Santa Fe gets so much attention for its arts and culture scene that very few visitors are clued into its shocking abundance of trails—which is all the better for locals like me who rely on the solace they provide. So if you do plan to use the trails, be nice to the people you see—one of them could be me. Most trails are well maintained, easily accessible from town, and offer plenty of uphills. If you’re a fanatic, it’s possible to run from the north end of town all the way up to the towers at the top of Ski Santa Fe. Before you set out, however, know that this run is 18 miles long with more than 4,000 feet of elevation gain that tops out at 11,465 feet. Altitude can be the great equalizer, so take it slow on the first few days, but don’t let the numbers scare you. After you acclimatize, one of the best parts of visiting Santa Fe is to experience its astoundingly beautiful wilderness.
Dale Ball Trails
This is my go-to 22-mile trail system when time is short and I still want a good training run. With a trailhead just a few miles up Hyde Park Road from the Plaza, and smooth, rolling terrain, this is the best one-stop-run in Santa Fe for visiting weekend warriors.
I access this 17.2-mile trail system from three or four different trailheads along Hyde Park Road depending how long I want to run and how deep into the wilderness I want to go. Most of the Winsor follows Tesuque Creek to Ski Santa Fe. Beyond that it’s another seven hours to the summit of 11,745-foot Santa Fe Baldy.
West of the city and easily accessible from U.S. 599, La Tierra is 25-plus miles of foothills trails. I like these purpose-built trails best for mountain biking, but if you’re new to town and aren’t ready for higher altitudes, this is smooth, Zen introduction to running in Santa Fe with great views to the Sangre de Cristos in the east and the Jemez Mountains in the west.
Seven miles round trip from St. John’s College, Atalaya Mountain is a well-loved, steep and quick route to a breath-taking view of the city. The trail is so well-loved in fact, that it’s deeply eroded in places, so tread lightly.
Santa Fe Rail Trail
Compared to every other trail system in Santa Fe, the 11.5-mile Rail Trail is blessedly flat. I love the smooth red dirt pathway with few obstacles, because it allows me to just tune out and run. The trailhead with parking on Rabbit Road is easy to find.