To truly appreciate northern New Mexico's sublime interplay of light, land, and sky, you need to head up the arroyos and into the rolling hills. At dusk, that is. Astride a horse.
Cowpoke wannabes can now play out this fantasy in the recently opened Cerrillos Hills Historic Park, Santa Fe County's first preserve dedicated to abandoned mines. The rolling 1,116-acre landscape, just south of Santa Fe, yielded lead, silver, and other minerals in the mid-1800s; historians have dated some mines back to the 10th century.
A new trail network tempts hikers and mountain bikers to explore the remnants ― now made safe with protective barriers. But this wild countryside begs for an old-style adventure: Book a ride on an easy-trotting steed with Broken Saddle Riding Company, a nearby outfitter. Along the way, guides spin yarns about money pits like the 63-foot-deep Pride of the Camp Claim. Started by Pueblo Indians in the mid-1300s, for centuries it yielded lead used in pottery glazes. Your takeaway? Stunning pictures ― and perhaps a tender backside.
INFO: Cerrillos Hills Historic Park (www.cerrilloshills.org or 505/424-3574) is about 26 miles southwest of Santa Fe on State 14. Broken Saddle Riding Company (www.brokensaddle.com or 505/424-7774) offers a 90-minute Sunset Ride ($70 per person; reservations required); bring water, a hat, and a layer of warm clothing.