Santa Fe National Forest

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The Santa Fe National Forest encompasses 1,580,969 acres in two divisions. East of the Rio Grande the southern Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) Mountains dominate the Pecos Division. These mountains are crowned by the spectacular Pecos Wilderness, where 13,101-foot Truchas Peak shares winter snows with other lofty spires. Here in the headwaters of the Pecos River are great scenery, magnificent forests of aspen, pine, fir and spruce, big and small game, and many trout streams. Sloping gradually southward, the Pecos Division is some 50 miles long and 25 miles wide. It includes the popular Santa Fe Ski Basin in the west and, farther south, historic Glorieta Pass and the old Santa Fe Trail.

Across the Rio Grande to the west lie a cluster of ranges including the Jemez Mountains, which rise to nearly 12,000 feet at the summit of Chicoma Peak. Scattered through these mountains are extensive private holdings as well as the nuclear research facilities at Los Alamos, several Indian pueblos and the National Monument, but most of the land is within the Jemez Division of the Santa Fe National Forest. The predominant geographical feature is the volcanic caldera indicated by the Valle Grande and the definite ring of mountains surrounding the valley.

The forest contains the headwaters of Pecos, Jemez, and Gallinas Rivers along with numerous mountain streams, and lakes. The forest includes the Rio Chama, E. Fork of the Jemez, and Pecos River, which are now part of the congressionally designated Wild & Scenic River program.

Tourism, timber, and domestic cattle production are the mainstays of the north-central New Mexico economy and all are largely keyed to the resources of the National Forests.

Recreational Opportunities
The Santa Fe National Forest offers unlimited recreational opportunities in any season. The magnificent mountain scenery and cool summer temperatures lure vacationers to enjoy the peace and quiet for fishing, hunting, camping, and hiking.

Meandering through the Forest are 1,000 miles of mapped trails. There are 400 miles of fishing streams and several more remote high-country lakes. Winter sports activities at Santa Fe Ski Basin include skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. Autumn adds a special but fleeting dimension in the golden sea of aspen leaves as the forest prepares for winter.

Scenic Drives
Scenic drives in the forest include NM 4, 126, and 96 in the Jemez Mountains and 63 up Pecos River to Cowles; also Gallinas Canyon west of Las Vegas and Santa Fe Ski Area (475) out of Santa Fe, which is a designated scenic byway.

There are 1,002 miles of trails, some maintained by volunteer groups. Opportunities abound for hiking, horseback riding, trail-biking, and four-wheel-drive exploring.

Many summer hiking trails become cross-country ski and snowmobile trails in winter. Lake Katherine is a challenging day hike in the Pecos Wilderness outside Santa Fe.

The Santa Fe Ski Area recently installed new chairlifts, the Super Chief and Easy Street, that will dramatically improve skiing capacity. Skiers will continue to enjoy some of the finest downhill skiing in the U.S., with shorter lift lines and decreased congestion.

There are 291,669 acres of wilderness in the Santa Fe. Wilderness is land set aside as part of wild America, where man is a visitor. The natural environment has not been disturbed and travel is restricted to foot or horseback. No mechanical equipment is allowed. Wilderness areas include the famed 167,000-acre Pecos, San Pedro Parks, Dome, and the Chama River Canyon. Together these areas are a rich, diverse resource, including 13,000-foot alpine peaks, large grassy and aspen filled meadows, streams, rivers, and glacial lakes, dramatic colorful canyons, and a broad range of wildlife, cultural resources, and recreation opportunities.

Presently there are 26 campgrounds, 12 picnic areas, and one scenic overlook on the Santa Fe. In addition, there are countless opportunities for backcountry camping, backpacking, hunting, and fishing. Without a doubt, the Santa Fe offers a variety of experiences for those seeking quality outdoor recreation visits.

Fish and Wildlife
Wide-ranging elevations and vegetation on the Santa Fe provide favorable conditions for a variety of wildlife. Eagles soar among the treeless peaks and rough canyons, while amid the meadows and trees at lower elevations there are elk, black bear, mule deer, and Merriam's turkey. A small herd of Texas white-tailed deer lives in the acre Pecos Wilderness, but seldom are seen. Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep may also be found within the Pecos Wilderness area.

Among the small animals of the forest are squirrels and rabbits. Visitors will see many signs of beaverlogging and dam building in the high country and a fortunate few will see marten, mink, and muskrat. Predators include mountain lion, bobcat, coyote, fox, weasel, badger, and raccoon. Game birds include geese, ducks, dusky grouse, Gambel's and scaled quail, bandtailed pigeons, and mourning dove.

The Santa Fe has 620 miles of sparkling clean mountain streams and numerous lakes. Virtually all the perennial streams and lakes support trout. Stocking is carried out periodically by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. All hunting and fishing on the National Forests are subject to State game laws. The Forest Service cooperates with the State in habitat improvement work, game and range surveys, and annual hunting plans to keep game animals in balance with the food supply.

Towns Nearby
Albuquerque, Cuba, Espanola, Las Vegas, Los Alamos, Pecos, and Santa Fe

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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