The Interstate to Santa Fe
The most direct route north to Santa Fe is along I-25, a drive of about 60 miles. The road, which passes through the broad valley between the Sandia and Jemez mountain ranges, is not as scenic as other routes, but it does cross wide swaths of undeveloped pueblo lands (Sandia, San Felipe, and Santo Domingo) with impressive vistas.
You also have the opportunity to detour to one of the region’s most striking natural phenomena, Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument (Forest Rd. 266, 7 a.m.–7 p.m. daily Apr.–Oct., 8 a.m.–5 p.m. daily Nov.–Mar., $5/car), where the wind-whittled clusters of volcanic pumice and tuff do indeed resemble enormous tepees, some up to 90 feet tall.
To reach the parklands, leave I-25 at Exit 259 and head west toward Cochiti Pueblo on Highway 22, and then turn south in front of Cochiti Dam, which blots out the horizon around mile 15.
From the parking area, you have the choice of two short trails: an easy, relatively flat loop runs up to the base of the rocks, passing a small cave, while a longer option runs 1.3 miles into a narrow canyon where the rock towers loom dramatically on either side. The latter trail is level at first, but the last stretch is steep and requires a little clambering.
On your way out from the hike, you can drive through Cochiti Pueblo, the northernmost Keresan-speaking pueblo, which claims its ancestors inhabited some of the ruins found at Bandelier National Monument. The traditional core of the community is still two ancient adobe kivas; the people who live in the surrounding houses sell craftwork.
Nearby Cochiti Lake (reached by continuing along Highway 22 past the dam) is a popular summer destination for boaters, though it’s not particularly scenic.
© Zora O'Neill from Moon Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque, 2nd edition