I had barely heard of Santa Fe just two months ago. Yes, I knew it was a picturesque mountain town situated in Northern New Mexico that made you feel as if you’re walking back into the time of Spanish Conquistadors, but I had no idea it was such an outdoor destination, complete with craft beer and affordable upscale food.
Do this: Mountain Biking, Dale Ball Trails
Mountain biking is the outdoor activity in Santa Fe. There are over 100 miles of trails within an hour of the city. They have everything from manmade freestyle jumps to gnarly, double-black single track to leisurely forest access trails.
Some of the best are rideable year-round and you can ride directly to the bar afterwards using the city’s bike paths.
Eat and Drink here: Draft Station
Located just 3 miles from the Dale Ball trailhead, you could ride straight here after ripping some single track. They have 14 local craft beers on tap, a rooftop patio (with heaters in cold weather), a laid back atmosphere and an additional game room with more seating.
Beer suggestion: Riverwalk IPA, Bosque Brewing
Do this: Rock Climbing, Diablo Canyon
Little known, but highly recommended, is Diablo Canyon. Beginners will find a nice mixture of easy routes and the burliest of overhung 5.13’s will challenge the best of climbers. It doesn’t see too much traffic due to the proximity to world-renowned crack climbing in Indian Creek, Utah so make sure to bring a helmet.
It’s a shoulder season destination as well, which means it’s most active in Spring and Fall — which also means the rocks go through freeze/thaw cycles and tend to fall on their own.
Added bonus: There are 20 miles of mountain biking trails through the canyon and on top of the rim as well. A fat bike is highly suggested due to the loose, sandy nature of the trails.
Eat and Drink here: Fire and Hops
Who said all climbers have to be dirty hippies? For $20 you can get a pint of local beer and a meaty half-rack of ribs. Beer and meat not your thing? They have artisan wine and host of equally tasty vegetarian options too.
Beer suggestion: Pineapple Sculpin IPA, Ballast Point Brewing (trust me!)
Do this: Skiing and Snowboarding, Ski Santa Fe
People from Utah can understand this, but for Colorado residents, having a ski hill just 16 miles from town is unfathomable. Ski Santa Fe sees over 200 inches of snow each season, has 79 trails and descends 1,725 feet from its highest elevation at 12,075 feet.
Need a break? La Casa lodge has a food court and gourmet coffee bar. Need some gear? There’s a sport shop and rental shop, as well. While perhaps not quite as prolific and recognizable as Alta or Vail, Ski Santa Fe has something for everyone: Steep double-blacks, glades, a terrain park and 40 percent of the whole mountain is moderate for the newcomers.
Added bonus: If you’re willing to drive two hours, head up to Taos for big mountain skiing.
Eat and Drink here: Blue Corn Cafe and Brewery
After a day of skiing, have a seat in a more relaxed atmosphere and try any of their 10 beers ranging from 5 — 8.8 percent alcohol by volume. You won’t find the crazy aprés scene of Breckenridge here, but you will find a comfortable place to sit, a pleasant waitstaff and great food. If you need to change it up from beer, they create their own Bloody Mary mix fresh everyday, and it’s absolutely delicious.
If you time it right, you can do all of these things in the same week (or weekend, or day depending on your activity level). In mid-March, you’ll find the best cross-country mountain biking trails open, Diablo Canyon bathing in sunny 70 degree weather and Ski Santa Fe still open for spring skiing conditions.
Colorado and Utah might steal the spotlight for outdoor destinations, but Santa Fe offers everything they do, in closer proximity and at a more relaxed pace. If you come here, you might want to keep the secret all to yourself.
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