6-Day New Mexico Outdoors Itinerary

Not only is New Mexico’s mountain scenery stunning, but the population is sparse, so it’s easy to get out of town and have the natural splendor all to yourself. This outdoors itinerary, which takes six days, caters to mountain bikers and hikers who want to spend as much time as possible outside of the cities.

When you 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 foothill hikes and scenic drives for the first couple of days. Drink plenty of liquids, and head to bed early.

Don’t try this itinerary any earlier than mid-May; even then you will still encounter snowpack at higher elevations. Visiting in the fall may be colder, but the glowing yellow aspen groves that stud the mountains are a major attraction.

sun illuminates the countryside in Santa Fe
Take in the scenery along the Santa Fe Rail Trail. Photo © Steven Horak.

Day 1

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.

Day 2

Rent a mountain bike and get oriented downtown, then head down the Santa Fe Rail Trail to Lamy or cruise around La Tierra Trails in the rolling hills west of the city. Return to Santa Fe for a hearty dinner at Cowgirl BBQ.

a hiking trail leads through yellow aspen leaves in Santa Fe
The Aspen Vista Trail. Photo © Steven Horak.

Day 3

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 Aspen Vista up by the ski basin if the leaves are turning. At night, relax in the hot tubs at Ten Thousand Waves, then have a late dinner at Izanami.

Day 4

Drive to Taos via the high road, spending the afternoon hiking the West Rim Trail along the Rio Grande Gorge. Relive the views over a pint at the nearby Taos Mesa Brewing. Bunk back in town at the Inn on the Rio.

a stream leads to a mountain in Valles Caldera
The Valles Caldera National Preserve is dotted with streams and lush meadows. Photo © Steven Horak.

Day 5

Drive back south via the low road before veering west to take a hike in Valles Caldera National Preserve; stay the night in Jemez Springs, where you can soak tired muscles in the healing waters.

Day 6

Return to Albuquerque via the Jemez Mountain Trail. Grab a last bite of green-chile stew at The Frontier if you have time before your flight.

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