The Southern Region
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The dramatic Organ Mountains form an eastern backdrop to New Mexico's second largest city and the lush Mesilla Valley that surrounds it, where the sun shines 350 days a year. Ask your innkeepers about the fascinating New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum, a working ranch depicting the role of agriculture in New Mexico since earlier times. Spend a day exploring the shops and restaurants around the Old Mesilla Plaza, where Billy the Kid was tried for murder. Your innkeepers can also recommend the best tee times at the four golf courses in this sunny college city, as well as the places to go for fresh Hatch green chile. New Mexico State University with several museums and galleries is located here, as is Stahmann pecan farms with its store and tours of its orchards and facilities.
Be sure to visit White Sands National Monument, perhaps another wonder of the world, a short 50-mile drive to the east. Then there's El Paso, Texas, hardly an hour to the south. Within two hours of Las Cruces are White Sands Missile Range and museum, Alamogordo, Holloman Air Force Base, Cloudcroft at 9,000 feet, Tularosa and its pistachio farms, Deming, and Silver City. Mexico is also less than a 2-hour drive away. Cuidad Juarez is across the Rio Grande River from El Paso, with Palomas only a few steps across the border from Columbus, just south of Deming. Pancho Villa attacked tiny Columbus in 1916.
Silver City Area, including Gila
Silver City was a mining town born from rich silver strikes. Today, it’s a friendly community with easy access to rich natural surroundings. In Silver City, view the Western New Mexico University Museum’s collection of Mimbres pottery and the Silver City Museum’s array of frontier artifacts. You’ll find quite a few art galleries in the historic downtown area, as well as numerous restaurants.
Discover how prehistoric cultures survived at the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, located in the Gila Wilderness, the first wilderness area designated by Congress. The 3.3 million acre Gila National Forest offers plenty of opportunity for outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing and hot springs.
Marvel at the Catwalk and Catwalk National Recreation Trail, which were developed in the 1930s when the Civilian Conservation Corps was assigned the task of rebuilding the Catwalk as a recreation attraction for the Gila National Forest. Whitewater Canyon, the site of the Catwalk and Catwalk National Recreation Trail, was a central point in the area’s mining saga and supplied the water needed to generate electricity for the mining town and the mining operations. The Catwalk was built along the water pipeline so that workers who walked the line could make needed and constant repairs. Today it’s a beautiful one mile walk along the steep rock walls of Whitewater Canyon, with a pleasant picnic area along Whitewater Creek.
Other area attractions include Mogollon Ghost Town, City of Rocks State Park, Rockhound State Park, and Shakespeare Ghost Town.
Lincoln County Area Including Ruidoso and Alto
Ruidoso, the largest town in Lincoln County, is situated at 6,900 feet in the Sacramento Mountains, among the southernmost of the Rockies.
Alto is approximately 10 miles north of mid-town Ruidoso on Highway 48. The surrounding Capitan and Jicarillo mountains also provide visitors with mountain vistas just about anywhere they look.
Perhaps one the best kept secrets in the Southwest, the Lincoln County area is rich in history. It has been home to Billy the Kid, the Lincoln County War, the Mescalero Apache tribe, Kit Carson, "Black Jack" Pershing, the Buffalo Soldiers, the world's richest Quarter Horse race and Smokey Bear.
Lincoln County is a tourist favorite because of its beautiful scenery, wonderful climate, special events all year round, art galleries, summer horse racing and superior winter skiing. Many visitors come from all around to ski at Ski Apache. Owned and operated by the Mescalero Apache Tribe, Ski Apache has New Mexico's largest lift capacity and is the largest ski area in the southern Rockies. Ski season runs from Thanksgiving until Easter each year. Even in the off-season visitors enjoy driving the 12 miles up to the ski area to take in the fabulous views. Visitors have seemingly endless choices for camping and hiking in the nearby mountains.
Ruidoso Downs Race Track boasts the richest Quarter Horse racing in the world with the $1 million All American Futurity. Racing begins in May and runs through Labor Day weekend.
After shopping and dining at the many choices in the area, check to see if tickets are available for performances at the fabulous Spencer Theater in Alto. This beautiful state-of-the-art performance hall is graced by the work of glass sculptor Dale Chihuly of Seattle. About five miles out on NM 220 after turning off from NM 48 in Alto, the theater is host to Broadway shows, plays, dance troupes, orchestras, and music from all over the world.