Not only is New Mexico’s mountain scenery stunning, but the population is sparse, so it’s very easy to get out of town and enjoy the natural splendor all on your own. This route, which takes nine days, caters to hikers who want to spend as much time as possible outside of the cities.
When you arrive in New Mexico and see the scenery, it’s tempting to put on your boots and head straight out, but unless you’re coming from a comparable elevation, stick to clambering in foothills and scenic drives for the first couple of days. Drink plenty of liquids, and head to bed early.
If you’d prefer not to do the overnight backpacking trip suggested here, take a day hike in Bandelier National Monument  instead and then stay the night in nearby Los Alamos  or camp at the monument. In the morning, you can squeeze in another quick day hike at Bandelier or drive on toward Jemez and hike to San Antonio Springs.
As for timing, don’t try this itinerary any earlier than mid-May; even then you will still encounter snowpack at higher elevations. If you’re especially interested in rafting, the early part of the summer, when the river is fullest, is the best time to do it. Visiting in the fall may be colder, but the glowing yellow aspen groves that stud the mountains are a major attraction.
Arrive at Albuquerque’s  Sunport; pick up your rental car and head north to your hotel in Santa Fe . If you arrive on an early flight, take a detour to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument  for an easy, hour-long hike—but don’t push yourself too hard.
Rent a bike and get oriented downtown, and then head down the rail trail to Lamy  or cruise around the Dale Ball Trails  in the Sangre de Cristo foothills. Return to Santa Fe for a leisurely and hearty barbecue dinner at The Cowgirl .
Take your pick of several hikes in the Santa Fe  area: The Rio en Medio  trail north of Tesuque is a good one, or make the trek along Raven’s Ridge  if you can handle the elevation. At night, relax in the hot tubs at Ten Thousand Waves , and then have a late dinner at Mu Du Noodles .
Drive to Taos  via the high road, spending the afternoon around town or on a short hike in Hondo Canyon near Taos Ski Valley  (grab a burrito at Abe’s Cantina y Cocina in Arroyo Seco  when you head up this way). At night, meet other outdoorsy types at Eske’s Brew Pub . Bunk at the casual Laughing Horse Inn .