Today’s post is all about hiking Galisteo Basin Preserve in Santa Fe, NM. Photographer, mama and outdoor adventurer Kelli Johansen is taking us along on this gorgeous hike with her family, including her 2 year-old daughter. She’s got some great information on hiking with toddlers, what you need to know before you go and what to pack on your adventure. If you have any questions for Kelli, please leave them in the comments below.

 hiking Galisteo Basin Preserve Santa Fe with Kids

Galisteo Basin Preserve, Santa Fe

My family and I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico and we LOVE to get outside!!!  Lucky for us, we live in a state where the weather is pleasant and the sun is out at least 10 months out of the year.  Santa Fe is in the northern part of the state and has a dry steppe climate, with cold winters and hot summers.  At 7,000 feet elevation we have various landscapes such as the national forest, mountains and high desert to explore.

On this particular day, we decided to go to a place called the Galisteo Basin Preserve.  It is the perfect place for an easy hike up and down hills with phenomenal views.  The Galisteo Basin Preserve is a conservation-based community development located 14 miles south of Santa Fe. The preserve is a place of sculpted arroyos, craggy sandstone formations and vast savannah grasslands. It is also place of refuge and sustenance for wildlife and people. 

 Galisteo Basin Preserve Santa Fe Hiking with Kids

The Galisteo Basin Preserve open space is planned to include 50 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails. These publicly accessible trails are intended to invite exploration and celebration of this landscape by Preserve residents and visitors alike. The trails are well marked, with numbered junction posts and a downloadable map available here to print – or download into your smart phone.

Hiking Galisteo Basin Preserve Santa Fe with Kids

Hiking with a toddler

We love exploring our entire diverse area and have a lot of hiking options to choose from. On this day, we decided to stay nearby in case our little one wasn’t feeling it. She had been a little grouchy throughout the morning, so we played it safe and stayed a bit closer to home.  We’ve learned the importance of flexibility when adventuring with a toddler and adjust our activities accordingly to make life more pleasant for everyone. Of course, on our way to the trail she fell asleep in the car (as toddlers often do) which didn’t make for a fun start. However, she recovered nicely and we had a blast during our short time there.

kid friendly hikes santa fe

Our little girl LOVES to hike – she especially loves leading us which is okay when the weather is cooler since the rattlesnakes aren’t out as much.  My husband and I always keep our eyes and ears very open when we are out hiking, with or without our daughter. 

We like to use our adventures to teach her about wildlife and the surrounding nature. While we were hiking we discussed the different types of trees, plants and rocks we came across.  We also played hide and seek. I would run up ahead and crouch behind the trees and wait for her to find me.  What seemed like, ‘just a hike,’ turned into a very fun, refreshing adventure.

hiking with kids Galisteo Basin Preserve Santa FeHiking Galisteo Basin Preserve Santa Fe with Kids

Choosing a trail

Eevi is almost 3 now and wants to be independent on our hikes – a trait we highly encourage. Therefore, lately we tend to lean towards trails that are easy, well maintained and that we know don’t have high drop-offs.  Safety is always a priority. I often use the AllTrails app to check out the different levels and reviews of trails before we go. This particularly helpful if we haven’t been on that trail or if we are in an unfamiliar region (sometimes we get lucky enough to go on vacation!).

My advice is to keep it super simple and fun at this age! The more fun kids have on the trails, the more likely they’ll want to go back, so we try not to overdo it. Start with short, easy trails and let their confidence build before adding elevation and difficulty.

what to pack when hiking with toddlersdesert hiking with toddlers santa fefamily friendly hikes santa fe

What to pack

When we normally go out we are out for 2-3 hours hiking, exploring and relaxing.  Our packing list includes the following items:

  • diaper bag (hopefully this will be gone soon!)
  • a change of clothes (for our daughter)
  • extra socks (for us)
  • snacks (for everyone!): granola bars, apples, trailmix, etc.
  • LOTS of water (you can NEVER have enough)
  • sunscreen (apply before you go and again during the hike)
  • phone
  • camera
  • first aid kit

All of this normally fits into the diaper bag, so even if it’s just a “mommy & me hike,” I’m not carrying multiple bags.  Now that my daughter is a bit older, she also enjoys carrying her own backpack. I highly recommend getting kids used to carrying a backpack with some of their own gear at an early age. Every little bit they can carry helps and makes them more independent and self-sufficient.

Since the terrain doesn’t offer much shade, plan to visit the trails early in the day before the heat or later in the evenings before sunset.  Make sure to wear a hat and good/sturdy hiking boots. Please remember to stay on marked trails and roads, park only in designated areas, and carry out everything you carry in.

kid-friendly hiking santa fe Galisteo Basin PreserveHiking Galisteo Basin Preserve Santa Fe with KidsHiking Galisteo Basin Preserve Santa Fe with Kids


Hi there!  My name is Kelli.  I am a mama to one sassy spirit, lady behind the lens and the lucky wife to an army veteran.  I have always loved photography and everything art.  It’s in my blood, it’s my super power. The importance of photography and capturing those you love became abundantly clear to me after my daughter was born prematurely in 2015.  Before my daughter was born, I was a Registered Nurse and I barely had time to pick up a camera or paint.  After my daughter was born, I couldn’t imagine her knowing that I hadn’t pursued my passions in life.  She made me brave again.  Don’t get me wrong, I love being a nurse but there’s a different kind of beauty in getting behind a camera and letting the world see what you see.

Instagram: @kellijohansenphotography