Cerrillos Hills

Ride on horseback into this recently opened mining park
James Glave

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.