The Outdoor Program in Santa Fe is a rich resource that we hope every student will enjoy. The Outdoor Program team facilitates off-campus trips throughout the semester to explore the Rocky Mountains and the high desert canyonlands of the Southwest. Trips are guided by our certified experts and happen weekly during the school year. Geared toward beginners and intermediate adventurers, trips include day hikes, backpacking, camping, water sports, snow sports, rock climbing, mountain biking, hot springing, and more. The vast majority of trips are free of charge, and longer trips are substantially subsidized.
Santa Fe County alone is home to over 470 miles of trails, the majority of which allow mountain bikes. The Outdoor Program, which has its own fleet of mountain bikes, takes advantage of both the local trails and the regional ones, which include Otero Canyon, San Ysidro, Angel Fire, and the South Boundary Trail in Taos. To join a trip, simply sign up at the Student Activity Center. To plan your own, check in with the Outdoor Program for a loaner bike.
The Outdoor Program runs several overnight backpacking trips each year to locations such as the Pecos and Gila Wildernesses in New Mexico, as well as spring break and summer trips to Colorado, Arizona, and Utah. The Outdoor Program typically provides all necessary equipment, from backpacks and tents to cooking stoves and sleeping bags.
The college also loans equipment, generally for free, to students who are planning their own backpacking adventures through our Equipment Rental Program. Once you’re on campus, simply check in at the Student Activity Center to get a list of upcoming (and mostly free) guided trips.
Equipment Rental Program
If students would like to plan their own adventure, much of the equipment they will need for their trips can be provided by the Outdoor Program for free.
Perfect for an overnight or long weekend outing.
Great for all but the coldest trips, the college has several different kinds of bags for all of students’ spring, summer, and fall adventures.
Ultralight RidgeRest pads keep backpackers comfortable at night without weighing them down during the day.
Two and three-person dome-tents, as well as Megamid tents for up to four occupants, are available.
MSR WhisperLites are one of the most popular backpacking stoves of all time.
Want to get out and experience the serenity of a snow-blanketed aspen grove? The college has a wide selection of snowshoes to fit people and adventures of all sizes!
The Outdoor Program’s most common trips are day trips to hike the 100-plus trails that are within a short drive from campus. These trails can be through the aspens and pines that are just uproad from campus, through the red mesas and canyons to the north of Santa Fe, or even through sand dunes and dry river bottoms, which are known as arroyos in New Mexico.
While hiking, you are likely to end up hounding like so many of the geologists around here do (that means collecting!). This ancient land is filled with a fascinating array of formations, rocks, pottery shards, and even arrowheads. If you spend some focused time scouring the land, you just might find some for yourself.
To learn about upcoming trips, simply check in at the Student Activity Center to get the most recent Outdoor Program offerings.
Did you know that six ski basins are within two hours of Santa Fe—and that our own Santa Fe Ski Basin is just fifteen miles uphill from campus? With 89 trails at 12,000 feet, Santa Fe Johnnies can literally ski in the morning and hit seminar in the evening!
If you’re looking for an official program to support your ski goals, the Outdoor Program offers a number of ski/board trips and snowshoeing adventures throughout the year. The trips are partially subsidized, but do require some fees from students. In addition, the St. John’s College Ski Club invites students to join them. The club is generally able to offer school-funded discounts as well as transportation to whatever basins the club chooses to visit.
For students on a budget, we recommend getting a local season pass early and purchasing your own used equipment at the Santa Fe Ski Swap or online. After your one-time investment in equipment, you would only have the annual cost of a pass, which tends to be very affordable in our region (approximately $300 for students), and transportation can be reserved through the Student Activity Center.
Common basins visited by Johnnies include the Santa Fe Ski Basin, the world-class Taos Ski Valley, which is just 90 minutes away, the massive Wolf Creek basin in Colorado, and our other local basins such as Pajarito and Sipapu.
Water in the desert? Yes, and we consider it a precious resource as well as an opportunity for great adventure. In fact, the Taos Box is considered one of the best whitewater rafting trips in the country, racing 16 miles through the 800-foot Rio Grande Gorge and offering over a dozen class IV rapids. For the most part, though, our water is calm and provides great opportunities for easy beginner floats. The Outdoor Program offers opportunities for both.
Whether you want an easy paddleboarding trip or a swim across Lake Abiquiu; a lazy float down the Orilla Verde or Corrales Bosque; an intermediate rafting adventure along the Rio Chama; a white-knuckled class IV rapid through the Taos Box; a day of fly fishing on the Pecos River; a meditative day of angling on Santa Cruz Lake; a day of kayaking on Heron Lake; or an ice-cold scuba diving trip into the Blue Hole, New Mexico’s water is waiting for you to both explore and respect—and the Outdoor Program can take you to any of them.
There are few places left in America where one can jump on a horse and ride without roads or fences to put an end to your adventure—let alone see wild horses riding the lonely range, looking for water. New Mexico is one of these rare places. (Fun fact: St. John’s College used to have our own horse stables right on campus!) If you want to saddle up and head out on the open range or through national forests, request that a trip be planned through our Outdoor Program or reach out to one of the many private outfitters in our area.
The Outdoor Program offers climbing experiences that can range from beginner to more advanced. The Program provides cost-free trips to local climbing gyms, which are great for beginners and those who want to practice their skills without venturing too far out into the wild. The Program also takes students to many of northern New Mexico’s best outdoor climbing spots. To find out where the next climbing trip is headed, visit the Student Activity Center for a full list of upcoming opportunities.