While cross-country trips can be fun, it’s not always relaxing to hop on a flight or deal with crowds, but a road trip to a smaller city could be the perfect way to explore, relax and find adventure. Whether you’re looking for a short weekend trip, or somewhere to spend the next week exploring, Santa Fe, New Mexico is the perfect place to explore the outdoors and discover amazing food and drink. Plus, it’s a short 323 miles from Colorado Springs — or just under five hours in the car.
Plan Your Route
The destination in itself is breathtaking, but the drive from Colorado Springs to Santa Fe can be fun, too. There are two main ways to get to Santa Fe from Colorado, and both begin with you driving south on I-25. You’ll drive south for about 1.5 hours, and once you hit Walsenburg, Colo., you’ll decide if you’ll continue on I-25 for a straightforward route to Santa Fe, or hop onto US-160 for a drive through the mountains of Taos.
How to Explore
Santa Fe is the perfect place to find peace or roam in the outdoors with its beautiful landscape, mountain terrains and awesome weather. Outdoor activities you might be privy to in Colorado Springs — like hiking and biking — are just as available in Santa Fe but often with less of a crowd. There are also beautiful outdoor-based monuments and landmarks too!
Close to Santa Fe sits the Bandelier National Monument — more than 33,000 acres of canyon and mesa country. These rock cliffs are covered with petroglyphs, and dwellings are carved right into the cliffs themselves. You’re able to walk and see the area that the ancestral Pueblo people occupied for more than 400 years! Spend the day hiking through the monument for the perfect combination of recreation and history.
Another way to stay outside in the fresh air is to visit the Randall Davey Audubon Center & Sanctuary. With more than 135 acres or beautiful landscapes and wildlife, the sanctuary has plenty of trail and garden space. Bring binoculars and a guidebook, and spend the afternoon looking at the approximately 190 species of birds! Or, just soak in the views and appreciate the various ecosystems.
Many people don’t realize that New Mexico has landscaping similar to Colorado, with beautiful mountains and tons of area to hike. A fun trail to try is McCauley Hot Springs. This 3.4 mile trail is a moderate, but steady, uphill route. About halfway up you’ll find a lookout area to take in the beautiful New Mexico views. The trail also features a waterfall, and the reward at the end of the trail are natural hot springs (the hot springs are currently closed).
If you’re a biker and your travel companion is a hiker (or vice versa), consider Dale Ball Trails. This is a system of trails that get progressively more difficult and are a mix of national forest and open space. There’s plenty of quality singletrack, and the views vary as you continue through the trails.
Still want to stay in the fresh air? Check out the Rio Grande river for kayaking, rafting and fishing, the national forest for camping, or the other trails around the city for biking and hiking. Santa Fe is an outdoor mecca.
What to Drink and Eat
While the New Mexico scenery is beautiful, the best part of visiting Santa Fe is the food. Whether you’re looking for authentic New Mexico cuisine, an upscale dinner experience, or a local spot with pizza and beer, plenty of restaurants have patio seating so you can stay outside, stay safe, and still enjoy a wonderful meal.
Coyote Cantina, located on top of the Coyote Café, has a patio open year-round. Known for its awesome happy hour and margaritas – we suggest the prickly pear marg – the food is just as good as the drinks. Order the Mama Schutz’ Frito Pie for something new and different – fritos topped with red chile beef, beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion. For a traditional New Mexican meal, get the green chile chicken enchiladas.
For a more upscale dining experience, La Boca offers modern Spanish tapas and is perfect for a romantic evening or date night. The restaurant even offers Paella – which is not always an easy dish to find!
Bringing along the kiddos? Head to Rooftop Pizzeria for takeout. The restaurant sits just along the Santa Fe Plaza. Pick up a pie and take it with you to the plaza for a picnic and people watching.
Can’t get your family to agree on what to eat? The Santa Fe Farmers’ Market not only has an abundance of vegetables and products to purchase, but there are plenty of vendors offering take-out food. From blue corn pupusas and blue corn donuts to fresh baked breads and tamales, there are many authentic and fun food options for everyone. The market is open Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Immerse Yourself in the Culture
World renowned for its arts scene, Santa Fe offers endless opportunities to experience a variety of culture, heritage and art.
The Santa Fe Plaza is a great place to start. The National Historic Landmark has the style of traditional Spanish-American colonial cities. The plaza continues to be the center gathering place in town. It’s a beautiful space to picnic or grab your morning coffee and stroll through.
Another interesting place to visit are the churches in Santa Fe. Visit the San Miguel Mission, which is the oldest church in the United States and sits atop an ancient Indian kiva from 1598. The Loretto Chapel is another popular religious building, famous for its miraculous wooden staircase, which takes two 360 degree turns but has no visible supports.
The Allan Houser Sculpture Park and Gallery at Haozous Place is an expansive park with more than 70 monumental works, many of which are in an expansive outdoor garden. The sculptures are a mix of abstract and representational and allow you to stay outside while still enjoying the art you’d normally see indoors at a gallery. There is an indoor gallery on site, but many of the larger sculptures are outdoors.
If you’re not as familiar with art but still want to explore, the Santa Fe Railyard District is perfect for novice art lovers. On Sundays, visit the Railyard Artisan Market. The market is located inside the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market Pavilion. The space is filled with paintings, sculptures, pottery and vintage trinkets, and gives you the opportunity to not only purchase beautiful, handmade pieces, but also offers the chance to talk to the actual artists.
Year-round, Santa Fe is a perfect destination for a weekend getaway, but especially when travel and vacations are difficult to navigate. Santa Fe has a perfect mix of outdoor activities, delicious restaurants with patio dining, and family activities to enjoy a beautiful new city at just a car ride’s length away.
Important Note: It is suggested that all businesses, state and national parks and monuments be contacted prior to visiting to ensure they are open. Please also check cv.nmhealth.org for COVID-safe practices. At the time of writing this article, all individuals in the State of New Mexico are required to wear a face covering or mask in public spaces except when eating, drinking, or exercising, or unless otherwise advised by a healthcare provider.
Article sponsored by Tourism Santa Fe