Fall Hiking: Santa Fe Baldy

“But then fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.” 
-Stephen King, Salem's Lot

Santa Fe Baldy
It's been quite a while since I was able to write about hiking!  Between running and biking, shopping for a house, and traveling once or twice a month, hiking has been on the back burner for a few weeks (with the exception of occasional trail running and frequent jogs up Picacho Peak).  Eager to see some fall leaves and enjoy the GORGEOUS weather, we headed up to Santa Fe Baldy last weekend.  This is one of my favorite hikes in the Santa Fe area (although also one of the most strenuous), and it was the first time I was able to experience this trail sans snow!  

Kua on the Winsor Trail

The trail to Baldy starts at the ski basin and follows the Winsor trail through the woods into the Pecos Wilderness.  The morning was crisp and I started off bundled up in a warm jacket and scarf.  We were dog sitting this weekend, and both furry, four-leggers were ecstatic to spend the day hiking.  The trail wasn't as busy as I thought it would be on a prime autumn weekend, probably because most of Santa Fe was taking pictures of the leaves on Aspen Vista or heading down to Albuquerque for Balloon Fiesta!  Most of the other hikers we encountered were heading to Deception Peak, Lake Katherine or Nambe Lake, all of which begin at the same point.

View to the south

The trails were beautifully decorated with yellow aspen leaves, many of which had already fallen from the trees.  It was a sunny day and we warmed up quickly!  The Winsor trail crosses three streams before approaching Puerto Nambe, where we continued onto the Skyline trail.  After a few uphill switchbacks we were at the saddle.  At this point the summit looks so close I could throw a rock and hit it, but in reality we have another 45 minutes of steep climbing to go!

Climbing up to the peak 

My two previous hikes up to Baldy involved trekking through deep snow and navigating across slippery ice to reach the top.  Thankfully we didn't have any snow on our hike this time, and even though the last 45 minutes is the most treacherous, we soon reached the top!

Truchas peaks to the north

At 12,622 feet elevation, Baldy is the highest peak in Santa Fe.  The views from the summit are spectacular, especially on a clear and sunny afternoon like we had last weekend!  From the peak we could see the Jemez mountains to the west, Sandia to the south, Taos and Las Truchas peaks to the north, and all of the Pecos wilderness and other Santa Fe peaks to the east.  

This is such a beautiful time of year for a long hike!  I hope to be able to enjoy the yellow leaves for a couple more weeks before the snow comes.


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