Spectacularly scenic, fantastically Fido-friendly, and just thirty minutes from Santa Fe -- Santa Cruz Lake Recreation Area is most certainly a mutts-visit! This pawesome preserve has just under 6.5 miles of gorgeous trails for you and your buddy to sniff and explore. You’ll find plenty of parking on Santa Cruz Rd, and $5 gets you access to the park for the entire day. If you’re coming in from out of town, or just want to make a trip out of it, you and your pooch can pitch your tent at either the North Shore or Overlook Campgrounds for an additional $4. The park is truly a hidden gem -- in the spring, the area is popular with anglers drawn to the trout-filled lake, but you should still be able to snatch some solitude on the trails.
All of the trails in Santa Cruz Lake Recreation Area are rated as moderate to strenuous, so fitter furry friends looking for a challenge should feel right at home! The trails run mostly around the eastern shore of the lake, where you’ll be (mostly) shaded by cottonwoods, pine and mountain mahogany trees. The terrain can be pretty rugged, so watch your step! Expect stunning views of canyons, chiseled mesas, the Sangre de Cristo mountains, and of course, the vast, serene lake. Careful, though -- the water may look inviting, but swimming is strictly prohibited due to the swift undercurrents.
Though the routes in Santa Cruz Recreation Area are short, expect some steep inclines -- older four-pawed pals or those with serious mobility issues might want to sit this one out. In terms of facilities, you’ll find drinking fountains and toilets at the campsites. One further thing --several prehistoric sites have been discovered in the recreation area. While you might think an arrowhead is a cool souvenir, the Bureau of Land Management asks that you leave any artifacts be. Remember to bring waste bags for your buddy, and have a pawesome hike!