Free Things to do in Santa Fe
"The best things in life aren't things" - Art Buchwalk, Humorist for The Washington Post
Whoever said that nothing in life is free must never have made it to Santa Fe. From miles of pristine mountain trails waiting be explored to color-drenched sunsets that stop you in your tracks, this world of natural wonders is full of adventures that won't put a dent in your wallet. Equally enticing, the city brims with spectacular things to do. None of it demands even a dime—except, perhaps, at the downtown parking meters, which are free on Sunday.
Sundown at Cross of the Martyrs Park
For a complimentary daily dose of Santa Fe beauty, head to the Cross of the Martyrs Park, where spectacular sunsets paint the sky with vivid colors nightly. Located northeast of the Santa Fe Plaza on Paseo de la Loma Hill in Fort Marcy Park, the park memorializes 21 Franciscan friars and Spanish colonists who died during the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. A moderate climb on a paved trail leads you past 20 plaques chronicling Santa Fe's rich history, starting with 500 AD and on through modern times. When you reach the top, a 25-foot tall cross solemnly stands in memory of the people who perished in the Pueblo Revolt. Get there before the sun starts its descent in the sky so you can admire glorious views of the city and the Jemez Mountains to the west and beyond. Santa Fe's stunning sunsets are legendary. Watch them with someone you love.
Along the Dale Ball Trails
Whether you're into hiking, mountain biking or snowshoeing, the Dale Trail Balls will provide you with hours of delight that won't cost you a cent. Nearly 25 miles of trails leading through the Sangre de Cristo foothills offer magnificent views, shaded forests and a chance to commune with nature at her finest. Here in the high desert, you're roaming the foothills of the Rockies and exploring one of the country's most beautiful spots for outdoor adventure. An advanced wayfinding system helps you navigate your way and trail maps are available at the trailheads, accessed at two parking lots: one off of Hyde Park Road at its Sierra del Norte intersection and the other where Upper Canyon Road intersects Cerro Gordo. Find more information here: https://sfct.org/dale-ball-trails/
Even though many of the state and city museums are still closed, Santa Fe is still blessed with an amazing array of world class art. If you want to be outside, check out some of the outdoor installations in the Railyard Park or the nearby galleries along Guadalupe. The downtown galleries have reopened and offer paintings, sculpture and more in modern and classic styles. Many of the world-famous Canyon Road galleries are open, too. Take the beautiful walk and duck in and out of galleries and shops and admire the skill and craftsmanship that goes into the art on display.
Ride Your Bike
In the last several years Santa Fe has invested significantly in cycling infrastructure to accommodate bike commuters and recreational riders. There are dozens of miles of paved paths, like the Arroyo Chamiso Trail, that are closed to motorized vehicles (though many do cross streets) that are great for exploring the city. The Santa Fe Rail Trail is unpaved once you are out of town, but it's fairly well maintained, so most bikes can handle the trail. Many of the local streets have bike lanes to safely get around town, though we recommend avoiding main thoroughfares like Cerrillos Rd or St. Francis -- luckily there are plenty of side streets to explore. The city has published a Santa Fe Bikeways & Trails map that is available online or in most local bike shops.
Geocaching Santa Fe
Forest Fenn's treasure may have been discovered, but there are still "treasures" to be found in Santa Fe. Geocaching is a treasure hunt of sorts, where you use specific GPS coordinates to find a geocache hidden at that location. Often the geocache has a trinket for the finder -- just make sure you leave one for the next person. Once you find the cache, sign the log and get the next one. Nothing of real value changes hands, but the search can be fun (especially for families) and there are bragging rights for finding as many as you can. Sign up at Geocaching.com.
See some petroglyphs
A couple minutes past the airport are more than 5,000 petroglyphs carved between the 13th and 17th centuries into the volcanic cliffs above the Santa Fe River. La Cienequilla Petroglyphs is one of the most accessible petroglyph sites in the state, but many people don't even know about it. A short hike from the parking lot, and up a steep hill, gets you to the cliff. Wear sturdy shoes, bring some water and be ready to maneuver over some obstacles along the rocky trail. And please don't touch the petroglyphs or attempt to add your own.