Throw a dart in any direction from the downtown Plaza and you’ll land on a path toward an interesting destination. To the east there are miles and miles of trails in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, which tops out at the 13,159-foot summit of Wheeler Peak in New Mexico. To the north, there’s an eclectic convergence of Ancestral Pueblo, Spanish Colonial, and Wild West history. To the west is the Jemez Mountains, home to Los Alamos National Laboratory, Bandelier National Monument, a half-dozen hot springs, and a gaping volcanic caldera. To the south are wild geologic rock formations, warmer climes, and the stomping grounds of a fictional bad guy named Walter White who made Albuquerque famous. Everywhere there’s open sky, fascinating history, and probably a few crazy characters. The best part about setting out on a day trip from Santa Fe is that you never know what you’re going to run into.
One-thousand-year-old Taos Pueblo, a multistory adobe one mile north of Taos, is considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States. In the valley beyond is the trailhead to Wheeler, the highest peak in New Mexico. Before you attempt the climb, make a reservation at The Love Apple, a restaurant in an old adobe church that serves largely organic, locally sourced food.
Bandelier National Monument
Ancestral Pueblo people thrived in what is now Bandelier National Monument near Los Alamos 10,000 years ago. The park covers 33,677 acres and centers around Frijoles Canyon, where a mile-long hike takes visitors past petroglyphs and masonry walls built into a cliff face. The Ancestral Puebloans left Frijoles sometime after 1250, for reasons still unknown.
Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa
Southwest of Taos, Ojo officially became a “spa” 145 years ago, but ancestors of the native Tewa tribes and 16th-century Spanish colonizers have used the geothermal water that flows from an ancient volcanic aquifer to the surface at the rate of more than 100,000 gallons per day, for centuries. Rent a Cliffside Suite with kiva fireplace and a private soaking tub.
Monastery of Christ in the Desert
Sixty-five miles northwest of Santa Fe on U.S. 84, past Pedernal, the iconic flat-topped peak painted by Georgia O'Keeffe take a left on Forest Service Road 151. At the end of the 13-mile-long road you’ll find Monastery of Christ in the Desert's tap room. The Benedictine monks who live here grow their own hops to brew six beers under the label Abbey Beverage Company.
Valles Caldera National Preserve
Prepare to drop your jaw at this 89,000-acre expanse west of Los Alamos. The working ranch and preserve is nestled in a volcanic caldera that formed after a supervolcano erupted 1.25 million years ago. The blast was so strong that molten magma blew 95 miles into the stratosphere. Summer activities include hiking, mountain biking, equestrian trail riding, and fly-fishing.