Santa Fe KOA Campground

We encountered hail and rain on our drive into Santa Fe from Colorado. Quickly, we followed the directions to the Santa Fe KOA off I-25. Low-growing shrubs and trees were abundant as we exited the freeway and drove the short mile to check in at this KOA. Freeway noise was minimal despite being close. We were warmly greeted and shown to our campsite, a newer patio site with a fire pit, gas grill, table, and chairs. They have a few of these sites, but the one we stayed in was near the entrance to the campground. The site had trees for shade and was across the driveway from a play area and the main building. The spot was always bustling with activity, but it was quiet and calm in the evenings.

This KOA has a rec room, a shared gas grilling area, camp store, free movie rental, and a playground. The sites are level and several have full hook-ups. We were there in late May, and air conditioning was rarely needed at that time. The KOA is located about 10 miles from downtown Santa Fe, but I think it was positioned well for a relaxing and quiet stay near this entertaining cultural hub. The only issue with this campground is that the water had a strong odor and taste. It was the worst water we have encountered at any campground and we immediately purchased bottled water to drink during our entire stay.

The downtown square of Santa Fe is a cultural hub.

Santa Fe has the the oldest city square  in the United States and provides art lovers, food connoisseurs and history buffs with weeks of culture to devour. This was our first visit and it did not disappoint. Once we were set up, we went to Maria’s, a short drive from the campground and a popular location that was filled with locals at 4 p.m. The food was hearty New Mexican fare with the favorite green chili sauce prevalent in most dishes. This restaurant has been in business for decades and their margarita list features local ingredients, specialty concoctions, or the usual on the rocks variety. As we enjoyed our chips and salsa, another wave of hail swept through the city, bringing rivers of water through the bustling streets outside.

Maria’s Restaurant is not downtown, but it has been in business for generations and was filled by 4 p.m.
The downtown square was vacant due to COVID regulations. Usually this particular section is filled with artists.
Downtown architecture was purely southwest.

On our first full day, we went into the downtown square where centuries of traders have successfully sold their goods. Today, individuals are still selling handmade items on the square and encouraging locals and tourists to make purchases. Shops of all kinds line the streets and restaurants are filled with hungry customers. We did a walking food and history tour to kick off our stay. I strongly recommend this option for those who want to sample all types of food and would like to see several of the most famous buildings in the city. The restaurants that were featured in our tour were prepared for our small group, diverse in what they served, and the food was exceptional. We were definitely not hungry after this tour that was guided by a local. There was plenty of food served with a paired cocktail or drink.

Food and drink sample at Tres Colores, Cuisine of Southern New Mexico.

Between restaurants, our guide took us to several historical buildings and told us stories of the City. Not spending much time in New Mexico previously, this tour did an excellent job explaining the settlement of the state and the important role Santa Fe has played in the history of the Southwest.

San Miguel Chapel in Santa Fe is the oldest church in the United States (1610).

After the tour ended, we made our way to a few more historic sites including the Loretto Chapel staircase and the New Mexico History Museum.

The Loretto Chapel is famous for the mysterious staircase that was built by a carpenter who was traveling through Santa Fe. It is a mystery how it remains standing as there is no interior support.
Even without the mystery staircase, the Loretto Chapel is filled with carvings, stained glass, and ornate Catholic symbols.

The interactive museum is filled with important state artifacts. The displays are well-created and they were organized like a walking timeline throughout the building.

The entire New Mexico History Museum presented interactive exhibits and an excellent overview of the state’s diverse history.
The seal of New Mexico, created out of various keys, nails, and other other metal objects.

We left the museum a few minutes before it closed and headed back to the campsite to enjoy the sunset.

Moonrise at the campsite.

This KOA sits in the foothills and traveling only a few miles north on I-25, one easily reaches the turn-off for Pecos National Historical Park. Pecos does not offer camping, but is steeped in history from different centuries.

Entrance to Pecos National Historical Park. The Park is free to enter.
The visitors center.

The main entrance leads to a visitors center that is built in the adobe style of the region. A relaxing hike around this park takes visitors to kivas, overlooks, and the picturesque adobe-style Pecos Mission Church that was built in 1717. For those who have traveled to the Four Corners area, this seems to be an interesting extension of that history.

The Pecos Chapel, built in 1717.
Rock walls throughout the property that acted as barriers of safety during possible battles.
Inside a kiva at Pecos.

After hiking a loop at the main park, we discovered there is a second entrance that leads to another interesting place; the most northern Civil War battlefield in the United States. We drove to this location and found we were one of two cars in the entire parking lot. This area has a restroom and hiking loop through the battlefield. Markers are provided with a map for self-guided tours. Interestingly, this “field” seems more like a forest. Buildings from the past are in varying conditions and trees have filled in what was once an open environment. The newer trees provide a shaded, relaxing hike. Without the markers, there is no way anyone would realize that this was once a battle field.

The most northern Civil War battlefield is found at Pecos. An interpretive trail loops through the now overgrown “field” that contains original buildings. The descriptions are helpful and the trail is mostly shaded.
Benches are available throughout the trail. Temperatures can be hot in summer.

After hiking this loop as well, we made our way back into town for lunch and a trip to the Santa Fe Brewing Company. There is plenty of room at this brewery to sit inside or outside and relax. A well-maintained yard with various chairs grouped around fire pits or outdoor water features is relaxing and fun. During non-COVID times, this place usually hosts events and would be a great place to view live music.

Santa Fe Brewing Company now occupies this and a two-story building neighboring the older facility. Food vendors generally sell from this converted storage car.
Something cold after hiking.

The following day, we decided to attend the Santa Fe Farmers Market. We were a little early for the abundance of produce we had read about, but we still purchased locally roasted coffee beans, some fruit, and the coveted green chili powder from a local roaster/producer.

Farmers market fruit.

We had read about a mountain biking area that was fairly close to our campground. We took our bikes, an abundance of water, and a good map, and found a trailhead for the trail system that weaves across the hills. We kept our ride a little less adventurous due to the warmer temperatures that day, but we enjoyed the surroundings. The trail was partly single track with portions of gravel road slicing through that allowed us to take shortcuts if needed. We made it back after the ride and enjoyed grilling at our campsite, which we had not done due to the abundance of wonderful food in the city.

Beautiful New Mexico scenery.

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