Trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico

Granite sculpture of cutthroat trout in downtown Santa Fe
Overview

This is a 5 night trip trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. We used credit card points to cover ½ the flights (Spokane to Albuquerque), the rental car, and the Inn. Santa Fe has great hiking trails, eateries, art, and beer. It also has interesting Pueblo ruins nearby. We went in late August arriving on a Sunday and leaving on a Friday morning to avoid the weekend, and did not find it crowded. The temperatures were just right, highs around 80F.

Planning the flights

We used Alaska points to fly there, and our Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR) $300 travel credit to pay for most of the return flight. We booked about 10 months in advance and unfortunately our convenient flight from Spokane to Albuquerque was changed for the worse. I called Alaska as soon as the flights were changed and asked for a better flight. The rep offered to refund my points. But I politely said that since I had booked so far in advance I did not want a refund, as there was now no availability to rebook using points. I requested a change to a specific flight which left at 6am. We were given that flight which now meant leaving the homestead at 3:30 am… This happens a lot to us when booking with points or cash far in advance. The flights are changed closer to the departure date, and it is usually less convenient. I suggest contacting the airline as soon as a flight is changed for the worse. But find a desired flight before you call, so you can ask for a change to the specific flight you want. For the return flight we found a convenient flight on Delta. Again the flight was changed to a longer layover (1h45min) in Salt Lake City after we booked it. I looked online and it was still the best flight so I did not request a change.

Booking the rental car with Chase UR points

For the car I like to use Chase UR points via the CSR card to take advantage of the primary insurance that comes with it. We don’t carry collision on our own older vehicles, so the primary insurance through the CSR card is important. I looked at the ratings of the car rental companies at the Albuquerque airport using Google maps and booked with Enterprise which had a high rating. Total cost to rent a compact from Enterprise for 5 days from the Albuquerque airport: 15,866 UR points taking advantage of the 1.5X value of points for travel using the CSR card.

Booking a place to stay using Chase UR points

I wanted to use Chase UR points with our CSR in order to get the 1.5X value. We found an Inn within walking distance of the Santa Fe Plaza that had a separate room not connected to the main building. If possible I prefer to not share a wall/ceiling/floor with other guests and this separate cottage room had that. I used up 102,340 Chase UR points for a 5 night stay, pretty spendy. But it came with breakfast and I’m willing to pay more for separation (peace and quiet) from other guests. We booked almost a year in advance so no problems finding a room. Next time we visit Santa Fe I might stay 2 nights in town to enjoy the eateries, and then 3 nights in the mountains.

Getting to Santa Fe

We had 2×2 seating for all four flight segments. Our Alaska flight was a turboprop from Spokane to Portland, and we had a jet from Portland to Albuquerque. After a short shuttle ride we were checked out quickly into our Kia Rio and on our way. We stopped at Weck’s in Albuquerque for lunch where we had great comfort food, service, and coffee. Then we continued on to Santa Fe. I was surprised to learn that Santa Fe is at 7200 ft elevation and our Inn host suggested we drink plenty of water. One nice thing about leaving at 3:30 am is we arrived by about 2pm.

Gastropub extraordinaire

I found a pub online called Fire & Hops that had a nice mix of fine food, but casual atmosphere. We strolled Santa Fe and arrived around 5:30 pm to find only a few people. Not a great sign. We ordered their elote appetizer which was grilled corn with a sauce of shrimp and chile. Fantastic. Dinner was just as good. I had Sea Bass and DW had steak. But it gets even better, the beer in New Mexico is outstanding. I ordered the Uppercut IPA from Boxing Bear Brewing and enjoyed it. Our server was knowledgeable and allowed us to taste a couple of options. For the next beer I got La Cumbre’s El Jugo (juice) IPA. Unique with a lot of citrus and it went great with the Sea Bass. Later on in the trip I tried La Cumbre’s Elevated IPA, again great. When we visited again 3 days later on a Wednesday the place was packed at 5:30 pm, as we’d expect from how well our first meal went. This time I got the steak and DW got the shrimp with grit cakes. Again, outstanding food and service.

La Cieneguilla Petroglyph Site
A petroglyph at La Cieneguilla

Our first day we didn’t want to drive a lot so we took a 22 minute drive to La Cieneguilla Petroglyphs. There is a trail from the parking lot to the base of the cliffs and then you scramble up to near the top where the petroglyphs are. You can then move along the base to see additional petroglyphs, scrambling up each time to see another area. It was a nice, relaxing way to start the trip. We drove back into town and had lunch at Rooftop Pizzeria with nice views of Santa Fe. We enjoyed the pizza and salad.

Santa Fe trip view
View from The Rooftop Pizzeria patio
Georgia O’Keefe Gallery and New Mexico Museum of Art

After lunch we walked to the Georgia O’Keefe Gallery which has a room with a timeline of her development of as an artist, and many examples of her art over her long career. It was nice to see the development over time. A short walk to the New Mexico Museum of Art where there was a display of sketches and how artists use them to develop their pieces. Artists included Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and Rembrandt. Very Cool.

Beer with a view

We strolled around some shops and then had some more good New Mexico beer at The Draft Station on their patio overlooking the Plaza. A nice place to relax with a beer and a great view.

Santa Fe brewery
View of the Santa Fe Plaza from the Draft Station patio
Bandelier National Monument
Bandelier National Monument
Ladder to Alcove House

The next day we drove 54 minutes (41 miles) to Bandelier National Monument to see ruins of the Pueblo people. You park your car at a Visitor Center and take a shuttle into the Park. You pay an entrance fee for the car you left at the Visitor Center. We decided to take the tour at the monument where the ranger explained about the different Puebloan people who lived in the Frijoles canyon and some of their culture. There is a paved trail and you can enter a few of the Puebloan houses. Very enjoyable.

View from Alcove House

On the way back we stopped at the Tsankawi prehistoric site and did a short hike.

Hiking on a well worn trail in the rock at Tsankawi

You can see where the ancestral Puebloan people hiked trails that are carved into the soft rock. The Tsankawi hike was nice for solitude, with only two other couples there when we arrived. We had dinner at New Mexico Hard Cider Taproom. They had a large selection of New Mexico beer and cider and I had a Bosque Brewing IPA (notice a theme here?) which was … great.

Winsor and Raven’s Ridge Trail

The drive up 475 (aka Hyde Park Road) from Santa Fe up to Winsor trailhead in Santa Fe National Forest takes about 35 minutes. The elevation at the Winsor trailhead is 10,280 ft. This is the highest elevation hike I have ever done and I wasn’t sure how it would feel. We had been in Santa Fe for two days to acclimate to the higher altitude and we had to take breaks but it wasn’t too bad for us. We got to the first overlook on the Raven’s Ridge Trail and got the stunning view of Santa Fe Baldy. That was enough of a workout and we turned back. I am not used to the treeline being so high. The contrast between the forest at 10,000 ft and the high desert of Santa Fe at 7,200 ft with only a 35 minute drive was interesting.

Santa Fe hiking
View of Santa Fe Baldy from Raven’s Ridge trail
Dorothy Stewart Trail

The next day we had planned to travel to see more Puebloan ruins at Pecos National Historical Park, but decided instead to just do a short local hike. I looked up the Dorothy Stewart Trail which was within 10 minutes of our Inn. There is limited parking at the trailhead and we were lucky and got the second to last spot. The hike gave a nice view of Santa Fe and we could see some very nice homes in the hills. It was a good reminder of the solitude we get in the Palouse. There was construction noise and the noise of a nearby school throughout the hike. But the views were great and it was a nice trail.

View of Santa Fe from the Dorothy Stewart Trail
Museum of Indian Arts & Culture

After the hike we drove to the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture which was only a few minutes from the trailhead. There was an interesting pottery display from the different Puebloan people, and we found a nice photograph of Navaho on horseback from 1904 in the gift shop.

Final evening and return home
Seafood special at Martin’s Restaurant with Elevated IPA

We walked to Santa Fe Spirits Tasting Room for happy hour and had Moscow mule and ‘So much winning’ cocktails which were excellent. The service was also excellent. A short walk to Martin’s restaurant for excellent seafood and … La Cumbre Elevated IPA. A great finish to our first trip to New Mexico. Our trip back was on time and we used our extra layover time in Salt Lake City to have a nice lunch at Vino Volo Ale House and to start this post.

Trip to Santa Fe
Santa Fe sunset
Summary

Our trip to Santa Fe was fun with very high quality beer, food and art. The high elevation and being next to even higher mountains makes it a unique place with diverse outdoor activities. The ancestral Puebloan areas were fun to see. On this trip we enjoyed some hikes and next visit I’m looking forward to mountain biking some of their trails. And thanks to Chase for 150k UR points bonus for the CSR (100k) and Chase Sapphire Preferred (50k) credit cards, and to Bank of America/Alaska credit card for the 30k point bonus.  🙂 Having banks help pay for vacations is one way to get FI faster.

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