How to Pack for Your Santa Fe Vacation

If you're heading to Santa Fe...’re about to get high. Really high. As in a mile and a half above sea level. Because of the altitude, a lot of visitors arrive unprepared. People think, “Santa Fe’s in the desert, so it must be hot, right?” Nope!

Santa Fe is located right where the high desert bumps into the Rocky Mountains, nestled at the base of the Sangre de Cristo range (Blood of Christ). Altitude in the mountains of Northern New Mexico makes such a huge difference in temperature, that even going from the southwest part of town (flat desert) to the north side (base of the mountains) you’ll notice a change. Head up Artists Road to the hiking trails near the Santa Fe ski basin, and the temperature can easily drop 10 degrees.

There’s also the sun to consider. At 7,000 feet and higher, the sun is intense! Just moving from sun to shade, you’ll feel a significant change in temperature. And then there’s the dry air. In the summer in Northern New Mexico (at high altitude), the highs might reach the low 90s for a brief time during the mid afternoon, but with no humidity, it feels much cooler. Just relax in the shade with some cold water, and you’ll be perfectly comfortable. (Important note: drink LOTS of water all day! It keeps you hydrated and helps your blood absorb oxygen. Altitude sickness is not fun. If you feel a headache coming on, drink more water.)

Summer sunshine and flowers in Santa Fe
Summer sunshine and flowers in Santa Fe

Crushable Hats to Pack in Your Suitcase or Backpack

Backpacks and Fleese

JanSport Right Pack
JanSport Right Pack

Backpacks come in handle whether you're in town or on the hiking trail.


What does all this mean in terms of packing?

For clothes, it means layers.

Summertime, pack:

  • T-shirts or tank tops with long sleeve shirts.
  • Shorts AND long pants. (For those of you packing in the heat of summer, do not let the temperatures where you are stop you from packing long pants. It gets chilly in the high desert at night.)
  • A lightweight jacket or sweater. (Yes, even in the summer. It gets chilly at night!)
  • Sandals are fine during the day, as long as they’re flat and comfortable. Hiking boots or athletic shoes are better. (You’ll be doing a lot of walking on uneven sidewalks, dirt roads, and gravel parking lots.)
  • A hat! (Again, the sun is really intense.)
  • If you’re renting a vacation condo, don’t forget house shoes and a bathrobe. Most casitas in Santa Fe have tile floors that help keep them cool. (Very few homes have air conditioning.) Those floors can be cold on the feet first thing in the morning.

Other things to pack:

  • Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Moisturizer
  • Saline nose spray (To prevent nose bleeds.)
  • An umbrella (For portable shade and those afternoon showers.)
  • A backpack or big tote bag (You’ll need this for carrying bottled water and the layers of clothing you’ll be taking on and off throughout the day.)

Spring and Fall: pack all the above plus a heavier jacket. Fleece vests are also a great layer to add. You might want a heavier bathrobe as well. Even in late August, I frequently start a fire in the morning to get the chill out of air.

Winter: add a heavy coat or parka, gloves, scarves, and a warmer hat. Leave off the umbrella since you’ll be getting snow, not rain.

The weather in Santa Fe is an absolute dream, but you really will experience a variety of temperatures throughout the day. Just dress in layers. And drink lots of water!

"Aspen Vista" is one of my favorite hiking trails. It's just minutes from the Plaza and offers stunning views. This photo was taken in early October when the aspens where in full color.
"Aspen Vista" is one of my favorite hiking trails. It's just minutes from the Plaza and offers stunning views. This photo was taken in early October when the aspens where in full color.

What do you plan to do or see while in Santa Fe?

  • Shop the Plaza
  • Visit Historic Sites
  • Eat Out
  • Go Hiking
  • Golf
  • Visit the Casinos
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Comments 4 comments

Kit Frazier 7 years ago

Great tips!

Santa Fe Gal profile image

Santa Fe Gal 7 years ago Author

Thanks for stopping by Kit.

ann 5 years ago

is there a novel or 2 to get me into the spirit of New Mexico? Descriptive, historical , etc.?

thomdrilling profile image

thomdrilling 2 years ago

Great article and tips about the weather. We love the area and are going back later this summer.

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