The Five Best Things About Summer in Santa Fe

We may occasionally complain about the heat, but summer in Santa Fe is pretty darn great. You can’t turn around without stumbling on an event or festival, the high desert blooms green, and dry heat is just so much better than humidity. 

Here are five things we love about summer in Santa Fe:

It’s patio season!

Once the sun begins to go down, Santa Fe cools off to perfect al fresco dining temperatures. Between June and August, we try to maximize our outdoor dining and drinking activities – chilly autumn nights are right around the corner!

Canyon Road neighbors El Farol and Milad boast some of the best spots to enjoy evening temperatures and take in the sights and sounds of Santa Fe’s famous art neighborhood. Enjoy Spanish tapas on El Farol’s charming covered deck, or sample delicious Persian flavors on Milad’s corner patio.  

For a livelier scene, we love Paloma’s colorful back patio. This modern Mexican spot in the Railyard District is often packed with locals and visitors sipping margaritas and enjoying live music.

Another top spot is the Draft Station, a Santa Fe standby on the Plaza. If you can find a spot on their second floor deck, you can enjoy your local craft beer along with killer views of the Plaza, the mountains, and a spectacular New Mexico sunset.

There are endless outdoor exploration opportunities

Long summer days mean more time to spend outdoors. And there’s a lot of outdoors to explore in Santa Fe. If it’s hot, we like heading into the mountains, where it can be ten degrees cooler than in town. A favorite hike is the relatively short (6.5 miles round-trip) but strenuous ascent to Nambe Lake, a small gem of an alpine lake at 11,300 feet. If you really need to cool off, you the lake into July – quite a way to cool off.

Closer to town, you’ll often find us on the Dorothy Stewart trails, near St. John’s College, a ten-minute drive from downtown. We especially enjoy sunset hikes on this two-mile loop trail (it connects to the Dale Ball trail network if you want to extend your hike). You’ll get expansive views of Santa Fe, along with the neighboring Jemez and Sandia mountain ranges. Be warned, though – parking is limited. In a pinch, you can park at the Atalaya trailhead at St. John’s and walk a half-mile up Camino de Cruz Blanca to the Dorothy Stewart trailhead.

Note: As of June 27, many public recreation areas near Santa Fe are closed due to extreme drought and fire danger. This includes the Santa Fe National Forest, making Nambe Lake inaccessible. We’re crossing our fingers for a good monsoon season!

It’s impossible to get bored

Santa Fe has great events and festivals year-round, but the calendar really fills up starting in late June. There are art events, food events, wine events, music events, and more…too many to list, but some of our favorites include:

Looking for more fun summer activities? Join one of our walking food tours of Santa Fe!

Jumping into a lake in the desert is one of the best feelings ever

New Mexico may have the lowest water-to-land ratio of any state, but that just means that it feels extra amazing when you find a swimmable lake or river. Abiquiu Lake is our choice for a summer swim destination. It’s a manmade reservoir with comfortably cool water, in the midst of a landscape that’s straight out of a Georgia O’Keefe painting (literally – she painted extensively in the area). The lake is about an hour and a half from Santa Fe, and if you’re so inspired by the landscapes, you can also pay a visit to nearby Ghost Ranch, where O’Keefe lived and painted for many years. Stop at Bode's General Store on your way up to stock up on picnic supplies.

Monsoons – yes, we have them in New Mexico!

Like many Santa Fe residents, we eagerly look forward to our “monsoon season,” a period with near-daily bursts of heavy rain, often accompanied by thunder. Monsoon season typically starts in early or mid July and lasts through mid-September. While it may not sound like much fun to get caught in sudden downpours, the rains are a welcome change from the heat and dry weather of June – plus, the sight and smell of a thunderstorm rolling across the high desert is pretty magical.

Just make sure to avoid walking in arroyos (dry riverbeds) or slot canyons if you see clouds. Flash floods are no joke!

Alison Nichols