9 Great Santa Fe Day Trips

Using the City Different as a base, you can make a variety of day trips to explore everything from ancient ruins and historic mountain towns to rushing rivers ripe for rafting and fishing. Here are a few of our favorite day trips from Santa Fe.

1. Chimayo

The historic village of Chimayo is a favorite day trip for many visitors. This charming hamlet is home to the Santuario de Chimayo, a shrine and National Historic Landmark that is one of the most important Catholic pilgrimage centers in the country. You’ll also enjoy the arts and crafts heritage of the town, especially the weaving scene. Weavers ply their ancient craft right on site and the showroom features world-renowned Ortega blankets, rugs, coats, purses and more. When you’ve shopped ‘til you drop, get some sustenance at Rancho de Chimayo, a delightful old world restaurant serving traditional New Mexican cuisine.

2. Ghost Ranch

For Georgia O’Keeffe fans, an excursion to Ghost Ranch provides insight into the unique scenery that provided much inspiration for the artist’s work in New Mexico. You can experience the landscape through several tours, including one on horseback. Other tours focus on history, archaeology, paleontology and movie set locations. There’s even a Museum of Paleontology highlighting the dinosaurs discovered on site. You can also opt to explore the red canyons and high-desert mesas on foot, choosing one of five hiking trails available.

3. Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

If you want an activity that is fun for the whole family, Tent Rocks is the place to go. From the parking lot you hike up to the base of the tent-shaped rocks that have formed from eroded volcanic ash deposited here tens of thousands of years ago. The spire-like formations are an amazing sight, but the fun doesn't end there. The trail weaves through slot canyons and up to the top of the ridge (it's strenuous in places) where you can see the formations in all their glory.

4. White Water Rafting

Adrenaline junkies and thrill seekers will want to join Los Rios River Runners on one of its half or full day whitewater rafting adventures. The company, which is the oldest, most experienced river rafting company in New Mexico, offers mild and wild trips on the mighty Rio Grande and Rio Chama.


5. Fly Fishing

For more river fun, try fly fishing with High Desert Angler, a full service fly shop, school and guide service. The company tailors its services to match your needs and has the ability to get you fly fishing on the most private, premier fly fishing destinations in Northern New Mexico.


6. Along the Turquoise Trail

A hundred years ago Madrid (prounounce with emphasis on the "a" unlike the town in Spain) was a coal and mineral mining town. Then the mines closed and everyone left. Then the hippies moved in to squat in the abandoned buildings and surrounding hills. A fun little art community has blossomed in the decades since. Now the the narrow road through town (NM 14) is lined with art galleries ranging from high-end sculpture to low-brow folk art. After a walk through town, grab a bite, beer and a show at the Mineshaft, Madrid's iconic tavern. And the drive home along the Turquoise Trail is gorgeous, too.

7. Take a Spa Day

Ok, we're cheating a little bit here, because you can have an amazing spa day without ever leaving Santa Fe. But consider it a journey to personal wellness. Most of the better hotels in town have exquisite spas that offer a full array of services, from facials to massages to mud-baths and everthing in between. Some of the spas use traditional native American ingredients and others also have wellness-oriented sessions that go beyond the traditional spa. Your options are vast, so make sure you check out our Santa Fe spa guide before booking your treatment.

8. Santa Clara Pueblo

Those looking to step back in time should head to the Puye Cliff Dwellings, a National Historic Landmark and home to the ancestors of today’s Santa Clara Pueblo people. Then, while Dad decides to hit the links for a round of golf at nearby Black Mesa Golf Club, let the kids expend some energy bowling at Big Rock Casino Bowling. When the stomachs start to growl, take the family to Burgers, Wings & Brews at the Santa Claran Hotel.

9. Jemez Mountains

The Jemez Mountain (that J is pronounced as H, btw) lie to the west of Santa Fe and make for an amazingly scenic trip. At the foothills of the Jemez is Bandelier National Monument, where ancient puebloans lived among the volcanic cliffs -- You can actually climb into some of the ancient cliff dwellings. If you are looking for scenery, continue up the mountain on NM Highway 4. You'll pass through the remnants of two massive fires that hit the area over the last 20 years, but the views are still fantastic. Among the best views in New Mexico is the Valles Caldera, an ancient collapsed volcano that is simply stunning. You can savor the view from the road or go into the preserve itself. Further down the road is Spence hot springs. Nearby San Antonio hot springs is more remote, but requires a high clearance vehicle. (See more hot springs here). From there you can continue down to the town of Jemez Spring (do not go over the speed limit here or you will get a ticket) or turn around and come back to Los Alamos for dinner.