Just a short distance from downtown Santa Fe, La Cieneguilla offers visitors the opportunity to contemplate the rich history of New Mexico’s three predominant cultures. Walk along basaltic rock formations and view 700-year old petroglyphs left by the Anasazi, ancestors of the present day Pueblo people. Learn about the Spanish conquistadores and settlers who ventured into present day New Mexico along the Camino Real, or Royal Road, in 1598. And, enjoy tales of Anglo travelers who drove from Chicago to Santa Monica, through New Mexico, along the Historic Route 66.
For a serene hike along a lovely mountain creek, the lower Rio en Medio trail is ideal. The trail takes you through a forest of Ponderosa pines as well as Douglas fir to an enchanting waterfall at the turn around point. It’s a shaded hike with multiple water crossings, making it perfect for the summer months, and it showcases the lush green vegetation of the mountainous areas of New Mexico.
The Alamos Vista hike is a 4-mile round trip trek through a magical grove of aspen trees to a summit at approximately 11,000 feet with 360-degree views of the surrounding peaks. It is a moderately challenging excursion as you will be hiking at an altitude of 10,000 to 11,000 feet, and the trail to the top is steep in certain sections. The views, however, are breathtaking and the challenge is worth the reward.
At Plaza Blanca, in Abiquiu, the limestone rock formations that rise to 500 feet in certain locations often reveal faces of animals, church spires or medieval fortresses. Use your imagination and you’ll be whisked away to a place of true enchantment. Wonder through the canyons and walk with care up to the ridge tops for spectacular views.
Called “Tent Rocks” because of the tent- or tepee-like shapes, the formations at this National Monument were created 6.8 million years ago by volcanic eruptions in the nearby Jemez Mountains. Often compared to Turkey’s famed Cappadocia region, New Mexico’s Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, which means “White Cliffs” in the Keresan language of the nearby Cochiti Pueblo, is a geological marvel to behold.
Chimney Rock is an easy to moderate hike on Ghost Ranch property, where Georgia O’Keeffe once lived. The rock formation at the turn around point of the hike is unique; it does indeed resemble a chimney. The views from the top are stunning with Cerro Pedernal and Abiquiu Dam to the north. And, as a bonus, you can see Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch home from your lofty perch!
The Red Dot trail is one of two scenic hiking trails that start at the rim of White Rock canyon and drops down approximately 800 feet to the Rio Grande River. Along the steep trail, you will encounter petroglyphs and, once at the bottom, hikers will be pleasantly surprised to find an absolutely delightful waterfall and small pool. Time permitting, take a side trip to Newspaper Rock and view more ancient petroglyphs.
An off the beaten path adventure, the Window Rock hike takes you through sandy arroyos (dry washes) and slot canyons, alongside fantastic rock formations up to “one of New Mexico’s largest rock spans”. The Window, described in the book “100 Hikes in New Mexico” as “an opening in the thin ridge of hardened lava”, can be seen from a distance and becomes more and more imposing as you near it.
The Kitchen Mesa hike, set at Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, takes you to an otherworldly destination with white gypsum, deposited when the salt water of the “Western Interior Seaway” evaporated. Portions of the trail are steep and a short climb up a narrow passage to the mesa top is required. Once at the top, however, you will be rewarded with expansive views of the Cerro Pedernal, Georgia O’Keeffe’s mountain.
A major landmark in north-central New Mexico, Georgia O’Keeffe said of the Cerro Pedernal, “God told me if I painted it often enough I could have it.” Affectionately known these days as O’Keeffe’s mountain, it is a place of remarkable beauty along with a depth of history dating back to the Clovis Paleoindians who used Pedernal chert to produce spear points and other tools.