Southern New Mexico Day Trip Destinations

New Mexico Day Trips

There is beauty in simplicity in the graceful curve of a stark white dune or the smooth dome of a cave formation millions of years in the making. In the immense southern New Mexico desert, seemingly barren hills are transformed at sunset into moonscapes of shadow, light, and color. Southern New Mexico was one of the country’s last frontiers, and its simple charm can still be found in the lingering patches of unspoiled wilderness.

Bursting with geological contrast, southern New Mexico is home to the vivid Fort Stanton Cave, the glittering desert of White Sands National Monument, and the pristine Sacramento Mountains. The Lincoln National Forest and White Mountain Wilderness provide rugged vistas for sightseeing and exploring. In the town of Ruidoso, the strong streaming Rio Ruidoso was believed to contain magical healing powers by the area’s original residents, the Apache Indians.

These days southern New Mexico plays a key role in U.S. space exploration and defense research. Alamogordo’s Space Center Museum and Hall of Fame illustrate rocketry developments, including the experimental programs that take place at nearby White Sands Missile Range and NASA’s White Sands Test Facility.

Fauna and Flora

Lincoln County is located at an elevation of 6,500 – 8,500 feet. Ponderosa Pines, Pinion Pines, Oak, Juniper, Spruce and Douglas Firs are the predominant species of trees. The stable and lovely temperatures allow a wide range of wildlife and an abundance of spectacular wildflowers. Black bear, elk, deer, mountain lion, quail and wild turkey might be sighted in less populated areas. From the late spring to early fall, the land blooms with Columbine, Pennyroyal and New Mexico Groundsel.

Black bear are common in the area. Guidelines for being bear safe are available at our Resort. Bird watching and hunting are favorite pass time for many tourists visiting Ruidoso.

Fort Stanton Cave is worthwhile to pay a visit. Miles of amazing rock formations built over hundreds of years. You will be surprised.

Chile and Wine

For New Mexicans, chile is its own food group. New Mexicans celebrate their beloved chile with festivals, countless chile cook-offs and even an annual convention. Every New Mexican breathes chile, whether it be salsa and chips, green chile finely diced in a sandwich or burger, or a burrito smothered in red chile. Completed with a zip of a tasteful local wine.

Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium

Cowboys are special. Living in the promised land. Well, they all went to New Mexico. Billy the Kid once was the infamous outlaw of the area. Visit the abandoned ghost towns with doors and windows sagging on their hinges, paint peeling from weathered walls and scary ghosts dancing down a dust-filled street.

A special tribute for the cowboy heroes is organized annually by the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium. Pack your saddlebags and join them for a historic overnight ride through Lincoln County and the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation. Enjoy delicious Dutch oven meals prepared on chuck wagons.

Ski Cloudcroft

Ski Cloudcroft in the beautiful Sacramento Mountains offers challenging runs for every level but is ideal to introduce skiing to beginners and is perfect for family ski vacations.

Ski Cloudcroft is the country’s southernmost ski resort, located high above the Tularosa Basin and offering alpine and cross-country skiing, as well as night skiing and snow tubing. The mountain has an 8,400-foot base elevation and a 700-foot vertical ascent, with 25 routes served by two lifts. Ski Cloudcroft offers routes for skiers of all abilities, as well as ski courses and equipment rentals.

Ski Apache

Owned and operated by the Mescalero Apaches, Ski Apache is located on the north shoulder of Sierra Blanca Peak, sacred mountain of the tribe. The Peak rises over 12,000 feet and provides slopes with a challenge for every ability. It has some of the best warm-weather powder skiing in the world. Open from Thanks Giving through Easter.

Ski Apache, the country’s southernmost ski area, provides the best warm-weather powder skiing in the world, with snowmaking on 33% of the mountain. The slopes include a variety of wide beginner slopes, difficult bump runs, a large bowl, great cruising routes, and a terrain park with jumps, tubes, and rails.

The Very Large Array (VLA)

On the plains of St. Augustin, 49 miles west of Socorro, sits the world’s largest radio telescope listening for sounds from deep space. The array is comprised of 27 movable 210-ton dish antennas on three 12-mile rails. They are periodically arranged in different formations to cover diverse parts of the universe.

Three Rivers Petroglyph Site

Interested in a glimpse of the past? At this fascinating site, over 20,000 individual carvings lay strewn along the rocky terrain. While some carvings, such as the bighorn sheep, the scorpion, the hunter, and the rattlesnake can be easily recognized, some of the other etchings are less decipherable. This attraction is a must-see while visiting Lincoln.

Lincoln National Forest

Rugged, spectacular high country is the main feature of this forest area. The White Mountain Wilderness peaks at 11,500 feet at the tip of Sierra Blanca and is home to elk, deer, wild turkey, cougar and many other species of animal. Bonito Lake is famous for fishing and is stocked with trout annually. Many horse trails, shared with hikers, lead to the Rim Trail overlooking the desert floor from an average of 10,000 feet.

National Solar Observatory

South of Ruidoso in the Lincoln National forest lies the National Solar Observatory at Sunspot, where scientists study the sun. It’s beautifully located in the cool forest pines overlooking the vast Tularosa Basin. The Observatory is open 7 days a week during daytime hours for self-guided tours throughout the grounds. There is an interactive educational center for detailed information on the work done by scientists.

Trinity Site

Toward the north end of White Sands marks ground zero where the first atomic bomb was detonated at 5:30 am on July 16, 1945, ushering the Atomic Age. The site is open to the public only two days a year: the first Saturday in April and October.

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

From November until February tens of thousands of sandhill cranes, snow geese and other migratory birds fly in to rest before continuing their journey north at this 57,000-acre wetland preserve. If you have never experienced this many birds in flight, visit the refuge during the season; you’ll never forget it. The Bosque is one of our nation’s premier birding spots. South of Socorro.

Ruidoso Downs Race Track

Enjoy quarter horse and thoroughbred racing throughout the summer, including the All American Futurity with a purse of several million dollars.

Ruidoso Downs has hosted the World’s Richest Quarter Horse Race® since the All American Futurity was originally run on Labor Day in 1959, with a prize of $129,000. The Rainbow Futurity and Rainbow Derby were on track to become $1,000,000 events this summer.

The payouts for the Ruidoso Futurity and the Ruidoso Derby were scheduled to be $750,000 each. The Zia Festival offers over $1 million in payouts for New Mexico-bred Thoroughbreds and quarter horses. During this festival, vendors selling arts, crafts, and other items set up shop in the grandstand.

Sacramento Peak National Solar Observatory

Rising 13 stories above the ground, the vacuum telescope, specifically designed to cut through the atmosphere, is perched on the edge of Sacramento Peak, shimmering white in the glowing light of the sun, and can be seen from 50 miles away on the desert floor. Commonly called “Sunspot” by the locals, this is the premier solar observatory in the Americas and is open to the public. Just south of Ruidoso.

Smokey Bear Museum

The real Smokey Bear was found by a New Mexico game warden in 1950, an orphaned cub clinging to a charred tree after a 17,000-acre forest fire. Smokey is buried in the Smokey Bear State Historical Park in Capitan which houses a museum and gift shop.

The Space Center

From the rocket sled outside the entrance to the collection of historical space artifacts inside the International Space Hall of Fame, this museum will amaze visitors of every age. The five-story structure houses the technological discoveries and personal stories of the men and women who made space travel possible. Alamogordo.

White Sands National Monument

One of the great wonders of the world, these sparkling white gypsum sands cover over 275 square miles. One nature trail, the spectacular Big Dune Trail, is one mile long and has interpretive stops along the way. Lake Lucero is the genesis of the white sands producing millions of crystals that gradually grind themselves into gypsum. Guided tours are available.


The Museum of the Southwest pays special attention to the cowboys best friend. Rodeos and bull roping competitions are frequently organized and are an unforgettable experience. Make sure you do not miss them and take your camera along to take breath taking pictures.


Adjoining Alto Hombre Gordito is Lincoln National Forest with over 50 trails for hiking, biking, back packing and horse back riding. Descriptions of trails are available at Alto Hombre Gordito.

The official national Pecos Trail is extended with roads through New Mexico. One of those roads with stunning views is highway 37 where Alto Hombre Gordito is located.

Performing Arts

It’s been called an aristocrat among theaters, splendid, elegant, yet intimate and welcoming. Overlooking the Sacramento Mountains and Sierra Blanca peak, the Spencer Theater is located on a high mesa near Ruidoso. The theater opened in October 1997 and immediately assumed its position as an assertive arts, cultural and architectural landmark in New Mexico. Outstanding performances of highly celebrated national and international artists guarantee a varied program year round.

Bright Starry Nights and The Arts

The air in north-central New Mexico is so pure, colors look intense bright. Many artists settle down in areas like Ruidoso and Santa Fe, and are inspired by the beautiful and bright colors nature offers. Artists invite visitors in their ateliers. It is worthwhile to pay them a visit or to attend one of the many art exhibitions.

Take the opportunity and peak at the stars at night, the brightest of New Mexico. You may catch a falling star and have a wish come true.

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