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March 21st, 2014 | 10:39am

Spring Hikes Near Santa Fe, New Mexico

Spring is one of the best times to get outside and enjoy a hike. The trails are thawing and blossoming with new life, and the gentle spring sun warms your face and back just enough to make you rejoice in the great outdoors! If you've been jonesing for some outdoor adventure then look no further, our Loretto Curators Sue and Georges Mally of Santa Fe Walkabouts share their favorite places to hit the trails this season!

Chimney Rock, Abiquiu – located on Ghost Ranch property, Chimney Rock is a 3 mile round trip hike with stunning views of the landscapes that captured Georgia O’Keeffe’s heart and imagination. The hike starts behind the Museums and is rated easy to moderate although there are a few steep sections, as you ascend from 6500 feet to 7100 feet, where you may need to take a break and catch your breath, especially if you’re visiting from sea level. Once you reach the top of the mesa, enjoy the views of the Cerro Pedernal (Georgia O’Keeffe’s mountain) and the picturesque spire called Chimney Rock. 

Chimeny Rock Hike Near Santa Fe
Walking at a leisurely pace, the hike should take between 1 ½ to 2 hours.  Check in first at the Welcome Center – there is a $3 per person suggested conservation fee – and pick up a trail guide.

Chimney Rock is one of our favorite hikes in the early spring, although you could hike it year round. In March or April, the temperatures are still cool and Ghost Ranch is not yet teeming with summer visitors. Visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in downtown Santa Fe and then get outdoors and enjoy the beauty of Abiquiu.

Red Dot Trail, White Rock – starting from the top of White Rock Canyon, off Piedra Loop, the Red Dot Trail, or Pajarito Springs Trail, takes you down to the Rio Grande River, dropping approximately 850 feet in elevation. Round trip, the distance is only 2.5 miles but the hike is rated moderately difficult because of the steep and occasionally rocky path. We love this hike because, along the way, you’ll see petroglyphs, an enchanting spring, a lovely waterfall and, of course, the Rio Grande River.

Red Dot Trail Near Santa Fe
The hike itself should take about 3 hours round trip although one should really take a picnic lunch and enjoy sitting by the waterfall (quite a novelty in New Mexico!). For the more adventurous, there are cairns that lead to a place called Newspaper Rock where you can view more petroglyphs. 

This hike is best done in the spring when the temperatures are cooler, and the risk of running across a rattlesnake is lower. We rate it as one of our favorite hikes because of the striking views, the petroglyphs that give an insight into the world of the Pueblo Indians, and the calming presence of water.

Painted Cave, Bandelier National Monument – a strenuous backcountry hike at Bandelier National Monument, this is an all day excursion that takes you to a very special site, a cave set about 30 feet up from the canyon floor covered with pictographs left by Ancient Pueblo Indians and probably by Spanish shepherds. The hike, if you start near St. Peter’s Dome, is 13 miles round trip with approximately 2,500 feet gain in elevation. 

Painted Cave Trail Near Santa Fe
It’s best to hike this trail in late April/early May once the Santa Fe National Forest has opened all of their secondary roads and it is advisable to take a high clearance vehicle to the trailhead.

Aside from being able to view pictographs, you’ll get an appreciation of the volcanic formations in the area and you’ll be able to view three types of juniper (one seed, Rocky Mountain and alligator).

Allocate about 8 hours for the hike and, as with any outdoor adventure, be prepared. Take enough drinking water, pack a lunch, and dress appropriately. Also remember to check in with the rangers at Bandelier and make sure you have the appropriate permit. Yes, this hike requires some planning but it is definitely worth it.

About the authors: Sue and Georges Mally are the owners of Santa Fe Walkabouts, a Santa Fe Adventure and Tour service. They work closely with the Inn and Spa at Loretto as outdoor curators, offering their insight and expertise into navigating Santa Fe’s hiking trails and cultural monuments.

Find out more about our Loretto Curators. Click here

Ready to book your escape? Check out our NEW Treasure Hunting Family Package, full of opportunities explore the great outdoors!

Posted by Sarah Sims

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