The Best of the Southwest!
New for 2011!
Indulge your senses in New Mexico’s most breathtaking landscapes, where soaring rock cliffs and mesas reflect sunlight off deep canyon walls in all shades of red, yellow, and brown. Layers of history and geology come to life on this active and immersive Southwest escape. We’ll float the Río Chama for three days, stopping for dramatic hikes along the way and camp along the forested riverbanks. We will hike amidst Ghost Ranch's stone wilderness of rocks and cliffs. We will explore the settlements of the ancestral Pueblo people. We visit the famous mineral springs resort of Ojo Caliente and have a chance to experience the healing waters and mud baths. We’ll bookend our riverside camping with nights in the 400 year old town of Santa Fe, our nation's oldest and highest state capitol (7000').
Hiking, river rafting (float trip) and optional easy river kayaking
- Be inspired by the otherworldly, dramatic beauty of the New Mexico landscape
- Explore the ancient settlements of the Anasazi people
- A 23-mile float down the Wild and Scenic Rio Chama, including inflatable kayaks and safari-style camping!
- Gorgeous rock formations, shady forests, and brilliant sunshine; that's Northern New Mexico
Duration: 8 days Start Location: Santa Fe End Location: Santa FeDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Arrive in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Our meeting place is Santa Fe. At 7000 feet, Santa Fe is the country’s highest state capital. The mountains climb to over 12,000 feet behind the 400 year old city, which sits at the southern boundary of the Rocky Mountain range.
It is easy to transfer from the Albuquerque airport and arrive about an hour later in Santa Fe. Your hotel room will be waiting for you, and you are free to begin your exploration of the 'City Different' and dine in one of the many choices of historic restaurants in the downtown area.
Day 2 : Abiquiu-O'Keeffe Country
This morning we meet with our guide at 9:00am in the lobby of the Inn of the Governors. We begin our travels along the Old Spanish Trail . Within an hour's drive we come to Abiquiu (elevation 6,066') and spend the afternoon hiking through the terrain where Georgia O'Keeffe came to paint.
Abiquiu sits near the northern reaches of the Jemez Caldera, an extinct volcano that climbs to over 10,000 feet. Its forested flanks and canyons have been home to Native American civilizations for thousands of years. There are many options for hiking in this area and our guide will customize the hike given the conditions of the day. Usually we will walk 3-5 miles in the afternoon.
Day 3 : Ghost Ranch
This Spanish land grant of 1766 was call Piedra Lumbre ( Shining Rock). Ghost tales and stories of witchcraft in the area eventually left the area with the name of Ghost Ranch. This fabulous area is now a thriving educational center administered by the Presbyterian Church. They allow visitors to hike the trails, ascend the surrounding mesas, and sit in the cool shade of the canyons and the Cottonwood trees.
You will see why this was a favorite painting spot for Georgia O'Keeffe. In fact, it almost impossible to not see a painter there today.
We spend the day exploring the 21,000 acre Ghost Ranch. Trails range in length and ascent. All will be sure to get their fill of exercise and scenic splendor!
Day 4 : Río Chama—Wild & Scenic River
Today we put in and start our float trip through the Chama River Canyon Wilderness. The walls of the Chama canyon are a striking array of colors from yellow to maroons, marking the distinct layers of sedimentary rock.
The Rio Chama, a major tributary of the Rio Grande, flows through a multi-colored sandstone canyon whose walls grow to 1,500 feet. The river runs through areas that are designated as wilderness or as wilderness study areas. Towering cliffs, heavily wooded side canyons, and historical sites offer an outstanding wild river backdrop for the angler or float boater. Co-managed by BLM and the U.S. Forest Service, the Rio Chama offers something for everyone — paddling, trout fishing, hiking, exploring dinosaur tracks, and simply relaxing in the shade.
The Rio Chama is a Wild and Scenic River, and was designated by Congress in 1988. To protect the river environment and maintain an opportunity for a high quality experience, boating use has been limited since 1990. Because of the demand for trips in late spring and summer, there is a lottery system to assign launch dates. We travel with a well repected, environmentally active river outfitter, knowledgeable about the water politics in the west.
We will have the option (included as part of the trip) to paddle in inflatable kayaks! The gentleness of the Rio Chama makes it a great river to paddle, even for beginners!
Day 5 : Chama River Canyon Wilderness
Awake to the sounds of the canyon waters and the birds in the trees. Enjoy fine cuisine and our safari-style camp environment. Today we‘ll continue our float down the river, choosing to lounge in the big rafts or to take on the river in our inflatable kayaks.
The United States Congress designated the Chama River Canyon Wilderness in 1978 and it now has a total of 50,300 acres. All of this wilderness is located in New Mexico and is managed by the Forest Service. Along our float down the Chama we will stop to explore the forests and side canyons that comprise the wilderness.
Day 6 : Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa
After we wrap up our float trip and say goodbye to the Chama, we move toward Ojo Caliente (the “hot eye”), where warm and hot mineral springs have been used for healing for over a thousand years. SPA is the acronym for the Latin phrase, “Salus Per Aquas”, which means “health through water”. The very essence of the words is the reason we are here.
Steeped in myth and legend, these ancient springs have been a gathering place and source of healing for hundreds, even thousands of years. The use of the waters can be traced back to the earliest human settlements in the region. Ancient people, believed to be the ancestors of today’s Native American Tewa tribes, built large pueblos and terraced gardens overlooking the springs. Posi or Poseuinge, “village at the place of the green bubbling hot springs” was home to thousands of people.
In the 1500’s the Spaniards, in their quest for gold and the Fountain of Youth, also discovered the Springs. One explorer’s record cites, “The greatest treasure that I found these strange people to possess, are hot springs which burst out at the foot of a mountain… so powerful are the chemicals contained in this water that the inhabitants have a belief that they were given to them by their gods. These springs I have named Ojo Caliente” (literally translated means “warm eye”, but more commonly known as “hot spring”).
Ascending the mesas behind Ojo Caliente we find an abandoned and unexcavated ruin. The Shapes of their dwellings can be seen and the broken pot shards of hundreds of years are everywhere. We hike 2-3 miles to the ancient village of Posi.
Day 7 : Bandelier National Monument
Spanish settlers arrived in the 18th century. The Pueblo Jose Montoya brought Adolph Bandelier to visit the area in 1880; Bandelier, looking over the cliff dwellings, announced "It is the grandest thing I ever saw." He stayed on for years to study one of the densest archaeological sites in the United States. President Woodrow Wilson signed legislation creating the monument in 1916.
Today we hike the canyons of this National Monument and have lunch near the ruins of its former inhabitants. (3-5 miles)
We return to Santa Fe in the afternoon to our hotel near the plaza and share a farewell dinner in a southwestern restaurant.
Day 8 : Depart Santa Fe
Depart for home. It takes about one hour to travel on a shuttle from Santa Fe to Albuquerque, where there are regularly scheduled flights.
(Warning: you may decide not to depart Santa Fe. Some people extend their stay and explore the town’s rich history, abundance of museums, art galleries, and unique cuisine.)
DATES: Best time to go: May - September Departures: No group departures scheduled. Private departures are available on the dates of your choice, pending availablity. Call us for details.
$2,895 (6-12 members)
Inn of the GovernorsSanta Fe, New Mexico
Inn of the Governors is located two blocks from the historic Plaza, and Santa Fe's best galleries, shops, and restaurants. The Inn is beautifully decorated with hand-carved furnishings, locally made artwork, in an ambient garden setting. Amenities include complimentary “Mountain Sunrise” breakfast buffet, parking, Tea and Sherry service, internet access, and an outdoor heated pool. Del Charro Saloon offers a lite fare in a charming bar and patio.
Abiquiu InnAbiquiu, New Mexico
The valley of the Rio Chama River is rich with history. Abiquiu and the surrounding area has long been a tribal gathering place, even before the Anasazi settled here more than a thousand years ago. From the ancient Anasazi tribes to the 20th-century art of Georgia O’Keeffe, the area has long been a captivating destination for visitors. The Abiquiu Inn is part of that tradition, becoming a desert sanctuary for artists, writers, nature lovers and guests seeking solitude and enlightenment in northern New Mexico.
Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & SpaOjo Caliente, New Mexico
Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa sits in the Ojo Caliente River valley. There is an unexcavated Native American ruin just a short walk from the springs . People have sought out the healing waters of Ojo Caliente for hundreds if not thousands of years.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.
Christa Sadler is a geologist, educator, river guide and writer with a serious addiction to rivers, deserts, mountains and chocolate. Christa has been guiding on the rivers of the West since 1986, and although she has a home in Flagstaff, Arizona, she's hardly ever there. Her research in archaeology, geology and paleontology has taken her around the globe, including searching for dinosaurs in Montana, fighting off dust storms and overly curious camels in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia, and steering clear of annoyed marine iguanas in the Galapagos Islands. Christa also runs ‘This Earth,” a small business that brings geology and fossil programs to students aged K-12 around the country. She loves to write about geology, rivers, fossils and the land, and she has published several books and articles. She teaches and guides in the spring and fall, and escapes to Alaska in the summers to guide and write. Winters are usually spent recovering. Or sea kayaking in Baja California.