March 2011 was the last time we were in Santa Fe. Wow, how time flies! That was just two months after we’d starting full-timing – we were still in the little RV and hadn’t even begun to think about towing the car. So this time around, our goal was to get out and explore some of the places we couldn’t reach on our last visit.
But first, we wanted to get reacquainted with Santa Fe’s gorgeous downtown. Things certainly have changed since we were last here! The “Walk Santa Fe” map from the visitors center was perfect for getting our bearings and highlighted some of the up-and-coming neighborhoods in the city.
It’s an easy walk from The Railyard, with it’s hip hangouts and food trucks, over to the Plaza, and then on to galleries on Canyon Road. Along the way you’ll be dazzled by the variety of architecture, lush green spaces, and superb window shopping opportunities.
Just off the Plaza, don’t miss the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi – the patron saint of animals. Though pets aren’t allowed in the building, take turns stepping inside to admire the stained glass windows shipped over from France when the Cathedral was constructed.
From there, make your way to Canyon Road where nearly 80 of the city’s 250 art galleries are located – many with outdoor exhibits. Some even allow pets inside … just be sure to ask before entering. And from Canyon Road, you’re just a couple blocks from Alameda Street where you can stroll back to town though the lovely park along the Santa Fe river.
Of course, Ty and Buster prefer trails to sidewalks, and we found no shortage of great hikes to explore within a few miles of downtown! Just off Upper Canyon Road we caught the Dale Ball Trails and headed up Picacho Peak for a great view of the surrounding area. This 22-mile trail system can also be accessed from Hyde Park Road and gives you the quickest access to the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from the city. (Note: The trails on the north side of Upper Canyon Road are pet friendly, and those on the south side are not.)
We also enjoyed sections of the 17-mile Santa Fe Rail Trail, which begins in The Railyard downtown and continues along the train tracks through El Dorado to Lamy. But the boys’ favorite – by far – was driving up into the Santa Fe National Forest to the ski basin, where there was still snow on the ground!
We made this special trip on Buster’s birthday, because the two things he loves most in the world are snow and squeaky balls. We were able to bring the two together to make his day extra special.
Even Ty got in on the fun!
We were lucky that during our visit the ski resort was closed for the season, but all the snow hadn’t yet melted. Even if you’re there when there’s no snow on the mountain, it’s well worth the drive up to Santa Fe Ski. You’ll pass though Hyde Memorial State Park into the national forest – and both have great pet friendly hiking trails – but the piece de resistance is the view from the top!
Three popular day trips from Santa Fe are to visit Bandelier National Monument, Tent Rock National Monument, and Valles Caldera National Preserve – all of which are west of the city. Dogs are not allowed at Tent Rocks, so we skipped that stop and still found plenty to do.
Bandelier National Monument
At Bandelier dogs are not allowed on the 1.25-mile Main Loop Trail to see the ruins of Tyuonyi Pueblo and the cliff and cave dwellings, but they can join you in the picnic area, the main parking lot, and on the trails in the surrounding Department of Energy land. My suggestion is to pack a lunch and take turns relaxing in the shady picnic area while the other walks back to see the ruins – which truly are mesmerizing. Then, ask for a “Hiking with Dog” map at the Bandelier visitors center, and get the dogs out for a little exercise.
Valles Caldera National Preserve
Continuing along Hwy 4, your next stop will be Valles Caldera – a sweeping, 13-mile wide valley, that’s actually a collapsed volcano. Volcanic activity is still evident in this area, with hot springs, streams, fumaroles, natural gas seeps, and volcanic domes dotting the caldera floor. Dogs are not allowed in the back county at Valles Caldera, but leashed dogs are welcome in the campgrounds and on the La Jara, Valle Grande, and Coyote Call trails. You can pick up trail maps at the visitors center.
Santa Fe National Forest – Jemez District
After exploring Bandelier and Valles, we continued a bit further down Hwy 4 and came across the Las Conchas Trailhead in the Santa Fe National Forest. Unfortunately, it was too late in the day for us to squeeze in another hike – but this is one you’re not going to want to miss!
From the Las Conchas Trail website: The trail follows the East Fork of the Jemez River, and is an easy relaxing hike through a rocky canyon in a deep conifer forest, and a series of open meadows. After about 2 miles, the trail climbs out of the canyon in a series of switchbacks. This would make a good point to retrace your route back to the trailhead.
Once again, Santa Fe did not disappoint! With all the opportunities to be outdoors, it was the perfect place to celebrate Buster’s birthday, and we hope that our investigation makes your pet friendly Santa Fe vacation more fun!
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