A Snowy Afternoon on Atalaya
Our first hike after the New Year was a snow hike! After a warm and dry November, we are finally getting snow here in New Mexico. Sunday was a beautiful sunny, bluebird day here in Santa Fe, so we headed up to our old faithful, Atalaya Mountain, to test our snow legs.
I call Atalaya Mountain my old faithful because it’s a great go-to hike that I never grow tired of. It offers the greatest bang for your buck in terms of views, workout, and forest terrain for a distance of only about seven miles round trip. This is also a great year-round trail and fun to hike after deep snows. Atalaya Mountain is just over 9,000 feet in elevation and has many trails to choose from. This weekend, we hiked our standard Atalaya Trail that begins at St. John's College.
Atalaya is Spanish for watchtower, as people would use the grand vistas from the top of the mountain to watch out for fires in the valley below. From the top, you have a stunning full view of Santa Fe and the surrounding valleys.
The beginning of the hike is one of my favorites. You feel like you are in Narnia! The trail is mostly shaded by pinon and juniper trees, as the trail winds its way up the mountainside. On our hike up, the trail was still cool and the snow soft with plenty of fresh powder to explore. We spotted numerous animal tracks in the snow – mostly from dogs but a few bunny tracks as well!
We always choose the steeper route – it cuts off about a mile round trip – and the climb gives you a great workout. The trail here is steep and rocky, but you still feel cozy with the surroundings of the forest canopy. As we climbed higher, the forest fauna begins to change to introduce more Douglas fir and ponderosa pine trees.
Near the top, the trail opens up to reveal breathtaking views of the Santa Fe valley. After a few switchbacks, the trail leads to the ridge along the top of the mountain, where you can walk along the ridge, enjoying the beautiful views, and scout for the ideal picnic spot for lunch.
This has always been one of my favorite hikes!
The MM Family