Picacho Peak

Distance: 4 miles

Season: Year-round

Water: No

Trail Conditions: Excellent

This is a favorite out-and-back hike for Santa Fe locals. It’s close to town, offers some good elevation and excellent views over the city, and it truly is ‘Where the Rockies Begin’. There are a number of different routes to the peak via the Dale Bale Trails including an easy diversion from Atalaya Mountain, but this route takes off from the Nature Conservation property on the northside of the peak. No matter your route, this is a great after work, sunset hike.


From downtown Santa Fe, take Canyon Road east (uphill) past all the restaurants and art galleries until you reach a stop sign. Continue straight onto Upper Canyon Road. Continue on Upper Canyon Road for 1.3 miles until you reach Cerro Gordo Road. Turn left and then take an immediate right into the parking lot.

From the top of the parking lot, continue straight through the gate, and turn right before reaching the next gate. The trail will dip downhill and cross the mighty Santa Fe River and climb back up to the road. Cross the road and through the gate, back onto the trail.

This first section of trail passes through an easement on private land, so be sure to remain on trail. There will be some gentle switchbacks through pinyon-juniper forest before the trail tops out on a odd berm that contours back into a dry gulch.

At this point, you will reenter public lands, so breathe a sigh of relief and continue to follow the trail at the bottom of a steep gulch. The trail will continue for a ways before starting to climb out of the gulch. There are a handful of switchback, some of them steep, but relatively short before the trail eases again. Soon after this, you will reach a trail junction in a small saddle.

Looking directly across the bowl, you should be able to see another saddle, slightly higher than you are at this point. Go left, and follow the trail as it contours and eventually climbs up to this next saddle. Here, you will reach another junction, take a sharp left and continue your climb.

The trail will switchback a few times before reaching a small landing with fantastic views looking west over the city. This is a nice spot for a break before continuing your climb to the summit. The trail can be slightly tricky to find here as it switches back to the left, but shouldn’t present too much of an obstacle.

From here, the trail switchbacks up the face in front of you at a relatively civilized, but consistent pace. Eventually, it crests the southside of the ridge at one last trail junction.

NOTE: If you have come from via the Atalaya Mountain route, this is where the two hikes converge.

Looking south to literally Where the Rockies Begin

The last .2 miles to the summit are steep and rocky, but well worth the views from the top. Make your final push and enjoy the views before returning to the parking lot via the same route.

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