Cherish summer in Santa Fe with good books, lush gardens, buzzing bees, a trip to the zoo, a science project or two, and the restorative balm of children's creativity.
The silky soft gypsum of White Sands are the perfect place to make some sand angels.
Photo by Tira Howard.
By Ashley O'Malley
Santa Fe parks, playgrounds and trails beloved by kids and parents alike.
I joined the Santa Fe Mommy Meetup Group and the Santa Fe branch of Hike it Baby when my son was just 4 months old. In the year and a half since, I’ve learned so much about the many wonderful outdoor activities and destinations for kids in Santa Fe.
Today, I’m president of the Santa Fe Mommy Meetup Group, a group for all moms, dads and caregivers who delight in having fun with their children, primarily (but not limited to) newborns to 5-year-olds. We strive to support one another’s parenting adventures while encouraging friendships among parents, caregivers and children in Santa Fe and surrounding areas.
I’m also an active member of Hike it Baby, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building communities that support getting outside with children from birth to school-age. Our purpose is to support families as they get into nature whenever they feel ready. We are raising a generation to love the outdoors.
We host a variety of events from trail hikes to urban strolls, toddler crawls to park-and-plays. Hike it Baby is a friendly and inclusive community where all abilities and ages are welcome in a judgment-free zone to enjoy each other’s company, be healthy and expose our children to the wonders of nature.
Here are some of Santa Fe Mommy Meetup and Hike it Baby’s most popular places for exploring Santa Fe’s great outdoors—all of them endorsed by kids as well as adults.
Parks, Playgrounds and a Pool
Southwest Area Node (SWAN) Park: The newest park in Santa Fe, SWAN Park is conveniently located for families on the south side of Santa Fe: on Jaguar Road near New Mexico 599. The playground has two play structures with three slides and a fireman’s pole. There are also two swings and a large sandbox complete with two digging tools. There’s ample parking, a basketball court, baseball field, an area for playing soccer and a paved path for bike riding. The park also has a large grassy field and a covered area with picnic-ready tables. If you enjoy outdoor music, make sure you check out the Santa Fe Bandstand Southside concerts here throughout the summer.
Ft. Marcy Park: This park is a wonderful option for hosting a birthday party or large gathering. Located at the intersection of Artist Road and Bishop’s Lodge Road, it has a large grassy area perfect for many outdoor activities. The well-paved path that encircles the Ft. Marcy Recreation Complex and Playground is great for walking dogs or taking the strollers and bikes out for a spin (this is the location of the Mommy Meetup’s annual Fourth of July Bike Parade!). The playground has a wide variety of offerings, including various intricate climbing structures for older kids and even a small play structure with boulder-like stairs for younger kids.
Ragle Park: Located at Yucca Street and West Zia Road, this park works well for younger and older kids. The playground includes a multi-level play structure at the top of a hill with a thrilling slide that older children love. At the bottom of the hill is a smaller structure perfect for younger kids, with multiple slides and a small bridge that adds excitement to moving around the play area. This park includes two basketball courts, a paved path and a small pump track for young bike riders. All of these wonderful qualities make Ragle Park an excellent location for Baby Boot Camp Santa Fe (a stroller fitness class for parents and caregivers) and for entertaining restless kids after the adults work out!
Bicentennial/Alto Park: This fantastic park on Alto Street along the Santa Fe River has a playground that’s great for all ages, with multiple infant/toddler bucket swings that are rare for parks in Santa Fe. After playing at the playground, take a bike or stroller ride on the Santa Fe River Trail and stop off at John F. Ray Griego Park. Continue along the River Trail that can take you all the way to Frenchy’s Field Park on Agua Fria Street. Bicentennial/Alto Park is also a great option for a picnic, with many tables, a large grassy area, and big trees providing much-needed shade on those bright Santa Fe days.
One of the key features of this park is the Bicentennial Swimming Pool, the city’s only outdoor pool. This is a fun summer option for families with varying ages of kids. The fence-enclosed toddler pool has fountains, a slide, and a grassy area for taking a break. The main pool has two slides and a shallow area for younger kids. Warning: Both the toddler pool and the main pool often reach their capacity, so get there early to ensure your spot! There are multiple sessions throughout the day, however, and these specific time slots allow many people to experience the pool with a manageable amount of time to swim and play.
Torreon Park: This a sweet little playground just off West Alameda between Huddlestone and Sam Streets near Bicentennial/Alto Park, with two different play structures, as well as picnic tables, basketball courts, a field and a trail. It is tucked away a bit from the main road and has some well-shaded areas. Look for the stone sculpture with the mural depicting the history of the Torreon neighborhood.
Arroyo Hondo Open Space: This trail is a terrific option for younger kids just learning to hike. Located just off Arroyo Hondo Road about seven miles south of downtown Santa Fe, the trail starts at a small parking lot equipped with a portable restroom. There’s only one picnic table, but there are numerous short rock ledges that kids love to sit on and enjoy a snack. This trail is well marked with maps along the way so you can keep an eye on the distance left to cover. This is also one of the most popular hikes attended by Hike it Baby members.
Aspen Vista: This is an easy uphill option with many exciting features along the way. There are multiple wooden stick forts for kids to explore, and these areas have logs that work great as snack stops. This trail is considered to be all-terrain stroller friendly and works well for early walker/hikers. You’ll find picnic tables and bathrooms at the trailhead, at the Aspen Vista Overlook on Hyde Park Road, about 14 miles from the Santa Fe Plaza.
Borrego/Bear Wallow: This trail, also located off Hyde Park Road, offers a wonderful adult-paced hike that works well for kids in carriers or hiking backpacks. To keep this hike short and simple, stay to the right at the fork. You’ll come to a creek that’s a hit with kids and works well as a snack stop. Turn around and come back the way you came. You can continue on as the trail makes a loop, but it also intersects with other trails, which can be a bit confusing. This trail is popular option for families with dogs, so you can expect to meet new furry friends out on an adventure.
Santa Fe Canyon Preserve: This trail, off Upper Canyon Road, provides many opportunities for learning, with numerous informational displays. It is well marked, with options to walk down by the water or away from it for a drier route. This trail also leads to the Randall Davey Audubon Center & Sanctuary, a must-see for its beautiful grounds, gardens and hiking trails.
Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve: This nature preserve of the Santa Fe Botanical Garden, adjacent to El Rancho de las Golodrinas in the village of La Cienega, has a beautiful pond with ducks and frogs. This is also another all-terrain, stroller-friendly option and provides a sturdy walking path for new walkers/hikers. The preserve is only open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends, May through October.
To join the Santa Fe Mommy Group, please visit meetup.com and search for our group. We have lots of play dates, charitable events, educational gatherings and family get-togethers where you will be able to connect with other parents and caregivers in a friendly and fun environment. Our annual dues of $16 help cover the costs associated with larger events, including our Easter egg hunt, clothing swaps and summer picnics.
To join our Hike it Baby group, register online at hikeitbaby.com and find hikes near you. The annual $10 membership fee allows you access to the community calendar, downloadable activities, exclusive discounts from partners, one free 30-day challenge entry (Hike it Baby 30), and a digital subscription to Backpacker Magazine. You can also sign up for a 90-day free trial and get to know the community before you commit.
Ashley O’Malley wrote this when she was the president of the Santa Fe Mommy Meetup Group and an active member of the Santa Fe branch of Hike it Baby, when her son was 2 years old. She now lives in Los Alamos with her son and husband. She still loves to dance, hike and sing.