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3-Day Trip from Denver to Santa Fe

Los Angeles, CA
Level Contributor
73 posts
3-Day Trip from Denver to Santa Fe

We are planning to take a road trip from Denver to Santa Fe over Memorial Day weekend. I have a lot of questions, some of which I realize might be better under a Colorado forum, but help with any of the questions is greatly appreciated!

- We are planning to leave after work on Friday and drive at least half way that night. Would Trinidad be the best place to stop for the night?

- Any recommendations for hotels in Santa Fe? We want somewhere reasonably priced, but are willing to pay more for an excellent location or spot.

- What are a few 'must-see' attractions?

- Any can't miss restaurants?

- We want to do a spa afternoon/day. Any recommendations for a good/affordable spa?

- Anything else we should know? Thank you!

Lilburn, Georgia
Level Contributor
24 posts
2 reviews
1. Re: 3-Day Trip from Denver to Santa Fe

My husband & I are going April 26th thru April 30th. We will be staying at Hotel Chimayo de Santa Fe. It's a couple of bloccks from the Plaza. We go at least once or twice a year so we can get our "Northern New Mexico" fix. Some of our must go to restaurants are Tia Sophias & The Tecolote Cafe for breakfast or lunch. We like The Shed for lunch as well. One of our favorites for dinner is the The Pink Adobe. Hope this helps.

Aurora, Illinois
Destination Expert
for New Mexico, Santa Fe, Albuquerque
Level Contributor
2,687 posts
160 reviews
2. Re: 3-Day Trip from Denver to Santa Fe

Well 'must see' of course depends on what you like. Santa Fe has a number of excellent small scale museums. Depending on your interests, one or more of these may fall into your 'must see' list.

In the Plaza area there are 4 to be aware of: Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, New Mexico Museum of Art and New Mexico Museum of History/Palace of the Governors. I find the Georgia O'Keeffe museum to be overpriced, but still some quality works on display. The Museum of Contemporary Native Arts is very overpriced given its size and should only be visited if you REALLY like contemporary art (I do). I highly recommend the other two. The art musuem has a good collection of southwestern/New Mexican art as well as changing exhibits. The history museum is very well done and should be on everyone's list.





Also near the plaza you'll find the Round House or state capitol. Several floors of New Mexican art on display for free. Also near, in the Railyard District is SITE Santa Fe. Another very contemporary art venue only for fans.



A couple miles away you'll find Museum Hill with four museums: Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, Museum of International Folk Art, Museum of Spanish Colonial Art and Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian. The first two listed are particularly strong museums. The Spanish Colonial Art is fairly small but still nice. The Wheelwright is smaller yet with changing exhibits, but it's free.





If you do have a special interest in seeing multiple museums there is a 4 day 4 museum pass I highly recommend that includes the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and the Museum of International Folk Art on Museum Hill and the New Mexico Museum of Art and the New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors in the Plaza area. You can buy this pass at any one of the museums. Separate admission to each of these museums is $9 but the pass is only $20. So even if you'll visit 3 museums, the pass is still worth it.

There are some historic churches in the Plaza area that are worth seeing: Cathedral Basilica of St Francis of Assisi (interesting for the unfinished towers), Loretto Chapel (site of the miraculous spiral staircase), San Miguel Mission (oldest church in the United States) and Our Lady of Guadalupe Church (nice sculpture/statue out front).

There are millions (it seems) of Art Galleries with the highest concentrations being around the Plaza and along Canyon Road. You'll also find several in the Railyard District.



The Randall Davey Audubon Center can make a nice outdoor visit, including some short hikes.


Grabbing a beer at the Marble Tap Room overlooking the Plaza from the second floor or at the Bell Tower at La Fonda (on the fifth floor overlooking even more...especially nice at sunset) can be an enjoyable way to while away an hour or two.



As far as spas, Ten Thousand Waves is the quintessential spa experience in Santa Fe including numerous outdoor hot tub/pool soaking options as well as all the traditional spa services. I've had some very good massages at Absolute Nirvana Spa. I know that NYNM (a DE for Santa Fe) recommends Encantando Resort.




Here's a tourism site to help you explore more: http://www.santafe.org/

I didn't include any day trips out from Santa Fe, but there are plenty of options in that direction as well.


Santa Fe, New Mexico
Level Contributor
8,842 posts
86 reviews
3. Re: 3-Day Trip from Denver to Santa Fe

Consider the scenic(shorter) 285/17, in or out of Alamosa, on the return drive...carracar

Level Contributor
271 posts
4. Re: 3-Day Trip from Denver to Santa Fe

Trinidad is a good choice. That would have you driving over Raton Pass during the daylight hours, and into Sante Fe by lunchtime.

Santa Fe, New Mexico
Level Contributor
20 posts
41 reviews
5. Re: 3-Day Trip from Denver to Santa Fe

There is a great deal of excellent advice here which I won't repeat.

My thought is that's a lot of driving for a three day trip. The views are good some places, but not much other places. If you cut to the west coming down you can go through a pass and see some scenery. I'd then suggest maybe stopping at Taos on the way. Then come down the low road until you see the left or east turn for Dixon. Follow that through Dixon -- there's a real vineyard if you are interested. (Don't stop at a "winery" -- that's a retail wine store)

Go through Dixon and continue east on that .until you come to the high road and follow that south. You'll through Chimayo with the Santuario. and then follow signs south through the Nambe Badlands.

Albuquerque, New...
Level Contributor
2,460 posts
135 reviews
6. Re: 3-Day Trip from Denver to Santa Fe

You really won't see much staying on I-25 all the way, but it is fast and can get you from Denver to Santa Fe with about 6 to 7 total hours driving.

You could have two options in Colorado for overnight. If you stay on I-25, then Trinidad or Raton would be the best option. Raton actually has a few more hotels and restaurants than Trinidad.

The other option for overnight would be Walsenburg, then the next morning over La Veta pass to Fort Garland, then from there on state highways to and through Taos. The most direct route from Taos to Santa Fe is the low road through the Rio Grande Gorge, while the high road is quite scenic, but winding and slow to Espanola. Maybe, do one going to SF, and the other on the way back.

Keith has giving you some great ideas on Santa Fe, and you can't go wrong with any of them.

A third route you might consider is US 285 through the mountains, which is much more scenic than I-25. Salida has numerous hotels and restaurants and would be a good stop-over spot.

If you take that route, you would leave 285 just as you enter the San Luis Vally, and take Colo. 17 to Alamosa. Much faster and shorter than staying on 285.

Santa Fe, New Mexico
Level Contributor
20 posts
41 reviews
7. Re: 3-Day Trip from Denver to Santa Fe

I have done this trip numerous times by about every possible route.

IMO, 285 from Alamosa south is the most boring of all the routes south to Santa Fe I'm certainly never going to do it again.

If I don't have time to cut down through Taos, I'll stay on the Interstate which is IMO much nicer than that stretch of 285.

If you go through Taos, the low road all the way to Santa Fe can have it's problems. I know people who routinely spend extra time to take the high road even if they go up to Taos regularly for business a week.

naples, fl
Level Contributor
227 posts
10 reviews
8. Re: 3-Day Trip from Denver to Santa Fe

Anytourist. Could you explain what problems you are referring to on the low road?

Santa Fe, New Mexico
Level Contributor
20 posts
41 reviews
9. Re: 3-Day Trip from Denver to Santa Fe


First in order but definitely not worst. On the low road, you come down a stretch of steep, curving one lane road that serves as only part of a long, high speed commuting route for a number of people and as a part of the route for trucks between Taos and Santa Fe. You can find yourself tailgated by a truck -- including the gigantic pickups favored by some commuters. I have come down that road with a large truck so close in behind me that all I could see was bumper -- I could not see their headlights. But it is only one lane -- I can't pull over. I don't know what the tailgater expects me to do.

Going up is better -- there are passing lanes. But there can still be impatient drivers behind you. For many drivers it is only part of a long route that they drive repeatedly and in hurry -- and people drive badly in this type of situation. It's your vacation -- why make this part of it?

However, you might want to subject yourself to this, to see the upper (best) part of the low road and eat the barbeque at Sugar's. But then you could turn at Dixon and really miss nothing.

For some reason, I have had problems with a UPS truck that has tail gated me three times in off hours when I did not expect traffic. Then I stopped driving this way.

Second. Morning, noon, and evening, you can hit bad traffic jams in Espanola that deny you any time savings. There is also a bottleneck that can cause a jam just about any time of the day. Accidents, stop lights not working, construction -- also can lead to jams. I know a way around. Most tourists don't, and it is not obvious and it takes more time -- making the low road not so much quicker than the high..

Third. Espanola is sprawling and features miles of strip development and stop lights. It is not scenic unless you are into Walmarts and that sort of thing. So why do it on your vacation? There are more scenic alternatives.

Fourth. The people of Espanola are lovely, friendly, and warm. I shop up there and sometimes eat there or get a cup of coffee and shoot the breeze.. But I don't drive there Friday and Saturday after 6 PM. Last time I was there at a weekend evening event, I just checked in to the Inn at the Delta and spent the night.

I have been up front about this with a number of people i know in Espanola -- and no one has ever disagreed with me. There are well-documented problems with substance abuse, and the party-ers flock in from surrounding communities. I have looked at statistics in detail to learn when to avoid the city. I give this advice to out-of-town friends -- I think I should give it to people here -- or not say anything in the first place..

So I could give this complete advice whenever I post here. it seems easier just to advise people to take the high road south of Embudo-Dixon.

Fifth. The high road used to go through a section of Espanola. The Highway Department re-routed it to avoid Espanola. They sent it on a scenic route through Chimayo, the Nambe Badlands (with a mountain backdrop), and the traditional and extremely stable village of Nambe. They are telling you something.

10. Re: 3-Day Trip from Denver to Santa Fe

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