man in a hot spring

Few places leave such an impression that they alter your world. New Mexico is filled with unique experiences that will touch your soul and leave an imprint so deep it stays with you forever.” – Tourism Santa Fe

New Mexico – a Land of Enchantment? Yes, but in today’s world there is never-ending proof that it’s also a land of brilliant colors and boundless energy, which means it’s not just the unique quality of their experiences that overwhelms visitors; rather, it’s the sheer number of cultural, historic, and outdoor attractions that exist within minutes of one another around cities like Santa Fe and Albuquerque (ABQ).

Should you decide to have a vacation of your own there, you can feast on art galleries and museums that explore New Mexico’s centuries-old, multi-faceted Spanish, Mexican, and Pueblo Indian histories; musical fare and cuisine of all types, and inspiring traditional architecture – all of this and more is on display.

And then there’s the outdoors. Would you welcome the challenge of white-water rafting on the Rio Grande, or enjoy eight days of exciting events at ABQ’s Hot-Air Balloon Fiesta in October?

ABQ Hot Air Balloon Festival

Don’t panic if you’re already feeling overwhelmed, because you can always take your thoughts and ‘debrief’ as you walk the trails alongside Lake Abiquiu or Lake Katherine. Or, you can relive your experiences as your body and mind relax in the waters of the area’s geothermal hot springs. And if none of that sounds like fun, you can always spend time under Santa Fe’s dramatic night sky. 

Already an impressive list, it barely touches the tip of the iceberg of things to see and do in this area of New Mexico.

So, if you’ve decided to spend as much time as possible outdoors, and bearing in mind that the varied interests of your group will influence your choices, here is a tiny sampling to get your vacation off and running.

All the Trails You Can Handle

In brief, Joanne Hudson, a Public Relations Manager for Tourism Santa Fe explained that some of the most popular trails – the Dale Ball circuits and the Aspen Vista Trail begin in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains less than 20 miles from Santa Fe Plaza. Others range in length from under two miles to over 15 and several are within the beautiful Santa Fe National Forest.

new mexico hiking

“From white-water rafting to exploring aspen forests all dressed in the glory of their autumn colors; from photographing juniper and cactus to munching the tasty seeds of the Piñon trees you see while hiking the more desert-style trails, our active outdoor choices are abundant,” Joanne said.

New mexico hiking

After mentioning the Dale Ball and Aspen Vista options, your interest in knowing more about their specific characteristics and details of the more than 100 other trails in the ABQ-Santa Fe area is best served by referring you to the All Trails website.

There, you will find ratings as to trail length, type, and cautions. Is your choice a good one for seeing New Mexico birds and wildlife? Is it a loop trail, or point-to-point? What, if any, is the elevation gain? Is it rated as easy, moderate, difficult, kid- or dog-friendly? Is it best suited for walking, hiking, running, cycling or, even, horseback riding? The answers will help you have the best experience you could hope for.

Visiting the Hot-Springs

New Mexico is a geothermally active state with natural characteristics that have been evolving for untold centuries.

What that means for travelers to the Santa Fe area is that they have access to soothing, wellness-inducing mineral hot spring waters that range from around normal body temperature to 110F degrees. Visitors new to the area are cautioned not to try dipping into the waters around the source of the springs because they can be uncomfortably hot.

Also, Beware! “Clothing optional” doesn’t mean choosing between a short- or long-sleeve shirt; it means the difference between wearing some clothes or none at all.

Jemez Springs

One smaller-by-comparison public hot pool is Spence Hot Springs. Just a short drive from downtown Santa Fe, the popularity of this destination is evidenced by the crowds who enjoy it. Nonetheless, its description also notes “it’s a beautiful place to soak during sunrise.” Sounds like a great idea after two to three days making the rounds of all the other crowded attractions, doesn’t it?

The public three-pool San Antonio Hot Springs just outside Jemez Springs is another popular choice. Or, about an hour’s drive from Santa Fe, you might enjoy a soothing soak and massage at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa. There, you can either purchase a day pass or stay over for a few days.

And now, as you begin your own happy planning, we leave you with these few words: Many North American communities and others worldwide have histories and attractions of which they can be proud. But as this story was written, it became more and more obvious that few have been as eloquent as Santa Fe and Albuquerque at bringing the color, beauty, history, and energy of their cities to life on their pages. Congratulations to all involved!

If you’re considering a trip to New Mexico, here are a few extra links we think will be helpful in making sure you have a safe and fun time: