Trail: Interpretive Trail
Preserve Santa Fe
Geographic Location: east side of
Santa Fe, NM
Length: 1.5 miles
Difficulty: 3/10 (Easy/Moderate)
Last Hiked: July 2014
Overview: A short loop around
old municipal water reservoir.
Preserve Information: http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/newmexico/placesweprotect/santa-fe-canyon-preserve-1.xml
Google Map: http://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=325344
Directions to the trailhead: From downtown
Fe, drive east on Alameda
Street 1.3 miles to Upper Canyon Road. Turn left on Upper
Drive narrow, suburban Upper Canyon Rd. 1.3 miles to Cerro
Turn left on Cerro Gordo Road,
drive less than 200 feet, then turn right into the gravel preserve parking
area. The trail starts at the rear of
the parking area.
The hike: When you think of historical attractions in
Santa Fe, municipal water is
probably not the first category to come to mind. Nevertheless, Santa Fe
would not have become the city it is today without a clean, reliable source of
water. Built in 1894, the reservoir that
sat on the site featured here would serve the city’s water needs for nearly a
century. Today larger reservoirs located
further upstream serve the same purpose.
In 1994, the dam that formed the 1894 reservoir was partially dismantled, and the lake was drained. The site was transferred to The Nature Conservancy in 2000, and they manage it as a nature preserve today. The preserve’s only trail is the 1.5 mile Interpretive Trail described here, but the preserve also offers access to
Fe’s extensive Dale Ball Trail system, which offers
almost unlimited hiking and biking opportunities through desert habitat. Like the Dale Ball Trail system, most of this
hike is exposed to the sun, so wear a hat and sunscreen on summer days.
|Stile at trailhead|
Start by walking through a stile beside the green vehicle gate at the rear of the parking lot. Almost immediately a trail linking to the Dale Ball Trail system exits to the right. Continue straight and climb moderately but only for a short time to reach the remnant of the 1894 reservoir dam. An interpretive sign contains some historical pictures of
Santa Fe and the
The trail descends gradually as the small pond that represents the remnant of the reservoir comes into view. If you look just below a low metal wall on the other side of the pond (more on the wall later), you can see the vegetation change that marks the water levels in the former reservoir. The change occurs several feet above your head, so where you are walking would have been underwater 25 years ago.
Past the pond, the trail undulates slightly and soon comes to a fork. The two choices come back together in 0.2 miles, so you could go either way. The left choice takes a lower line through a wet area beside the
the right choice takes a higher line around the wet area. I chose to angle right and take the higher
The trail narrows and climbs gradually as it enters dense, green, almost jungle-like undergrowth. Obviously this streamside area contains a lot more water than the surrounding desert landscape. Just shy of 0.5 miles, you pass a couple of benches on the left that overlook the
as it spills over another old
dam. The greenery here is so dense that
you might not see the benches until you get right to them. Santa Fe
|Narrow trail through wet area|
Just past the benches, the trail crosses the narrow
on stepping stones. Very soon after crossing the river you climb
away from the creek and find yourself back in the typical desert
environment. At 0.6 miles, you reach a
trail junction marked by a wooden post with a sign. The trail going right leads to the Santa Fe
the official headquarters of Audubon New Randall
Davey Audubon Center Mexico. This hike turns left to stay on the
After a few more feet of climbing, you reach the highest point on this hike and the east end of a half-mile-long low metal wall. This wall also has ties to municipal water: it was built in the 1930’s to prevent silt from running off the mountain and contaminating the reservoir. A few small rocks have accumulated on the trail beside the wall, but for the most part the wall makes for easy hiking. A bench gives a nice view of the entire preserve and the pond you walked beside earlier.
|Hiking along the wall|
|View from bench|
1.1 miles into the hike, you reach the west end of the metal wall. The trail curves sharply right here and passes through another stile, this one in the preserve boundary fence. You have now left Nature Conservancy property and are walking on City of
property. After descending slightly,
angle right where an unofficial trail heads left. If you pass back under the boundary fence,
you have missed this turn.
The trail traces the upper reaches of a small arroyo before passing two connecting trails to the Dale Ball Trail system, both of which exit to the right. The Interpretive Trail trail signs are oriented in confusing ways at a couple of points in this area. A final steep descent brings you to a metal vehicle gate and the trail’s end at
Cerro Gordo Road. A left turn and short road walk are all that
remain to complete the hike.