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U.S. Forest Service

Southwestern Region Viewing Area


the Santa Fe Ski Basin lodge. The Santa Fe Ski Basin lodge and chair lift are open for summer tourists. Photo source: New Mexico Department of Transportation.

A view of aspens in their golden fall colors along the highway from Santa Fe. Aspens produce a brilliant fall color show both at the Ski Basin and along the highway from Santa Fe. Photo source: New Mexico Department of Transportation.

elephant-head lousewort flower. Close-up of an elephant-head lousewort flower (Pedicularis groenlandica). Photo source: CalPhotos, Charles Webber © California Academy of Sciences.

Santa Fe Ski Basin

Forest: Santa Fe National Forest

District: Espanola Ranger District

Description: The Santa Fe Ski Basin gives you easy access to the high elevation mountains (10,000-12,000 feet) of northern New Mexico. It is a great place to see mountain wildflowers in meadows, forests, and along streams. You can even visit alpine tundra if you ride the chair lift. July and August are the best wildflower viewing months.

This is a good place to see wild orchids. Look for Calypso orchid (Calypso bulbosa), spotted coralroot orchid (Corallorhiza maculata), and rattlesnake orchid (Goodyera oblongifolia) in shady forests. Look for hooded lady’s-tresses (Spiranthes romanzoffiana) in boggy places along streams.

And don’t forget to search for the elephant heads. These funny plants are actually common in boggy places in mountains throughout the west. They get their name, elephant-head lousewort (Pedicularis groenlandica), from their flowers that look like elephant heads complete with big ears and long trunk.

Although you will be past the best wildflower viewing time, the highway to the ski basin goes through a giant aspen forest that is one of the most popular fall color drives in northern New Mexico. The first week in October is usually the best. Check locally for the peak color dates because aspen loose their leaves quickly after they have reached peak color.

Safety First: Summer storms can cause drastic temperature drops and hypothermia is possible even during the warmest months so always carry protective clothing. If you hike up the ski runs or ride the chair lift to the top of the mountain, you should take a small pack with protective clothing, compass, flashlight, first aid kit, water, and snack foods. Summer storms produce lightning that is very dangerous for hikers on peaks and exposed ridges. If you are going to a high peak, get an early start in the morning and be off the peak by 2:00 p.m. before storms build up. Move to a lower elevation if a storm is approaching.

Directions: From Albuquerque, New Mexico, take Interstate 25 north to Santa Fe. Take the St. Francis Drive exit (Exit 282, U.S. Highway 84/285) north to the second intersection with Paseo de Peralta (see map). Turn right onto Paseo de Peralta and follow it to Bishop Lodge Road. Turn left onto Bishop Lodge Road and then right at Artist Road (which becomes Hyde Park Road and New Mexico Highway 475). Follow Highway 475 for about 16 miles to the Santa Fe Ski Basin.

Contact: Santa Fe National Forest, Espanola Ranger District, 1710 N. Riverside Drive, Española, New Mexico 87532. Phone: (505) 753-7331.

Closest Town: Santa Fe, New Mexico.