Trails and Ales: Santa Fe

We’ve rounded up four New Mexico hikes and brews that just might make you want to move to the “City Different”
March 7, 2019Words by Jeff Thrope

Santa Fe might be known for its southwest art, turquoise jewelry and historic adobe structures, but the tiny town of 90,000 people also has a lot to offer in terms of outdoor adventure. At 7,200 feet above sea level, Santa Fe sits at the base of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains, the southernmost range of the Rockies. With a vast amount of things to see and eat in northern New Mexico, getting to and from the trailheads is half the fun. From the towering red rocks of Georgia O’Keeffe country to the aspen forests just 15 minutes from the downtown plaza, Santa Fe might just be your new favorite mountain town.

Picacho Peak
Photo: @leilagram

Picacho Peak

How to get there from downtown: 10-minute drive to Cerro Gordo Trailhead

Hike: 4 miles (out and back), moderate

Beer: The Brakeroom

The Cerro Gordo Trailhead up to Picacho Peak is part of Santa Fe’s amazing Dale Ball trail system. At just five to 10 minutes from downtown, Dale Ball has 22 miles of trails in the foothills of the Sangre De Cristos. Picacho Peak is one of the prominent landmarks in the area and the 360-degree views from the top are worth every step. At 8,500 feet, Picacho isn’t a small mountain but it’s a moderate hike that, at very least, will get you thirsty for a beer when you’re back at the bottom. Bonus: The trail is dog-friendly so bring your pup along.

The Brakeroom is a small taphouse for the Santa Fe Brewing Company. Located in an old private cigar clubhouse, The Brakeroom features a long list of the brewery’s locally brewed beers, some of the best in the southwest. Among the favorites are the 7k IPA, Happy Camper, and Chicken Killer—an American Barley Wine. Sit inside at the large beautiful bar or take a beer outside to the patio and enjoy that New Mexico sun.

Kitchen Mesa
Photo: National Park Service

Kitchen Mesa

How to Get there from Downtown: 1-hour drive to Ghost Ranch

Hike: 3.7 (out and back), moderate

Beer: Bode’s

Ghost Ranch is a 21,000-acre retreat located just north of the town of Abiquiu. It was home to painter Georgia O’Keeffe and is the backdrop to movies like City Slickers, Wyatt Earp, and Cowboys and Aliens. Ghost Ranch is open to the public and has some of the most spectacular hiking trails in all of northern New Mexico. The favorite amongst most hikers is Kitchen Mesa, a 3.7-mile out and back that puts you in the middle of towering red rock canyons, juniper, piñon, and views of Abiquiu Lake and Pedernal, the towering flat top mountain that Georgia O’Keeffe would paint countless times throughout her life. There’s a small scramble that gets you out of the canyon up to the mesa, which is the only truly difficult part of the trail.

After you’re done hiking, head back into the town of Abiquiu and hunker down at Bode’s, a general store that has operated since 1919. Walk to the grill in the back and order a green Chile cheeseburger and one of the various beers on tap. Bode’s beer selection includes Monk’s Ale, which is brewed by the monks at Monastery of Christ in the Desert, located down a 12-mile forest service road just past the entrance to Ghost Ranch.

Slot Canyon Trail, Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
Photo: Deb Nystrom

Slot Canyon Trail, Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

How to Get there from Downtown: 45-minute drive to Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

Hike: 1.5 miles (out and back), easy

Beer: Le Reina

Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is easily one of the coolest place in New Mexico. The towering spires, known as hoodoos, are conical shaped and a white grayish color that makes the national monument feel otherworldly. Designated a National Monument by Bill Clinton in 2001, Kasha Katuwe means “white cliffs” in the Pueblo Language. The Slot Canyon trail might be easy and quick at 1.5 miles and 600 feet of elevation gain, but the lookout at the end is a big payoff for little effort. It’s worth the drive and the possible crowds as you’ve never seen anything like Tent Rocks.

Head back to Santa Fe after your hike and cozy up in Le Reina, the bar at the El Rey Court, an old motor inn on Cerrillos. The El Rey has recently been renovated, and the bar—with its white adobe walls, fireplace and modern art by John Zabawa—is the place to be in Santa Fe. The menu has a small, well-curated beer selection, perfect for watching locals and tourists dance, listen to live music, or lounge on the long beautiful couch that adorns the main room just outside the bar area.

Rio en Medio
Photo: @spitfirebutterfly

Rio en Medio

How to Get there from Downtown: 25-minute drive to the trailhead

Hike: 7 miles (out and back), moderate

Beer: Tesuque Village Market

The Rio En Medio trail winds its way through shaded willow and birch trees along the river to a medium-sized waterfall when the water is high enough. The Rio En Medio trail truly showcases the diversity of northern New Mexico landscapes, coming from the high desert juniper of Santa Fe. After a steep climb to take you above the main waterfall, you’ll continue up small pools and cascades before reaching the trail terminus at the Aspen Ranch Trailhead. (You can also use the Aspen Ranch Trailhead as the starting point and do the trail in reverse.)

Tesuque Village Market is a 10-minute drive outside of Santa Fe in—you guessed it—Tesuque, New Mexico. You pass it on your way back to town, so it’s a very convenient pit stop if you’re looking for something cold to drink. If there’s a table open, park yourself outside on the covered patio and enjoy the eclectic mix of patrons. The Tesuque market is on a quiet road with not much else around it, and that’s exactly why people come. They have a great beer list and a full menu with large portions of New Mexico classics. When you’re done, head back to Santa Fe the way you came, on the windy and scenic Bishop Lodge Road.

Banner photo: Julius Rückert

>>Next: Trails and Ales: Austin


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