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New Mexico

Santa Fe Canyon Preserve

Open space just minutes from downtown Santa Fe.




Open to the Public

Yes

Things To Do

Hiking, walking, wildlife watching, birding View All

Plan Your Visit

The preserve is open year-round, dawn to dusk. View All

Get Directions
Once the center of Santa Fe’s hydroelectric activity, Santa Fe Canyon Preserve is today a peaceful nature preserve brimming with wildflowers, willows, ponderosa pine, songbirds, deer and bear.

And beavers! Restoration efforts at the preserve have made the habitat enticing to these wood-gnawing critters. Beavers, along with their dams and lodges, are an increasingly common site at this urban preserve. Conservancy scientists have also been working since 2012 to re-establish the northern leopard frog (Lithobates pipiens) at the preserve.

This 525 acres of open space, only a few miles from Santa Fe's bustling historic Plaza, offers a thriving bosque of cottonwood and willow trees, a pond, the ruins of an historic Victorian-era dam, hiking trails, more than 140 species of birds and the original route of the Santa Fe River. One of the last unspoiled riparian areas along the river, the preserve is nestled in the foothills adjacent to the Santa Fe National Forest. Once here you can see red-wing blackbirds, a beaver lodge, colorful wildflowers and remnants of the city's historic past.

The preserve was launched in April 2000 when the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) donated the site to the Conservancy. Developer Ralph Brutsche committed in 2007 to donate another 335 acres to the Conservancy for the expansion of the preserve, with the final 99-acre portion completed in 2011. Since the start of the preserve, the Conservancy, with a little help from Mother Nature, has worked to restore the land to its natural state and constructed a 1.5-mile interpretive loop trail detailing the colorful history and fragile ecology of the place.

Within the preserve are the ruins of Old Stone Dam, built in 1881. This was the city’s first official attempt to harness the Santa Fe River to supply local residents with water. A flood in 1904 filled the dam with silt. By then, Two-Mile Dam, the remains of which are also on the property, was in place to meet Santa Fe’s growing water needs. Completed in 1893, Two-Mile Dam was the second of four dams built on the Santa Fe River to store its seasonal flow.

Interpretive panels along the preserve trail detail this colorful past through archival photographs intertwined with information concerning the area’s ecology. The preserve also serves as a trailhead for the 20-mile Dale Ball Foothill Trail System—a joint effort now being constructed by the city, county, the Foothills Trail Trust and other private landowners.

Take a walk along the 1.5-mile interpretive loop trail which details the colorful history and fragile ecology of the place. You might even catch sight of one of the area's resident beavers!

The preserve also serves as a trailhead for the 20-mile Dale Ball Foothill Trail System, a joint effort now being constructed by the city, county, the Foothills Trail Trust and other private landowners.

Pets and bicycles, while welcomed on the Foothill Trails, are not allowed on the preserve trails. Also, large groups of people walking off-trail can quickly damage small plants that take years to become established. For group visits, please contact the Conservancy at (505) 988-3867 to get permission to use Santa Fe Canyon Preserve.

>> Take an audio tour of the preserve

>> Download a trail guide to the preserve

>> Get helpful hints for sharing Santa Fe Canyon with wildlife

>> Download a birding guide to the preserve

>> Download a printable birding checklist

Directions

The preserve is located near the intersection of Upper Canyon Road and Cerro Gordo Road in Santa Fe.

Coming from Albuquerque on I-25 North:

  • Take the St Francis Dr. Exit north into Santa Fe. Go north on St. Francis Dr. approximately 3.5 miles to the light at W. Alameda St.
  • At W. Alameda St. turn right. Drive approximately 2 miles.  Alameda will bend to the right and then you’ll come to a three-way stop sign at Upper Canyon Road.
  • Turn left onto Upper Canyon Road and drive about a mile to the intersection with Cerro Gordo Road on the left.
  • Turn left onto Cerro Gordo and immediately on your right is the parking lot and the preserve entrance.

Coming from Taos/Los Alamos on US 285:

  • Take US 285 south into Santa Fe.  US 285 will become St. Francis Drive.
  • At W. Alameda St. turn left. Drive approximately 2 miles.  Alameda will bend to the right and then you’ll come to a three-way stop sign at Upper Canyon Road.
  • Turn left onto Upper Canyon Road and drive about a mile to the intersection with Cerro Gordo Road on the left.
  • Turn left onto Cerro Gordo and immediately on your right is the parking lot and the preserve entrance.
Discussion

Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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