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Outdoor adventure awaits in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos

October 23, 2015

True to New Mexico’s “Land of Enchantment” moniker, to meet in the state’s northern reaches is to encounter captivating ancient landscapes with immense possibilities.

Bedazzling to behold, this is where the four mighty provinces of the American West—the Basin and Range, Colorado Plateau, Great Plains and Southern Rockies—meet. Otherworldly volcanic and sub-volcanic formations, ancient Jurassic-era dunes, soaring mountain ranges and other natural wonders only heighten the high-altitude breathlessness.

For groups in the main bases of Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos, it’s an invitation to get outside like few other places.

Albuquerque
Among the nation’s highest-altitude cities, Duke City straddles the Rio Grande River at the northern edge of the Chihuahuan Desert. Backed by the two-mile-high Sandia Mountains, this inviting group destination is readily synonymous with outdoor pursuits.

“Due in part to its 310 days of sunshine each year, high-desert climate and average altitude of around 5,500 feet, Albuquerque offers unique outdoor experiences year-round,” says Tania Armenta, chief operating and marketing officer for the Albuquerque CVB. “The city and neighboring mountains provide excellent terrain for summertime hiking and biking and skiing or snowboarding in the winter, so there is always something to delight groups of all ages.”

Celebrating its 44th edition last month, the nine-day Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is one definite crowd-pleaser. Some 500 balloons launch from 360-acre Balloon Fiesta Park to make this annual October happening the world’s largest such festival and most photographed event.

Turning 50 in 2016, the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway is another group must. Ascending 2.7 miles from the city’s northeast edge to the 10,378-foot crestline of the Sandia Mountains, it’s the nation’s longest single-span aerial tramway and one of the longest in the world.

Featuring more than 20,000 designs and symbols carved onto five extinct volcanoes by Native Americans and Spanish settlers between 400 and 700 years ago, Petroglyph National Monument is the world’s largest accessible collection of petroglyphs. Hiking the trails is an engaging activity for groups.

The Albuquerque area is home to several Native American pueblos and tribes, which offer regular tours and visitor centers. Acoma Pueblo, the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in North America, features the Sky City Cultural Center and Haaku Museum. The former is available for daytime meetings and evening functions, with museum tours and catered traditional Acoma cuisine or contemporary Southwestern fare included.

In September, Albuquerque completed the first phase of its 50-Mile Activity Loop, the city’s proposed 50-mile multiuse trail and bikeway facility. Further phases will fill in gaps in existing trails and bikeways facilities to complete a loop through some of the city’s most beautiful and popular destinations.

Santa Fe
Backed by the majestic Sangre de Cristo (“Blood of Christ”) Mountains, America’s oldest (1610) and highest (7,199 feet above sea level) capital city is also an ancient seat of outdoor adventure.

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“The Santa Fe outdoors is an inspirational and adventurous landscape where tours, hikes, rides and more are yours for the taking 365 days a year, over 300 of which are sunny,” says Randy Randall, executive director of Tourism Santa Fe. “Whether venturing on your own or with expert guides, you can always discover the right type of experience at the level you want—and at 7,000 feet, our air, light and stargazing are second to none.”

Earning accolades such as “America’s Best Destination For Outdoors Enthusiasts” in 2015 from USA Today’s readers; one of the world’s 10 best high-altitude cities (National Geographic); and number one in Popular Photography’s 2015 readers’ poll of the world’s best places to photograph, Santa Fe’s outdoor assets include Ski Santa Fe. Located in the Santa Fe National Forest just 16 miles from downtown, this popular mountain, with a base elevation of 10,350 feet, offers 79 trails for all ski levels.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, Santa Fe Mountain Adventures is a prime one-stop shop for local and regional group excursions. Another operator is Outspire, a ready resource for hiking and snowshoeing programs, along with custom workshops, private lessons and outdoor-themed group events.

Inviting groups to “reconnect with nature,” Santa Fe Walkabouts is an all-season option for hiking tours, winter sports and thrilling off-road adventures in Pinzgauers, vehicles that can handle unforgiving terrain and steep slopes.

Taos
From the 400th anniversary of Taos Plaza and 200th anniversary of the San Francisco de Asis Church to the centennial of the Taos Society of Artists, 2015 has been a milestone year for this fabled mountain resort an hour north of Santa Fe.

Renowned for its art scene and cultural festivals, Taos is equally a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Like Santa Fe, the area perennially garners top national and international rankings for its great outdoors and associated pursuits.

Reaching its own pinnacle is Taos Ski Valley, which commemorated its 60th birthday with the new Kachina Peak chairlift. Installed last summer, the lift summits at 12,450 feet high above the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, making it one of the tallest in North America. The lift increases the mountain’s advanced and expert lift-serviced terrain by 50 percent.

Established by presidential proclamation in March 2013, Rio Grande del Norte National Monument encompasses some 310,500 acres of public land and includes breathtaking landscapes of sweeping plains, plummeting gorges and soaring volcanic cones. Groups will find a wealth of recreational opportunities amid these natural wonders, including whitewater rafting, hunting, fishing, hiking and mountain biking.

Myriad other outdoor opportunities in the Taos region include horseback adventures and plein air (outdoor) painting classes.

 

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About the author
Jeff Heilman | Senior Contributor

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based independent journalist Jeff Heilman has been a Meetings Today contributor since 2004, including writing our annual Texas and Las Vegas supplements since inception. Jeff is also an accomplished ghostwriter specializing in legal, business and Diversity & Inclusion content.