Top Photo Spots in Santa Fe

Top Photo Spots in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Are you traveling to Santa Fe?  Are you looking for the best places to take pictures in Santa Fe?  Then read on!  It's a great town, and there is a lot to see and photograph!

I love Santa Fe - it's really a beautiful town, full of charm, history, culture, great architecture, and some incredible food (go to Cafe Pasqual's!!).  But if you are like me, one of your favorite things to do is take pictures of the different interesting spots on your travels.  Well, Santa Fe offers a whole lot to photograph and enjoy. Even without the camera, these are some incredible spots you will want to visit!

One of the nice things about Santa Fe is that the historic town center is focused around a central town square, known as the Plaza.  Everything is pretty close by - although note that on my list I have included a few spots that are up to an hour drive away, but well worth the visit!

So, read on, enjoy the list and the pictures, and let me know your thoughts by way of the comment field! 

You can find all my Santa Fe shots on the blog here: 

1.) The Loretto Chapel

The Loretto Chapel sits just a quick stroll from the Plaza, and is a historic church that supposedly is modeled after Saint Chappelle in Paris.  It is small and really just requires a quick visit.  Here's the key attraction though:

the Miraculous Staircase

.  You can Google the legend behind it, but in short it is considered miraculous partly because it was built without nails or glue, has no visible central support, yet stands 20' tall and makes over two 360 degree turns.  That's pretty miraculous in my book!

Here's a tip:

 Show up about 15 minutes before they close, so you can wait out all the other visitors.  Then you will have it all to yourself, before they shut it down about 15 minutes after the official closing time.  I came by earlier in the day, and asked the person working the desk about the crowds, and that is what they recommended.  It worked great!  It was all mine for 15 minutes, which is plenty of time to get all the shots you want!


2.)  San Miguel Mission

Another quick stroll (~5 minutes from Loretto Chapel) and you bump into San Miguel Mission.  This one is interesting because apart from the obvious simple beauty of the adobe structure, this one claims to be the oldest church in the USA.  Pretty cool.


Be sure and check where the sun is positioned.  I shot this one in the summertime, and in the morning the sun was rising behind it, therefore the light was coming right at my camera.  Not ideal.  I came back around 5pm, and in addition to the light being much better, all the tourists were gone!


3.)  St. Francis Cathedral

This is the "big one" so to speak, at least in terms of churches in Santa Fe - and it completes our little religious start to this list (I just noticed I started with 3 churches!).  It's a real beauty and sits 1 block from the Plaza.  A simple stroll, well worth a look and when you can catch it with that warm, soft afternoon light, it just radiates. 

SF StFran.jpg

4.)  Canyon Road

Canyon Road is about a 10 minute walk from the Plaza, but because it runs for a pretty good length, we usually drive over and park midway so we can hit a lot of it.  What is it?  It's an "artist road" - basically, a ton of art galleries and studios all on the same road.  Ok men, I know you are already yawning at the thought of going in galleries all day, but bring the camera!  There are so many incredible doors, entrances, gates and overall architecturally interesting spots that your wives can shop while you fill up the memory card - well worth a stroll over here!  (Not to imply that ladies don't want to shoot!)


while there are great shots to be had on Canyon Road, be sure and poke your head around a few corners and down some side streets, and you will be rewarded!

Along Canyon Road.jpg

5.)    The entrance to The Inn and Spa at Loretto

As the name Loretto here might indicate, this is a nice Inn and Spa that is adjacent to the Loretto Chapel.  The Inn and Spa at Loretto is a beautiful property and commands a fabulous location from which you can easily hit all the hot spots in town.  Also, be sure and visit their restaurant Luminaria for a meal (I recommend having breakfast on the patio!) whether you are staying in the hotel or not!  And, get out when the light is just right, and get a shot of their entrance - I just find it endlessly beautiful!

Inn and Spa at Loretto.jpg

6.)  The Santa Fe Ski Basin

Ok, you definitely need the car for this one.  The Santa Fe Ski Basin is about 15 miles outside of town, headed mostly East/Northeast.  It's essentially all uphill from town (this is a ski basin, so you have to get into the mountains - which means gaining altitude) and takes about 30 minutes, assuming you follow the speed limits.  It's well worth it.  I have not skied there, but in the summer the hiking is incredible, and if you head up the Windsor Trail, after a good hour or more you are rewarded with this amazing view!!

SFe mntn hike.jpg

7.)  Ghost Ranch

Ghost Ranch is out in Abiquiu, NM and is about 1 hour sorta northwest of Santa Fe.  Yep, 1 hour in the car - but the amazing landscapes are well worth it.  Ghost Ranch is an inn and conference center, mostly centered around the arts.  It's well known as the place where the artist Georgia O'Keeffe spent a lot of her time, painting so many of the masterpieces she is best know for.  When you see the landscapes around here, you will know why she was so inspired to paint the land.  It's incredible.  

There are several different trails to hike on here, and you can literally spend a full day there if you have that much energy.  But if you are looking for some good hiking and great photography, take the trail to Chimney Rock (photo below).  It's only a fairly strenuous hike, you can get it done in around an hour and a half or so (well, that depends on how many photos you are taking, though) and the scenery is fantastic.


8.)  Tent Rocks

We're back in nature, but this time we are heading due West of Santa Fe, about 1 hour.  Tent Rocks is like being on another planet.  The landscapes are seriously unlike anything I have ever seen.  It's well known for the cone-shaped tent rocks that dot the landscape here, which are the result of 6 million year old volcanic activity.  The interesting thing to me is that you first start out going through these awesome slot canyons before you even reach "the good stuff".  I was clicking like a maniac.  Well, that's just what I do.  Anyways, pack a lunch and get here in the morning for lesser crowds.  Weekdays are better than weekends too.

After you get through the canyon, you start an uphill journey, eventually ending atop the mesa with a commanding view, assuming you hike all the way.  It's a great hike, very beautiful, and only moderatley strenuous.  There is one stretch where you have to scramble/climb a little, but it wasn't dangerous.  Plus, I did it with my camera gear and tripod, so surely you can do it!


9.)  Chama River Valley

The Chama River, or Rio Chama, runs through quite a bit of New Mexico, but the part I have walked along and photographed is out near Abiquiu and the Ghost Ranch (#7 above).  It's an easy add to a Ghost Ranch trip, and there are several stretches of the Rio Chama that run along the road that takes you out to Ghost Ranch, so it's pretty easy to stop off and fire some shots!  Plus it barely adds any time to your trip, so it's like a little free photo time thrown in!

Rio Chama.jpg

10.)  Embudo gas Museum

Ok, if you are into HDR as well as old antique cars and gas station memorabilia, then this is a type of heaven for you!  The Embudo Gas Museum sits in Embudo, NM which is about a 45 minute drive from Santa Fe, along the road to Taos.  The gentlemen that owns it is incredibly nice and lets you run around taking all sorts of photos.  It's just an incredible place and well worth the drive, if this is your type of thing.  I spent a couple of hours there, and I shot so much stuff I will probably never get it all processed and posted here...but that's ok. I loved every minute of it, and it's well worth the short drive for such an interesting collection of historic stuff!


Ok my friends, what do you think?  Are you excited about Santa Fe yet?  I'm excited, and I am just sitting here typing!  I really do love this little town (and it is a town, really) and there is just so much to see and photograph that I am sure you will enjoy it too!

Let me know if you have anything to add by way of the comments field, or just let me know your thoughts on the list and the photographs!  Thanks for stopping by!