Short Hikes Right in Santa Fe

In the post I just published, I described one of the most aesthetically pleasing places to hike I know of, the Borrego-Bear Wallow-Winsor Triangle Trail in Hyde Memorial State Park above Santa Fe. Most visitors to Santa Fe relish the art and food scene (me, too!) but the natural scene is part of what makes this high altitude haven such a great destination.

If you don’t have three hours, there are some easy, short hikes within Santa Fe or within minutes of the Plaza: the Tesuque Creek Trail, the Atalaya Mountain Trail, and the Dale Ball trails, which a running site called one of the best 7 trails in the U.S. for trail running (but it’s great for walkers and hikers, too!).

Tesuque Creek Trail

The Tesuque Creek Trail, off Bishop’s Lodge Road and just 4.5 miles from the Plaza, is a mostly flat 3 mile loop up one side of Tesuque Creek and down the other on the Winsor Trail, but 1,000+ feet lower than the Triangle Trail I described in the other post. It’s not pretty as the Triangle Trail, but it is mostly shady, especially on one side of the creek. This little loop is dog-walker’s paradise; a sign says that over 100 dogs a day visit this trail!

To get to the trailhead: Take Bishop’s Lodge Road (Hwy 590) for 3.5 miles and pass the entrance to Bishop’s Lodge. In 1 mile take look for the big yellow arrow pointing to the left and instead take the dirt road to the right, County Road 72A. There are two parking areas that hold about 4 cars each, parked parallel. Proceed past the first one to see if the second one has space. A short way past the second parking lot is a rock pillar and informational sign about the trail; right now there are bright orange warning signs about trail closures due to fire danger in the Pecos Wilderness area, at a much higher elevation.

You can’t get lost on this alley trail that runs between the fenced off creek and private land; when you come to a dirt road, turn left, cross the car bridge and turn right up the river, where you’ll see a Winsor Trail sign. I hate to admit it, but I got a little annoyed by the enclosed feeling created by the ocotillo fencing at the beginning of this hike, but it does open up. After 5-10 minutes the fence ends. You can continue straight ahead at the fork if you want to do this loop clockwise, but most people take the right hand fork and cross the stream to the south side of Tesuque Creek. This, to us, was the only tricky part: there’s what looks like another fork immediately after the creek, but that’s really a “frontage trail” on the left; take the wide rocky trail up.

rocky trail

Take the rocky trail up after the creek

Near the top of this small hill, you’ll see a sign confirming that you are on the Winsor Trail. Stay to the left:

Stay to the left

Stay to the left

After about a mile, you’ll come to another trail sign. This is where you cross the creek to return, or, if you want to add distance, just keep going on the Winsor Trail, which will cross back and forth over the creek.

 trail sign

Easy breezy! After a mile on the north side of the creek, you’ll recognize where you took the right hand fork on your outbound leg… just retrace your steps back to the car (click to enlarge photos):

Atalaya Mountain

Urgent telephone calls interrupted our hike in January (yes, there’s reception here 😦 ), but we still enjoyed this trail, although we only made it to the entrance to Santa Fe National Forest, about 2 miles below the summit of Mt. Atalaya. But the view from that point – about a 3 mile roundtrip jaunt – is well worth it, especially if the area is coated with a bit of snow here and there. That last couple of miles climbs rapidly up to 9,121 feet, with 1,781 of cumulative rise from the trailhead at St. John’s College.

Get directions to St. John’s College, off Cruz Blanca. Park in the Visitor’s Parking Lot; you’ll see the #174 trailhead at the far end. Wind down the trail to the bottom of Arroyo de los Chamisos. Due to construction, we had to fiddle around a bit but we located the trail farther up the arroyo. You’ll switch back and forth on the fairly narrow trail as it heads up the hill, toward Wilderness Gate Road. Cross the road and climb the sturdily constructed steps. After a quarter mile through the woods, you’ll see a sign marking the entrance to Santa Fe National Forest and a trail marker stating that Mt. Atalaya is 2 miles off. Turn left above the fence and follow #174 for another quarter mile, to the intersection with Trail #170. We didn’t make it past this point but I’m told that it’s shady.


Dale Ball Trails/Dorothy Stewart Trail

The area around Camino Cruz Blanca is riddled with trails up and down the hillside, making it easy to mix and match a short or long walkabout. Several trail systems intersect here – the Dorothy Stewart Trail, the amazing Dale Ball Trail system and the #174 Mt. Atalaya Trail. We don’t do a lot of thinking or planning when we walk in this area. We just park, dive in to the Dorothy Stewart Trail system, often picking up the Dale Ball trail after about a mile, and eventually wander our way back down the hill. It’s a great option if trails at higher altitude are too snowy for just running shoes or boots.

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