Walk in beauty
Being surrounded by beauty, particularly the attractions of the natural world — flowering plants, a lovely tree in fall color, a sparkling stream or a deep blue sky dotted with puffy clouds — can help lift depression, vanquish stress and otherwise contribute to health and wellness.
According to the University of Washington’s Green Cities: Good Health project, “Trees, parks, gardens and natural areas enhance quality of life in cities and towns. Nearly 40 years of research shows that the experience of nature is profoundly important to human functioning, health and well being.”
Santa Fe is particularly rich in natural beauty, places to enjoy a leisurely stroll, stretch one’s legs, breathe deeply and soak up the good feelings.
Santa Fe River Park
This 10-mile-long linear park runs parallel to the Santa Fe River. In recent years, more emphasis has been dedicated to actually putting water in this once-robust small river, which is dammed above the city.
In spring and early summer it often now has a modest flow, which contributes greatly to its aesthetic (and ecological) value as it pours over small drops, meanders among willow and cottonwood trees, and turns its sandy bottom into a kaleidoscope of golden color.
Even when the river is dry, the meandering paved footpath along its bank provides walkers with a sublime disconnect from the urban environment and a visual treat. Picnic tables also invite folks to enjoy a light meal under its shady trees.
A good starting point is along Alameda Street in the heart of downtown Santa Fe.
Cross of the Martyrs
The path climbs several hundred feet in elevation and delivers a good mix of exercise and wonderful views. It is essentially a long set of linked stairs and winding paved footways that ascends from the north portion of Paseo de Peralta to a hilltop overlooking downtown.
This is the site of a former military fort erected by the U.S. after its occupation of Santa Fe in 1846. The old adobe fort is gone today but historic placards provide some interesting images and information. At the end of the trail is a large metal cross is dedicated to the many Franciscan friars who were killed in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Signs explain this dark chapter in New Mexico’s history.
This short climb offers walkers wonderful views over the downtown core and westward toward the distant Jemez
Mountains, and is a prime vantage point to take in a sunset. The grass-covered hills and narrow arroyos often shelter large flocks of birds and other wildlife, best spotted in the early morning or evening twilight hours.
Start the walk from Paseo de Peralta, just north of Tommy Macaione Park (formerly Hillside Park).
Santa Fe Canyon Preserve
Few sights are more invigorating and refreshing than water in the desert, and this destination offers water in abundance — both moving and still.
The 520-acre preserve is managed by The Nature Conservancy and includes a thriving cottonwood bosque ( forest), a beaver pond and pools, a section of running water in the original Santa Fe River stream bed and flanking lands covered in chamisa, four-winged saltbush, piñon and juniper. These diverse habitats are home to 140 species of birds and other wildlife, including the rare leopard frog.
An excellent trail system winds through the preserve, extending as far as the Audubon Center’s headquarters at the end of Upper Canyon Road, which has its own trail system. This is an ideal spot to wander for a brief escape or an hours-long adventure.
Access to the preserve is free. Parking is available at the end of Cerro Gordo Road near its intersection with Upper Canyon Road. It is open dawn to dusk.
Dale Ball Trails
This 22-mile trail system on the northeastern edge of Santa Fe in the Sangre de Cristo foothills offers excursions ranging from easy 15-minute loops to strenuous hikes up Atalaya and Picacho Peaks. Each one includes some magnificent views of the lands lying to the south and west of Santa Fe, plus immersion in thick piñon and juniper forests. Small creeks run in spring after a good winter.
www.sfct.org/dale-ball-trails Maps and more information on local trails and walks www.santafenm.gov/trails