Section 1: Santa Fe Plaza to Santa Fe Ski Basin

  • Santa Fe Plaza to Winsor / 254 13.1 miles
  • Winsor (Trail 254) to SF Ski Basin 8.6 miles

22 miles total section 1

Gaia maps (digitized step-by-step tracks) of this section are here.
Or click the Gaia map screenshot below and it will expand to full browser window. You can then zoom to different parts of the image.

Or check out my new map for section 1:

Santa Fe Plaza to Santa Fe Ski Basin hike

You can download this map for printing. It’s available in legal size (8.5″ x 14″, 25 MB) and in tabloid size (11″ x 17″, 36 MB).
Note that the campsites shown on the map above are not official campsites. But they are good places to put up a tent. They have a) water nearby or almost next to you b) they’re flat, usually in a nice soft field and c) they are far enough away from roads and trail intersections that you’ll get some peace.

At the Santa Fe Plaza

Image 1 of 49

This is the marker for the end of the Santa Fe Trail, and the official start/end of the Santa Fe Thru-Hike

Overview of Section 1

Follow the Gaia maps on your phone while you’re on the trail (Gaia works without cell reception) but here’s the text version of the walk just for extra information.

  • Walk from the Santa Fe Plaza east along East Alameda towards Patrick Smith Park.
  • You will be walking through the Santa Fe River Park. Keep going until Canada Ancha, where Alameda takes a hard right. Continue straight on Camino Pequeno.
  • As you go along Camino Pequeno, the Santa Fe “River” will be on your right. You will see a lot of no trespassing signs. Be respectful. The path goes through here, but it’s very close to private property.
  • About a third of a mile in on the right the path leaves Camino Pequeno and crosses the Santa Fe River for the first time. You are now in the “corridor” along the Santa Fe River. Follow the trail (and the Gaia maps) for the next 1.5 miles or so. You’ll come out on Cerro Gordo road. This is the closest you’ll be to water for about the next two hours (or so).
  • Take a left on Cerro Gordo and walk about 30 feet to get on to the Dale Ball Trails system. It’s junction 27.
  • Continue on to the South Summit Trail of the Dale Ball Trail system. These trails have some sun cover, but you will be in the New Mexico high altitude sun a lot. It can get hot. You will be in a semi-suburban neighborhood setting, walking through trails that sometimes are within sight of houses (very expensive houses). As always, be respectful and quiet and manage dogs and children.
  • Take a left on to Canada Ancha Trail at Hyde Park Road. You will walk parallel to Hyde Park Road for a bit, actually heading back in the direction of Santa Fe. Then cross Hyde Park to get to the Sierra del Norte Trailhead of the Dale Ball Trail system.
  • Follow the La Piedra trail until you reach Little Tesuque Creek. The trail can get steep in places. You’ll see signs that it is a “technical trail” which is just a warning to mountain bikers. There is a good bit of tree cover here, so you’ll have some shade.
  • Take a left and follow Little Tesuque for a bit. This is a nice area. If you needed to camp along here, there are good places for that, but expect visitors. This is close enough to Santa Fe and easily accessible enough that there are a fair amount of day hikers around.
  • At the intersection of trail 399, you will take a left and go up. You’ll go up a lot. There are nice views after some of the up. You’ll be on the top of one of the little Santa Fe hills, and will follow a well-worn path until you go down the somewhat steep trail into what I’ve been calling Juan Canyon. It’s really pretty, and surprisingly green.
  • About 5,000 feet from the ridge you’ll walk up to Winsor Trail (Trail 254) and Big Tesuque Creek. Take a right and follow Winsor and the creek for about 5 miles (again, check the Gaia maps for exact distances).
  • This is a lovely walk through flat, green forest. You’re still pretty close to Santa Fe, but there is wildlife here. I have seen a bear on this trail. About every two to three years a dog gets attacked by a mountain lion in this general area (as in all the way from Bishop’s Lodge to the Chamisa Trail parking lot “area”). Don’t panic over wildlife. They would much rather leave you alone. But do be aware there are animals about. That’s a good thing. There are ample places to camp, and you are right next to water the whole way. It’s nice traditional forest with big trees.
  • You’ll pass “Jawbone” trail, Chamisa Trail (183) and be on part of the Borrego Bear Wallow loop after you pass Bear Wallow Trail (182) and then come to Borrego Trail (150).
  • At 150, you will leave the Creek and go left for the long way up to the Ski Basin. You’ll not have access to water for about 90 minutes or so. This trail has mountain bikers. Most of them are aware of trail rules and will give you right of way, but don’t count on it. If you have a dog, manage it carefully.
  • This trail has some issues with being maintained, but it’s pretty good. Still, you will have to get over fallen trees sometimes, and it’s steep in places. Again, there’s a lot of up, like 2,000 feet of it. There are spots that are steep on either side, so if you do run into a biker, you’ll have to squeeze by each other.
  • About halfway to the Ski basin, you’ll start crossing little creeks and seeps again. You’ll walk through the parking lot of the Nordic ski area, then go back into the woods. About 20-30 minutes from that point you’ll be at the Ski Basin parking lot and the Winsor Trailhead. There are bathrooms and picnic tables and RV/camping sites here, and the creek is reliable. Personally, I would not want to camp near Aspen Basin Campground, but many people do.
  • You have completed Section 1.