recommend you heed the call of the wild and let an experienced guide reveal the summer beauty of the unique Santa Fe landscape just beyond the trees.

Santa Fe Walkabouts — So Much More than Walking

Ever heard of a Pinzgauer? I hadn’t either until I met Georges and Sue Mally of Santa Fe Walkabouts. This all-terrain Swiss vehicle is an off-roader like no other, able to climb a peak for an incomparable sunset view, or rock across a muddy streambed. Occasionally bumpy, but definitely memorable. Try traveling by Pinz on old Route 66, or hold your breath as Georges navigates a switchback tour ending with a dip in Cochiti Lake. Or let Walkabouts customize a family reunion with an off-road adventure through the New Mexico back-country.

 

Pinz pride! Take a break to take it all in.

Georges has biked through Europe and the United States, so if you like to be at the wheel, join him for a mountain bike tour. You can ride along a mesa, tour O’Keeffe Country, or navigate carefully along the rim of the Rio Grande, as Georges provides a scenic travelogue.

Georges does the talking, you do the admiring and pedaling.

 

Hankering for a hike? Walkabouts lives up to its name, with easy-to-strenuous private guided tours. One of the Walkabouts’ specialties is a trip through the otherworldly terrain of Kasha-Katuwe, the Tent Rocks. This easy 5-hour scenic hike winds through soft post-volcanic forms that line a slot canyon and lead to a stunning mesa-top view.

Sue says tours deepen visitors’ cultural awareness about Santa Fe. “We showcase our nature and scenery, but what we add is the history,” Sue says. “The experience takes you beyond the typical vacation and we make it easy to surround yourself with Santa Fe’s natural beauty.” Walkabouts offers full-service tours, including a pick-up service.

Avid lovers of New Mexico, Georges and Sue have hiked and biked all the scenic byways, and their enthusiasm is contagious. Their mission is to promote responsible enjoyment, foster respect for wildlife, and experience physical and mental well-being in natural surroundings. It culminates in just a few words: let’s have fun outdoors!

Be Inspired with Outspire

Taking a hike can be as simple as lacing up your shoes and hitting the trail, but it becomes much more with an experienced guide. Biologist-turned-guide Karen Denison has been leading hikes in Santa Fe since 1997, and she’s assembled a deep roster of talent at Outspire — there’s even a geologist available for rock hounds.  Karen says that “a good guide always remembers that the outing is not about what they know or what they think is fun or important. It’s about the guest.  But if you really love a place, your guests can see that.”

A hike in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, named for the color that the setting sun casts on this terminal range of the Rockies, can be easy or challenging, planned for your level of ability. Along the way, Outspire guides point out seasonal alpine flowers, take you through a fragrant stand of towering pines or lead you to listen to the chattering of a grove of aspen trees high above Santa Fe. And if you just want to see the sun changing the peaks to a rosy red, Outspire’s short sunset walk does nicely.

Hiking in the green grass of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is a wonderful way to begin or end your day in Santa Fe.

 

Native American ruins dot the northern New Mexico landscape, and Bandelier National Monument, named for archaeologist Adolph Bandelier, is one of my hands-down favorite places. Settled, then abandoned, this ancient Puebloan ruin has been lovingly restored to reveal the legendary history and culture of New Mexico. Seeing the archaeological treasure of Bandelier in the interpretive company of an Outspire guide brings Native American New Mexico history to vivid life. Climb a ladder to peer into a cliffside cave dwelling or gaze down into a ceremonial kiva as you learn about the religious rituals of these Pueblo ancestors. A leisurely stroll through the park or a full-day backcountry hike, the choice is yours. Outspire’s guides want your outdoor experience to be fun, but Karen also hopes that “ … guests take away a deeper appreciation for all the interconnections here in New Mexico. Not only the land and wildlife but the people as well.”

The Name Tells You the Game Plan at Santa Fe Mountain Adventures

If you want to spend all your vacation time having fun, and none of it in pesky planning, Santa Fe Mountain Adventures will do the work for you. Owen Perrillo’s Mountain Adventures program lets you experience the best of outdoor Santa Fe, while his staff handles the logistics of a wide roster of adventures for groups and families.

Taking a trail-ride brings the Old West back to life in an unforgettable way. The blue sky spread high above the pines and fresh mountain air makes you feel right at home in nature’s magnificent forest cathedral. Bouncing along a high-alpine path on the back of an experienced horse from Tererro Riding Stables may bring Jeremiah Johnson to mind, but you won’t need mountain man skills, since snacks and beverages come along on the ride. What you will need to bring are the usual suspects: appropriate clothing and footgear, a sun hat and sunscreen, and a camera, of course, to capture your memories. Not to worry, Mountain Adventures will make sure you’re prepared before you saddle up.

Adventure Director Kerry Helke notes that these adventures are also great for those on business travel. Work colleagues have gotten to know each other and the city by discovering the joys of downtown scavenger hunts, which are a fun and unique way to discover the beautiful nature and history of Santa Fe. SFMA can accommodate travelers with limited time by customizing hikes in nearby mountain trails. “People don’t realize that we have a national forest right in our back yard,” says Kerry. “We go a mile or two up the trail, and we’re on a scenic mountainside.”

Remember those scavenger hunts at your neighborhood slumber party? SFMA turns the hunt into an orienteering feat with their family-friendly geocaching hike. Combining an enjoyable physical activity with a learning experience, a GPS device helps you find clues and locate cool treasures for the kids as they develop an understanding of how coordinates tell them where they are. It’s a family-bonding adventure and summer-school math lesson in disguise.

 

Geocaching always brings out everyone’s inner adventurer.

 

Santa Fe Is an Outdoor Adventure

I treasure the world-class museums and galleries of Santa Fe, our musical and performing arts, and I relish our world-renowned cuisine. But when I wake up each morning, the first thing I do is look outside to see that azure sky beckoning me. Let Mother Nature welcome you outside into her glorious landscape for a memorable time in the pristine wilderness. Experiences like a Pinz tour down arroyos transport you to a side of Santa Fe you never even knew existed.