New Mexico Mountains

Best of Santa Fe, New Mexico, from a local's perspective

FullSizeRender-9 copy 2.jpg

Walking 200 year-old streets and dipping into art galleries, traveling to other realities in psychedelic museums, listening to the best operatic voices in the country as thunderstorms loom behind the amphitheater, roaming through groves of aspens: The oldest state capitol in the United States is a VERY interesting place indeed.  

Santa Fe is the oldest capitol in the United States because it was proclaimed the capitol of the Provence all the way back in 1610. So it is old and it has seen a lot of history!  Walking through downtown Santa Fe you pass along streets and buildings that are several hundred years old. Santa Fe has something to offer year round. Tourist presence seems to be heaviest in summer because of the fabulous music and art scenes, but the other seasons have special traditions that should not be missed either. 

The Santa Fe Plaza


The Plaza is the heart of Old Santa Fe. This is where you will find the oldest buildings, from the famously beautiful St. Francis Basilica to some of the renowned hotels on the plaza, such as La Fonda. (As a side note, my favorite hotel to stay at in Santa Fe is Las Palomas.) The picturesque Plaza is wonderful to stroll around, morning and afternoon alike, and offers numerous tempting art galleries and shops. Be sure to stop by the Georgia O'Keefe Museum, grab a breakfast crepe at my favorite French bakery in La Fonda, and rest under the old trees in the middle of the plaza, simply absorbing the historic vibes as the St. Francis church bells toll in the background.

Canyon Road


Canyon Road is an old street close to the plaza lined with marvelous art galleries. In the summer on Friday evenings, strolling Canyon Road and going into galleries for wine and art openings is an absolute favorite activity of locals and tourists alike.  On Christmas Eve, Canyon Road is lined with luminarias, the super-traditional New Mexican version of Christmas lights. People come from near and far to visit the area, drink mulled wine or hot chocolate, and listen to great music. My favorite thing is to get a decadent treat at Kakawa, a chocolate cafe near the entrance to Canyon Road, and then meander along the street. 

Eat New Mexican Food

There are so many fabulous New Mexican-food restaurants in this city. Some of my favorites include Tia Sofia's, Atrisco's, Tomasita's, La Choza, The Shed, and El Parisol.

Meow Wolf


This may be the hardest place to explain in Santa Fe. It is one of those places you just have to experience for yourself. But hey, I'll give it a shot: It's an arts collective that creates a unique journey and experience through an alternate reality fun house. For me, I kept feeling like I had fallen into one of the stranger Ghibli films. 

Ten Thousand Waves

Hidden among the mountains above Santa Fe is a peaceful retreat. This Japanese bathhouse is absolutely gorgeous, merging the simplicity of Japanese style and aesthetics with the wild nature New Mexico. I highly recommend renting a private pool for an hour with friends, but the communal pool is lovely too. I like it so much that I chose this place for my bachelorette-party spa night. 


Walk Among the Aspens

FullSizeRender-9 copy.jpg

There is a plethora of lovely hikes in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains above Santa Fe. My favorite in spring, summer and fall is to walk among the aspens in one of the groves that blanket these mountains. It is both eerie and beautiful to be surrounded by these white-trunked trees, to hear their leaves rustle like wind chimes. In winter, hit the slopes for some fabulous skiing.


Into the Sangre de Cristos a webbing of trails intersect offering views of stunning vistas, the southernmost peaks of the rockies, and the nice creeks and lakes that gurgle at astonishing altitudes. 

If you are looking for a gorgeous, but very challenging Sangre de Cristos day hike, I recommend Nambe Lake.

P1010917 2.jpg
P1010939 2.jpg

Special Mention: Santa Fe Opera

I made this a special mention because it is mostly a summer activity. The Santa Fe Opera season is summer only, but they do offer various forms of musical performances in other seasons, so it is best to check their website before you come to New Mexico. This architectural marvel creates a unique opera experience. The open-walled amphitheater lets summer thunderstorms add epic notes to the sounds of the opera. During some shows they open up the back of the stage and use the New Mexico mountains and sunset as the backdrop for a scene. It is absolutely magical. Locals and tourists alike bring cheese and wine for tailgating in the parking lot before shows. 







New Mexico Day Trip: Up La Luz Trail and Down the Sandia Tram

FullSizeRender-5 copy 6.jpg

This past weekend I hiked New Mexico'a famous La Luz Trail for the first time. Now if you are unfamiliar with New Mexico, you probably don't hear the Darth Vader theme song in your head when you think of this trail like I do. Not that the trail has anything to do with Star Wars, it just happens to ominously traverse the front of the Sandia Mountains. 

pup on the mountain

The Sandias are named for the Spanish word for watermelon. This is because when the sun sets in New Mexico there is an astonishing array of colors that spread through the sky: pink, gold, purple, orange, deep red, and sometimes even green and blue mixing in with the epic summer thunder clouds. This phenomenon usually turns the front face of the Sandias a glorious watermelon pink. Through the years I've grown to really love my home town, and the Sandias are the face of that. These mountains hold a deep and ancient expression as the result of a massive fault line colliding millions of years ago. Ever since I was a little wee kid, I would look up at the massive cliffs that make up the expressive and dramatic west side of the Sandias and see a family of giant faces. So finally, the husband, puppy and I headed off for a New Mexico adventure on La Luz Trail, which scales this dramatic mountain face. (Once again daunting music fills my head). A great half-day trip is to hike up the trail and ride down on the Sandia tram. This is the longest tram in the world by the way. We got to the trail head around eight. (In mid-summer I'd advise to start even earlier). The trailhead temperature was surprisingly lovely, and the air got even cooler as we traversed drastically changing elevation. (You climb over 5,000 feet in elevation.)

I was surprised: I have climbed much steeper trails leading to much shorter mountains. This trail is well-maintained and has many switchbacks. Before we knew it, less than a mile up, we started to experience the glorious views overlooking Albuquerque.

About two miles up there is the option to take a trail that goes off to the right leading out to the edge of one of the points of the mountain, which offers a gorgeous view. It is unmarked, but the adventurous side of me instantly wanted to go stand at the edge of the point. At five miles up, you hit the rock-slides. The trail is still clearly marked, but this is where it gets a bit more challenging. A fork in the trail offers two choices: go to the crest or the tram. If you go to the crest and you don't have a car waiting there to get you back to Albuquerque, you'll need hike back down. If you want it all, go to the crest and then take a short trail on the backside of the mountain to the tram. 

I highly recommend standing by a window on the tram to look out at the gorgeous cliff faces. Don't want to do the hiking part? Riding up and down the tram is a lovely and unique experience in itself, one that should not be missed when visiting Albuquerque.






Here are some things to know before you go:

  • If you park your car at the base of the tram there is a trail that connects to La Luz from there, so you don't end up with you in one place and your car at another. 
  • To park at the trailhead, from Tramway Rd. take service road 333 and watch for the sign to La Luz Trail to find the trailhead. Remember to bring $3 cash for parking.
  • While the trail is not the hardest trail in New Mexico, it still has its dangers. The conditions can change quickly and dramatically. Make sure you watch what the weather is doing and if a weather system seems to be moving in, get off the mountain as fast as possible. I've gotten stuck up there during a lightening storm and it was terrifying. 
  • Several people have fallen to their deaths by getting too close to cliff edges that then crumbled beneath them, so please be aware! 
  • Albuquerque is a mile high and the crest is about 10,679 ft. high. If you are from out of town, let your body acclimate to the elevation before attempting this trail. 

For up to date info go to the Sandia peak website.

Let me know if this inspires your marvelous wanderings!