Taking in the view from “Lookout Rock” above Santa Fe

In keeping with the theme of “short hikes near Santa Fe” I have another suggestion for those of you with only a little time to spare for a walk in the woods: a section of the Dale Ball Trails up as far as a rocky ledge on the flanks of Picacho Peak with a great view of Santa Fe. The trailhead is literally minutes drive from downtown, at the end of Upper Canyon Road, and the hike itself is perhaps 45 minutes to the viewpoint.

At the parking area – lots of choices

The walk is a nice introduction to the pinon-juniper forest that characterizes the Santa Fe area, the “Sun Forest” that softens and warms the hills and peaks around the city, a forest which supports a rich ecology in spite of its diminutive size.

Pinon nuts, a rich source of nutrition for many creatures

The shadier parts of the walk are graced by some of the larger Ponderosa pines near town:

Along the lower parts of the trail

Some of these trees bear a massive crown:

A “Grandfather Ponderosa” spreads its generous canopy

These pines also support the local ecology with their abundant seeds:

Pine cones littering the ground

It’s still a little early for wildflowers, but it won’t be long now. A few forbs are jumping the gun:

A aptly-named Perky Sue brightening the path.

Check out those black tourmaline crystals in that bit of pink granite just to the right of the blossom. There are all sorts of fascinating minerals visible to watchful eyes in our mountains.

The Dale Ball Trails are clearly marked by signposts at critical junctions, complete with little maps, so it’s easy to find your way around the network.

The sign at the trailhead of the south Dale Ball Trails

This particular walk gets off to a “rocky” start:

Heading up the canyon

But with a little persistence and a few switchbacks, you’ll emerge onto a ledge of slickrock with a great view of Santa Fe and points west.

Handsome outcroppings of ancient gneiss

It’s a perfect place to offload your pack, have a drink of water and a snack, and to enjoy the vista. There’s even Santa Fe’s own version of “Jeffrey Pine, Sentinel Dome“, as famously photographed by Ansel Adams, to shade you:

The Lone Pine

Well, perhaps I exaggerate. But it’s certainly a beautiful place to stop, and you’ll get just the right amount of exercise getting there and back. And this walk is good to go now, and for the rest of the year into early December, easy to make even in the summer when the inevitable early afternoon thunderstorm might make walks at higher elevations a little more risky. You can complete this rewarding walk easily on a cool morning and be back in town for lunch.

Some guidance: a PDF map of the trails. Go from 29 to 30 to 31, and just a bit up toward 34, and you’ll be there!