Santa Fe is surrounded by National Forests and other incredible hiking opportunities for all skill levels. Everyone thinks hiking is a no-brainer, and mostly it is. But a large number of people require rescue each year due to misjudgments while out in the wilderness. To avoid this and make the most of your hike, consider going out with a guide from a hiking company. Not only are you safer, they know the woods and other areas and can provide great information about the flora and fauna, geology and even the history of the area as you go.
Two Santa Fe companies specializing in guided day-hikes are Outspire and Santa Fe Walkabouts.
Karen Denison of Outspire has been taking hikers out since 1997. Because of her background as a biologist she is knowledgeable about the area’s ecology. Her guides are all experienced hikers and know the area well. As you hike they talk about the flora, fauna and geology of the area. The company specializes in working with individuals; they also handle small groups. Every hike is custom-designed to meet the specific requirements of the client. Skill-level, time constraints and what the would-be hiker(s) want to experience is all factored in. She even has a competitive trail runner as a guide, if you want to run through the woods rather than walk. Are you more an ambler than a hiker? They can accommodate that too. Denison is currently setting up pre-planned group hikes to bring the per-person costs down. Check her website for information.
Georges and Sue Mally owners of Santa Fe Walkabouts have an unusual hook. They take you to your hike in a Pinzgauer truck formerly used by the Swiss Army. This unusual off-road vehicle enables them to take hikers into remote places, not easily accessed without four-wheel drive. Georges who came to the US from France and originally Bulgaria has a contagious love for history and the outdoors. He is also an expert skier; teaching at Ski Santa Fe in the winter. He knows and loves the history of the area and delights in finding new and unusual places to take adventurers coming to Santa Fe. Want to see ancient petroglyphs or a pueblo ruin? Santa Fe Walkabout can take you off the beaten path. You don’t have to be an adventurer; they have hiking trips for all skill levels. They too will design the experience to fit the client’s interests and skill level. For Santa Fe’s 400th anniversary commemoration, they are offering tours on the historic Camino Real. Sue, whose background is in finance, runs the business end of the company. She also goes on the gentler hikes. Santa Fe Walkabouts also offers mountain-biking trips in spring, summer and fall and snowshoeing in winter..
If you have a group coming to town, there are a few companies that specialize in guided hiking adventures.
Santa Fe Mountain Adventures is a great resource specializing in a range of outdoor adventures for groups of four or more (they can accommodate large groups). Hiking is one of the many activities on their menu. They offer a variety of hiking options. Walk a mountain trail, discover area ruins; there are lots of possibilities. If your group wants something fun and different, try geocaching. This is hiking with a GPS and it’s gaining in popularity. Using these handy devices, Santa Fe Mountain Adventures turns your hike into a treasure hunt. In winter, they will take your group snowshoeing. They also offers team building; hiking is one of the tools used for this.
If you want to go into the wilderness for a few days, contact Great Southwest Adventures. They have the guides and equipment needed for a multi-day trip into the backcountry. They also offer day-hikes. Owners Monique Schoustra and Tom Ribe have been in business since 1998. They both have an extensive background in the ecology of the area and love the outdoors. Tom is a New Mexico native and Monique has been here 22 years. Their guides are chosen very carefully. While they prefer to work with small groups, they will work with individuals also. Great Southwest Adventures also offers van tours of Northern New Mexico.
Why use a guide? The obvious reason is they know the trails well, but there are other benefits to guided hiking. “We know what the conditions are and where it is good to hike,” Dennison says. This can be a great help to the uninitiated. It’s important to know if a trail still has snow on it in spring or even summer, if there were bear-sightings in an area, that the trail is open or anything else that might affect a particular area. They keep up with area conditions; it is their job. Getting somewhere and finding out you can’t hike because it is closed or the trail conditions are poor can ruin what could have been a great day.
Denison also points out that having a guide is great for women traveling solo who want a wilderness experience and have concerns about going alone. Hiking alone can be risky for anyone. If you have a mishap, there is no one to go for help. If you run into an animal you might not be comfortable with, you have company. There is great truth to that old saw about safety in numbers.
If you choose to hike on your own, consider hiking in pairs for safety. Dené Cannon, guide at Outspire and owner of Enchanted Journeys de Santa Fe does a solo morning hike up the steep Mount Atalaya every day weather and time permitting. She knows the trail and is an expert hiker; you don’t and you’re not.
If you choose to hike on your own, here are some tips that might be helpful:
- The Sierra Club has a great book, Day Hikes in the Santa Fe Area with excellent descriptions of trails in the area. You can get this in Santa Fe at local bookstores (Collected Works, Garcia Street Books) at Sangre de Christo Mountain Works or the Travel Bug. Online, try the Sierra Club website, the Santa Fe bookstores’ sites or your favorite Web bookseller.
- · If you are not used to altitude, wait a day or so before hiking, especially at higher altitudes so your body can adjust.
- · Dress in layers or if warm in town, take something long-sleeved; it can be significantly cooler at high altitudes.
- · Wear a hat and use sunscreen. The sun is more intense here than you may be use to; we are closed to it and the air is thinner.
- · Bring and drink plenty of water. This is a dry climate and hydration is important.
- · Bring lunch and or a high-protein snack.
- · If you are hiking alone (or even in pairs) let someone know where you are headed and when you left and that you have returned.
If you are an outdoor person, put hiking on your Santa Fe agenda. It is a great way to see the area. The views are magnificent and there are lots or interesting things to see along the say.
Note: The companies mentioned here are knowledgeable about the area and have experienced guides. Their staff all have safety training, including first-aid and CPR and are prepared if an emergency arises; they rarely do. They all have the licenses and permits required by the State of New Mexico and are insured.