The Canones Creek National Recreation Trail is an out-and-back trail in the Santa Fe National Forest that offers canyon, forest, and mountain views. In addition to unique scenery, this isolated route offers solitude and abundant wildlife.
Species that make their home in Santa Fe National Forest include elk, mule deer, bobcat, black bear, and mountain lion. Due to the presence of natural predators, it's important to keep your dog close to you and on a leash. However, you're more likely to spot critters of a more diminutive stature. Other hikers who have brought their dogs here note that it's heaven for easily distracted chipmunk chasers.
The trail starts high, at around 10,000 feet elevation, descends, then ascends again. You'll begin your trek in a dense stand of tall pines and eventually emerge into an open meadow. Note the rock formations that are abundant on and around the trail. High towers of red rock have been eroded into strange shapes. Smooth boulders in open fields look like they were placed there by passing giants with an eye for design.
On a nice day, a bright blue sky will make the meadow the perfect picture of tranquility. Consider a picnic or even setting up camp. The Forest Service allows fishing here, so it's quite possible to catch your own meal. Wild strawberries are also abundant in summer. Do note that when there is a drought, the water will be scant at higher elevations. You're likely to find better fishing at the lower elevations closer to the end of the trail.
While this trail has moderate and steady ascents, your biggest challenge will be finding your way. In the forest, clusters of rocks can make it hard to tell where the faint dirt path continues. Parts are overgrown and there are large stands of dead conifers near the beginning of the trail, meaning you're likely to have to get around fallen trees. It's worth it, though—the careful attention this trail requires means you're likelier to notice little things like lone wildflowers or an animal track. By the time you're done with this hike, you and your pup will feel like seasoned adventurers.