Basin and Range Scenic Byway

For a day trip with a smorgasbord of landscapes and stellar views, check out the Basin and Range Scenic Byway next time you are around Alamogordo, Tularosa, or Cloudcroft. Though the Basin & Range Scenic Byway isn’t an officially designated route, it is a beautiful day trip that I make time for whenever I am in the area. Perhaps someone with an formal title will “officially” designate it as scenic in the future?!?!

The drive, including side trips (Three Rivers Petroglyphs, Apache Point Observatory, and White Sands National Park), is approximately 184 miles. Technically, it takes just over 4 hours if you don’t slow your roll and get out of the car, which would defeat the purpose of embarking on this sojourn. If you have time, hiking one of the many gorgeous trails along the way enhances the experience. For those with limited time, the drive is 74 miles, under 2 hours drive time, without the side trips. There are plenty of prime overlooks on the route.

Tularosa Basin from Haynes canyon overlook
Tularosa Basin and White Sands from the Haynes canyon overlook.

Prepare for All Seasons

The 4300-foot differential between Alamogordo and Cloudcroft provides the opportunity to choose your climate and weather, like a Choose Your Own Adventure story. It is a great way to dial the environmental thermostat up and down. Too cold? Go down. Too hot? Go up. That can be leveraged throughout the year. Regardless of season, it is a good idea to layer for this day trip, because clothes tend to be put on or pulled off based on elevation and Mother Nature’s whims.

WILDLIFE WARNING: Wild herds of horses, elk, and deer are consistent road hazards in the Sacramento Mountains, particularly in the morning and evening.

Basin and Range Province

The scenery on this drive is a wonderful example of the basin and range topography that dominates the southwest corner of New Mexico, where lines of rugged, isolated mountain ranges run parallel, like worms wriggling north to south. The mountain ranges are separated by valleys composed of sediment washed down from the mountains. White Sands National Monument is one of the most spectacular, with gypsum dunes stretching to the horizon like waves.

Overall, the Basin and Range province covers approximately 1/3 of New Mexico, south of the Rocky Mountain region, extending into Arizona, Nevada, Mexico, and Texas, with the Rio Grande Rift forming the eastern border. The Sacramento Mountains are the eastern-most range. Overall, the Basin and Range province encompasses 5,836 named mountains.

New Mexico’s Basin and Range’s most distinguishing feature is the Rio Grande Rift, a zone of spreading in the continental crust. The rift extends from Colorado to Mexico. It began to form about 30 million years ago, but the rate of extension peaked around 10-16 million years ago. Though the rate of spread is very slow, the rift zone remains active today.

Tularosa Basin

The Tularosa Basin has been the site of an enormous amount of tectonic activity and transformation. The valley began to form millions of years ago. At the time, it was a bulge of sediment, leftovers from an ancient, shallow sea. The ground began to collapse and sink, fracturing on the eastern and western flanks. Over millions of years, the land sank thousands of feet below the surrounding ridges, with twin mountain ranges flanking the basin; the Sacramento Mountains on the east side and the San Andres on the west side.

Sunrise at White SandsWhite Sands National Park

One of the most well-known and visually magnificent features in the Tularosa Basin is White Sands National Park. White Sands National Park is the largest gypsum dune field in the world, covering 275 square miles. Gypsum is rarely found in sand form. It is water-soluble.

White Sands exists due to New Mexico’s dry climate and the Tularosa Basin’s lack of drainage to the sea. The dunes accumulated over millions of years, as wind and water eroded the gypsum deposits washed down from the San Andres Mountains, eventually grinding the crystals into fine, white sand.

Located about 16 miles south of Alamogordo, White Sands is a great environment to snap fabulous photos and create memories with family and friends. You can hike the dunes, sled the dunes, or just enjoy a peaceful picnic at one of the art-deco shelters for the day. The admission fee covers a week. Additionally, the visitor’s center provides a review of the area’s history, which is a juxtaposition of the ancient and the modern world. For example, fossilized footprints were found at White Sands; human prints coexisting with the prints of extinct ice age mammals and the U.S. Air Force has detonated and tested a variety of missiles and weapons systems. The Space Museum in Alamogordo provides a good background about the area’s role in missile systems and rocketry.

White Sands National Monument
19955 Highway 70 West
Alamogordo, NM 88310
(575) 479-6124

Sunset at White Sands
Due to the amount of sediment in the air over sand dunes, the sunsets are reliably impressive.

Sacramento Mountains

The Sacramento Mountains is the eastern boundary of the Rio Grande rift. The range can be divided into two sections. Most of the terrain above 7,500 feet is in the northern part of the range. A smaller southeastern sub-section is adjacent to the Guadalupe Mountains, outside of Carlsbad.

Geologically, the mountains formed along a wide east-sloping fault block, composed almost entirely of limestone. Though Sierra Blanca is the tallest peak, dominating the horizon from most vantage points, it was formed separately during a period of intense volcanic activity.

For more information about the area around Ruidoso, Lincoln, and Capitan, please check out the Billy the Kid Scenic Byway article.

Billy the Kid Scenic Byway

Human History

Humans have been wandering around the Tularosa Basin and Sacramento Mountains for thousands of years. Perhaps the fossilized footprints found at White Sands belonged to one of the people living in prehistoric rock shelters near High Rolls. When archaeologists surveyed the sites, they found an abundance of artifacts and deposits, reflecting centuries of sporadic occupation. The stored amaranth, tobacco, corn, acorns, piñon nuts, sunflower, yucca, agave, and mesquite revealed a lot about diet. In fact, the food storage predates other stashes found by centuries. In fact, with the discovery of early corn at the site, High Rolls Cave joins nearby Fresnal Shelter, Ventana Cave, and Bat Cave (by Caballo Lake), as one of the earliest sites of maize cultivation in the southwest.

Though Three Rivers Petroglyph Site is the most well-known Mogollon site in the basin, it isn’t the only one. Archaeologists have found small villages of Mogollon pit houses from the first century, as well as multi-room pueblos built in the 11th and 12th centuries. The artifacts and rock art imply trade and/or spiritual links with the powerful city-state empires that dominated southern Mexico at that time.

Inn of the Mountain Gods Apache Crown Dancers
Inn of the Mountain Gods, Apache Crown Dancers

Mescalero Apache to Modern Times

The Mescalero Apache arrived in the region centuries ago, prior to the Europeans. They were pushed south by bands of Comanche and Kiowa raiders in the north. However, they found their home in the Sacramento and San Andres Mountains. They crossed the basin between the dunes and the Carrizozo lava flow. Sierra Blanca in the Sacramento Mountains defined the eastern boundary of their homeland. Salinas Peak in the San Andres defined the western boundary.

The Mescalero frequently raided caravans traveling the trails between El Paso and Santa Fe. The route was hazardous. The Chiricahua Apache attacked the same trails from the west. In fact, until the late 19th century, and the establishment of a network of well fortified military outposts, the Apache made it hazardous for the Spanish, Mexicans, and Americans to establish permanent settlements in their homelands.

Ranching to Rockets

After the Mexican American war, the Apache faced adversaries on two fronts, the Mexican Army to the south and the American Army moving in from the east. The Americans were rapidly establishing forts from the 1840s through the 1860s. The forts defended the flood of homesteaders, prospectors, cattle barons, entrepreneurs, gunfighters, gamblers, opportunists, and drifters moving into the territory from the east. Many notorious names from western legends and lore made an appearance: Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, Albert Fountain, Oliver Lee, Doc Holiday, and the disgraced, former Secretary of the Interior, Albert Fall.

Over the last century, things have changed. Today, expansive cattle ranches co-exist with rocket testing grounds. Agriculture exists side-by-side with advanced aeronautics and weapons development. The first atomic bomb was detonated at Trinity Site, at the north end of the Tularosa Basin.

On that note, most of the basin west of US-54 is a Military No Fly Zone for drones.

Three Rivers petroglyphs
The Mogollon left over 20,000 images on a ridge of basalt boulders east of US-54, north of Tularosa.
Three Rivers Petroglyphs

Three Rivers Petroglyph Site is a hidden gem, often overlooked by visitors traveling to White Sands or Ruidoso. There is a basalt ridge, with over 20,000 petroglyphs dispersed across 50+ acres. The images are a tangible testament to the ancient inhabitants of the basin, those who lived and hunted the region long before the Apache or Europeans arrived. Named the Mogollon by the Spanish, they left an abundance of intricate images on the boulders, depicting humans, birds, fish, insects, plants, geometric and abstract designs.

Directions – Like many places in New Mexico, the signage on the highway is easy to miss. Located 17 miles north of Tularosa, 28 miles south of Carrizozo, the turn-off is next to the Three Rivers Trading Post (County Road B30). There is a eye-catching red school house on the road, visible from the highway. The site is approximately 5 miles down a paved road.

Las Cruces Field Office
1800 Marquess Street
Las Cruces, NM 88005
(575) 525-4300

Basin and Range Communities

There are several small, charming towns to check out on this route. From traditional Spanish settlements, like La Luz and Tularosa, to communities anchored in the 20th century, like Alamogordo. Small, family businesses are commonplace in these communities. Stopping to get gas, lunch, or groceries has a significant economic impact on the local economy.

McGinns Pistachio Alamogordo signAlamogordo

Alamogordo is the largest town in the Tularosa Basin, with a population of around 32,000. Though White Sands National Park is the biggest attraction in terms of travel and tourism, it isn’t the only attraction by far. It is a small town with ample dining, lodging, and shopping options, an outstanding place to establish base camp to explore the Tularosa Basin and Sacramento Mountains.

Founded as a railroad town, Alamogordo has evolved dramatically over the last century, from railroad town, surrounded by ranches, to a hub of science and engineering, with specialists from numerous fields creating the weapons of tomorrow. However, the trains whistles are still a consistent presence in the local soundtrack.

Alamogordo Visitor Center

1376 East Ninth Street
Alamogordo, NM 88310
(575) 439-4100

Travelers Guide to Alamogordo

Oliver Lee State ParkOliver Lee Memorial State Park

409 Dog Canyon Rd.
Alamogordo, NM 88310
Park Manager:
Landline: (575) 437-8284 | Cell: (505) 660-7381

Set against the dramatic Sacramento Mountains, Oliver Lee State Park features a historic ranch house, quiet camping, and pools of water under the cottonwood trees of Dog Canyon. Located 15-minutes south of Alamogordo on US-54, the park is named after Oliver Milton Lee, rancher, lawman, legislator, entrepreneur, and possibly the murderer of A.J. Fountain and his 8-year old son in the 1890s, one of southern New Mexico’s unsolved murders.

Red Sands

Bureau of Land Management
(575) 525-4300

Lots of people visit White Sands. Far fewer discover Red Sands, with is just east of White Sands. Red Sands is an OHV area, where you can do all the things that they won’t let you do at White Sands. Located approximately 20 miles south of Alamogordo on the west side of HWY 54.

New Mexico Museum of Space History

3198 State Route 2001, Alamogordo, NM
(575) 437-2840

New Mexico Museum of Space History rewards you with the sight of an authentic “moon rock" as well as rare replicas of the first man-made satellites, Sputnik and Explorer. Permanent exhibits showcase the the history of rocketry and its pioneers. Open 10 am to 4 pm Monday through Saturday. Closed Sundays.

Alamogordo Lodging

Classic Desert Aire Hotel
1021 S White Sands Blvd, Alamogordo, NM 88310
(575) 437-2110

Classic Desert Aire Hotel offers a variety of room and suite styles to accommodate leisure and business travelers. Pet-friendly. All rooms are non-smoking. Each guest room features comfortable king or queen beds, flat screen television, mini-fridge, microwave, and a coffee/tea maker, high-speed wireless internet in rooms and public areas, free parking, a guest laundry, and an on-site business center. Complimentary carryout breakfast provided.

Alamogordo Dining

D.H. Lescombes Winery & Bistro
261 Panorama Blvd, Alamogordo, NM 88310
(575) 616-5595

Lescombes collaborated with a Master Chef to create a menu that features epicurean food paired with Lescombes Vineyard’s award-winning New Mexico wines.

Our Country Kitchen
1201 N New York Ave, Alamogordo, NM 88310
(575) 434-3431

Great stop for breakfast or lunch in the downtown district on New York Avenue.

La Luz churchLa Luz

Founded in 1705, La Luz, Spanish for “the light,” is the oldest town in the Tularosa Basin. Located north of Alamogordo, in the western foothills of the Sacramento Mountains, it is a small, quiet village of adobe homes and artist’s studios. The homeland of the Mescalero Apache encompassed the area for several centuries, but their homelands were reduced to a reservation in the 20th century. The boundary of the reservation is approximately 30 miles northeast of La Luz.

Though La Luz existed for centuries prior to Alamogordo, the arrival of the railroad dramatically impacted the village. After the main railroad line to El Paso was completed in 1882, Charles Eddy and his partner, William Hawkins, financed a branch running north through the Tularosa Basin to pick up coal near White Oaks, with a short spur running east into the Sacramento Mountains to haul lumber back to the main line. The tracks into the Sacramento Mountains went through La Luz, climbing over 5000-feet within the span of a few miles to present-day Cloudcroft. Hawkins was charmed by the community, establishing a farm and large home which still stand.

La Luz potteryIn the early Twentieth Century, Rowland Hazard III (1882–1945), the heir of an industrial fortune from Rhode Island, stumbled upon La Luz while heading to California. After a couple of nights at the local lodge, he decided that he had found his place, establishing a large ranch and farm Fresnal canyon above La Luz. In the 1920s, he had the Coronado Lodge built as a hunting lodge in Cottonwood Canyon. He also established the La Luz Pottery Works after rich, fine clay deposits were found in La Luz Canyon. The pottery became well-known nationwide for manufacturing large pottery, clay roof tiles, and chimney pots, taking advantage of the popularity of Spanish Colonial Revival. In fact, the Coronado Lodge and the pottery works are outstanding examples of this type of architecture. The Tularosa Basin provides tours of the pottery works two Saturdays each month.


With a population of around 3000, Tularosa is a small town with an abundance of charm. Located on Rio Tularosa, the village is known for its cottonwood trees, as well as for local efforts to preserve the town’s heritage.

The original acequia (network of irrigation canals) provides the water for the trees, flowers, and landscaping that define Tularosa’s charm. The name was inspired by the rose-colored reeds that grow on the banks of the Rio Tularosa. The Rose Festival is held annually, usually the first weekend of May. The other major celebration is the Fiesta of St. Francis de Paula. The community is also known for their beautiful farolito display on Christmas Eve.

History of “Tuli”

Tularosa was founded by a group of Hispanic farmers from around Mesilla in 1862. It was notoriously difficult to establish villages in the area at that time, because it was the homeland of the Mescalero Apache. They didn’t want people moving into their territory. Two earlier attempts to settle near Rio Tularosa were dispelled quickly; however, repeated flooding on the Rio Grande inspired a third attempt in 1862. After successfully harvesting a bountiful crop, the men started bringing their wives and families to the area, a move towards permanence that provoked the Mescalero Apache. The inevitable showdown began on April 16, 1868, the Battle of Round Hill. Fighting between Apache warriors and 26 settlers, supported by soldiers from Fort Stanton lasted two days, with the Tularosa villagers ultimately prevailing. The villagers that had stayed behind had spent two days praying around a picture of St. Francis de Paula, a talisman brought to Tularosa by one of the community's founders.

The battle of Round Hill marked a turning point, with Tularosa coalescing into a vibrant community. The villagers fulfilled a promise made to St. Francis de Paula by building a church in his honor. Construction began in 1868, the same year they established peace with the neighboring Mescalero Apaches. The battle is commemorated annually during the San Francis de Paula Fiesta.

St Francis De Paula Parish
704 St Francis Dr
Tularosa, NM 88352
(575) 585-2793

Saint Francis de Paula church Tularosa



The Mescalero Apaches’ call themselves Shis-Inday, “People of the Mountain Forests,” or Mashgalénde / Mashgalé-neí / Mashgalé-õde, “People close to the mountains.” Spanish settlers referred to them as the Mescalero and neighboring Apache bands called them Mescalero Nadahéndé, “People of the Mescal.”  Both references are a testament to the historical importance of mescal agave in their ancestral diet. Groups of 8-12 women harvested the mescal agave in the Chihuahuan desert, south of the Sacramento Mountains. The tribe worked together to process it.

When the U.S. military established forts in the region in the mid-1800s to conquer the Apaches. They rounded up bands of Mescalero, dispatching them to Bosque Redondo in the 1860s, on a reservation shared with the Navajo. The Navajo and Apache are both Athabaskan people, but they had a contentious and complicated relationship in the past, sometimes allies, sometimes adversaries. Furthermore, the Apache were outnumbered by a significant margin, putting them at a distinct disadvantage.

Mescalero Apache Crown Dancers at Inn of the Mountain GodsMescalero Apache Reservation

The U.S. Army didn’t allow warriors to hunt, despite the shortage of food and fresh water. Prisoners were kept in cramped quarters, where smallpox and other communicable diseases flourished. Desperation and death set people against one another. Many of the Apache prisoners fled in 1865, returning to the Sacramento Mountains. When the U.S. Army tracked the down, they confined them in the camp square at Fort Stanton, establishing a separate reservation for them several years later.

President Ulysses S. Grant established the 463,000-acre Mescalero Apache Reservation on May 27, 1873. The reservation is located on the eastern flank of the Sacramento Mountains, encompassing most of Otero county, with a small, unpopulated swath extending into Lincoln county. It borders the Lincoln National Forest.

St. Joseph Apache Mission

The St. Joseph Apache Mission was built by a small crew of priests and volunteers led by Father Albert Braun, one of the last frontier priests in New Mexico. The small group of men used primitive tools to dig the foundation, sourcing most of the building materials locally. Though it took 20 years to complete, Mescalero parishioners started using the church years before it was officially dedicated. They held midnight Masses around Christmas bonfires under the stars, followed by traditional Apache dances.

St. Joseph Apache Mission in Mescalero
St. Joseph Apache Mission in Mescalero

The Mission was built in the form of a cross, 64 feet wide and 131 feet long, 50 feet to the rafters and 80 feet to the roof peak. The tip of the cross on the bell tower is 103 feet high and the bell tower walls are four feet thick at the base. Today the Mission remains an active parish church serving 385 families and thousands of visitors from around the world.

Mescalero Apache Reservation
P.O. Box 227
Mescalero, NM 88340
(575) 464-4494

St. Joseph Apache Mission Church
PO Box 187
626 Mission Trail
Mescalero, NM 88340
Parish Office: (575) 464-4473
Restoration Office: (575) 464-4539

St Joseph Apache Mission interior
St Joseph Apache Mission

Mexican Trestle train tracks by Cloudcroft New Mexico
Sunrise at the Mexican Trestle outside of Cloudcroft.


With a population of hundreds, rather than thousands, tourism has always been the economic heartbeat of Cloudcroft. At 8700-feet above sea level, the charming village provides respite from the summer heat for visitors escaping the heat of surrounding high desert and plains. It isn’t unusual for there to be a 30-degree difference between Cloudcroft and Alamogordo, 16 miles to the west. June through August have average highs in the 70s, often with partly cloudy skies and afternoon rain showers.

Like Alamogordo, Cloudcroft was founded by Charles and John Eddy, major investors on the El Paso and Northeastern Railroad. They needed railroad ties and lumber, so they hired an engineer to map out a rail spur into the forests of the Sacramento Mountains. The route was known as “The Cloud Climbing Railroad,” a scenic ascent of 5000-feet, from the stark plains of the basin to dense forests, deep canyons, and wildflower covered meadows in the neighboring peaks. The investment yielded a two-fold return. The Eddy brothers profited from their milling operations and they established a robust travel and tourism industry outside of Alamogordo. They started construction in 1898 and started transporting passengers in 1900.

The Lodge in Cloudcroft
The Lodge in Cloudcroft.
Resort & Retreat

The Pavilion was built at the summit to welcome visitors, with a dining room, kitchen, parlor, entertainment hall, and 40 tents for overnight guests. Concurrently, The Lodge was built as an upscale lodging alternative, becoming a popular retreat for the affluent. Over the years, they hosted numerous famous and infamous guests, including Clark Gable, Judy Garland, and Pancho Villa. Conrad Hilton, the founder of the Hilton Hotel chain, was the property manager in the 1930s. He worked at the Lodge while he was getting his first hotels launched. Though the property burned several times over the years, it was rebuilt each time according to the original plans. The Lodge is still a wonderful place to stay. It even has a resident ghost, Rebecca Porter.

For the first 50 years of Cloudcroft’s existence, the train was the only way to get to the village. The first road was opened in the middle of the 1940s, which dramatically reduced rail travel. Ultimately, the train discontinued service in 1948, with most (not all) of the track dismantled. — taking away much of the train’s logging and excursion business. The train discontinued service to the village in 1948.

Annual Events

Cloudcroft hosts three annual festivals. May Fair is Memorial Day weekend. It is the start of the summer tourist season. The weekend after 4th of July is the July Jamboree, the smallest and newest of the three festivals. The third event, Oktoberfest, is celebrated in October, often coinciding with the aspens turning gold.

Apache PointSunspot/Apache Point

Jointly operated by New Mexico State University (NMSU) and the U.S. National Solar Observatory (NSO), Sunspot Solar Observatory (SSO) was designed to study the sun. The 250-acre installation is located on a mountain ridge in the Lincoln National Forest. The Sunspot Astronomy and Visitor Center provides an interactive astronomical experience, with activities, displays, and exhibits. There is no food available on site, and the only water on site is from fountains in the Visitors Center. Visitors are provided with a walking tour brochure. The tour is a half mile loop around the grounds.

The vantage point is fantastic, with expansive views of Apache Point Observatory and Sloan Digital Sky Survey telescopes perched on the ridge, with White Sands National Park gleaming below, a blanket of white across the tan desert. On a clear day, you can see the distinctive peaks of the Organ Mountains by Las Cruces, El Paso, Texas, and Juárez, Mexico to the south, and Trinity test site to the north. The overlook is also front row seating for rocket launches from White Sands Missile Range.

Sunspot Solar Observatory
3001 Visitor Center Rd Drive,
Sunspot, NM 88349
(575) 434-7190

Directions: The Sunspot facility is located approximately 18 miles south of Cloudcroft, on the Sunspot Scenic Byway. There are signs for each planet in the solar system along the route, scaled to represent the distance between each planet and the sun.

Basin and Range outdoor recreationOutdoor Recreation


Silver Saddle and Apache campgroundsApache Campground

There are 25-sites at Apache campground in a mixed conifer/aspen forest environment. 8,900-foot elevation provides respite from summer heat on the desert floor. Tables, fire rings, parking, toilets, central garbage depository, and interpretive trails are available. Tents and RVs up to 30 feet in length are permitted. No hook ups available.

Aspen Group Campground

Aspen Group Campground is available by reservation only and can accomodate up to 70 people. Mixed evergreen/aspen forest surrounds this developed group area with access to vault toilets, campfire pits, grills, picnic tables and a covered pavilion. There is access to nearby trails and the Village of Cloudcroft. No RV's over 30-feet.

Black Bear Group Campground

Black Bear Group Campground is available by reservation only. The campground can accomodate up to 70 people, with an open, grassy area for sports. There is a covered pavilion, vault toilets, campfire pits, grills and picnic tables at the campground. No RVs over 26-feet.

Deerhead campground
Deerhead campground.
Deerhead Campground

Located right outside of Cloudcroft, there are 19-sites at Deerhead Campground. The trailhead for the Rim Trail is across the road. Tables, fire rings, pedestal grills parking spurs, toilets, central garbage depository are available. RVs limited to 25-feet. No reservations allowed. First come, first served.

Dog Canyon Dispersed Campground

Operated by the Bureau of Land Management, campsites are on a first come, first served basis. Open year round. There are a dozen or more spots here with several spots able to accommodate any size rig. Smaller spots located throughout the area offer a bit more privacy. Camping area is located off Dog Canyon Road about five minutes off Highway 54. The first entrance to the area is your best entry point. Fewer ruts. The second entrance is pretty treacherous. Boondocking, with no water or hookups available.

Lower Fir Group Campground

Available by reservation only. The campground can accommodate groups up to 70 people. A covered pavilion, 8 picnic tables, 2 fire rings, bathrooms, drinking water faucet, and garbage depositories are provided. RV's limited to 30-feet. Not much in the way of shade either.

Oliver Lee State Park campground.
Oliver Lee Campground

Set against the dramatic Sacramento Mountains, this park features a historic ranch house, quiet camping in the Chihuahuan Desert, and pools of water under the cottonwood trees of Dog Canyon. Springs flow year-round and ferns cling to the sides of mossy rocks. Oliver Lee’s home at Dog Canyon Ranch has been completely rebuilt from ruins. It is authentically furnished providing visitors with a glimpse of Lee’s life at the ranch. The house is open to the public by guided tour only. RV and tent camping, with water and electric hookups (15 30 amp, 1 ADA 50 amp). 24 campsites, 8 with tent pads.

Pines Group Campground

Pines Group Campground is NE of Cloudcroft, with 24-sites. 21 are single units, 2 are double units, with 1 triple unit site. Douglas and white fir forest offers escape from desert heat to tent campers and large groups, good access to trails for hiking. Tables, fire rings, parking spurs, toilets, central garbage depository available. Tents are allowed. Maximum length of 35-feet for RVs. Campground connections to trails, including the Osha Trail. Stunning views of the Mexican Canyon Trestle and Tularosa Basin.

Saddle Campground

16-sites for tents or RVs. Tables, fire rings, parking spurs, toilets, showers, central garbage depository, plus interpretive trails are available. 30' RV limit.

Silver Lake Campground

No reservations. RV or tent camping, with day passes for fishing. Day-use available as well.

Sleepy Grass Campground

Located just south of Cloudcroft, Sleepy Grass campground offers 15-sites, of which 2 are doubles, and three are triples. 30' RV limit.

Slide Group Campground

Slide Group Campground has a 90-person capacity. Parking is limited to approximately 12 trailers or 50 automobiles. Mixed evergreen & aspen surround the site and there is access to the National Recreation Rim Trail . The site also has a pavilion with tables, fire rings, toilets, and garbage depositories. Available by reservation only. RVs limited to 35-feet.

Upper Fir Group Campground

Reservations required. The campground can accommodate groups up to 120 people. Covered pavilion, 12 tables, two fire rings, toilet, drinking hydrant, and garbage depositories are provided. RV limited to 30-feet.

Mountain Biking, Hiking, and Horseback Riding

There are so many opportunities to get away from power lines and people. It is hard to condense into one section of a a larger article. Here's a sampler for outdoor enthusiasts, with a few waterfalls worth visiting.

Alamogordo overlook

Alamo Peak Trail

The Alamo Peak trail is 3 miles long. It begins at FR 64D and ends at FR 90. The trail is open for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and motorcycle trail riding. No ATV’s or UTV’s.

Alamo Canyon Trail

The Alamo Canyon trail is 7.3 miles long. It begins FR 90 and ends at the mouth of Alamo Canyon in Alamogordo. The trail is open for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and motorcycle trail riding. No ATV’s or UTV’s.

Bluff Springs in the Sacramento Mountains
Bluff Springs waterfall.
Bluff Springs Recreation Area(WATERFALL)

Partially developed picnic and dispersed camping area next to Bluff Springs waterfall. Short trail just beyond the bridge that will take you up the bluff. You can follow it back to the spring. There is also a connection to the Willie White Trail, which follows an old railroad grade east. More on that below.

Bridal Veil Falls Trail(WATERFALL)

Located just NW of the Village of High Rolls, this trail connects into the Grandview and Salado Canyon trails. Parking can be found at the trailhead for the Grandview Trail. Follow 162C NW out of High Rolls. About 1.5 miles down the road you will see a trailhead and parking area for the Grandview Trail to the west. The trailhead for the Bridal Veil Falls Trail is across the road to the east. Additional access for this trail can be found about 1 mile further down the road at the parking area for the Salado Trail. Walk down the power line road until you find the old railroad grade. Follow this trail east for about 1 mile and the trail will transition into T129. Hiking only.

Grand View Trail

The Grand View trail is an easy trail. It is 1.3 miles long, beginning and ending at Forest Road 162C just north of High Rolls. Open for hiking and horseback riding.

La Pasada Encantada Trail

The La Pasada Encantada Trail is 0.4-mile long interpretive trail for both the sighted and visually impaired. It is an easy hike located just south of Cloudcroft and offers regular interpretive signs as well as signs in Braille. The path of the trail is bordered by railroad ties allowing for easy use for those using assistive canes. It begins at Forest Road 24B at a trailhead immediately adjacent to the Sleepy Grass Campground and loops back to the starting point. No horses, mountain bikes, or motorized vehicles. The road up to trailhead is not plowed during the winter and so access to the trail during winter months may not available.

Osha Trail

The Osha trail is 2.2 miles long. It begins and ends at US 82, just north of Cloudcroft. Easy hike. Open to hikers only. No mountain bikes, motorized vehicles, or horses.

Rim Trail Parking Area/Trail Head

The National Recreation Rim Trail is 31.2 miles long. It begins at the southern end of the Village Of Cloudcroft along NM130 and ends 31.2 miles later at the Sacramento River Road south of Sunspot. The first 0.73 miles (to Slide Campground) is non-motorized with the rest of the trail open to motorcycles. Multiple trailheads along the route for shorter day-hikes. The trail is open for Hiking, Horseback Riding, Mountain Biking, Motorcycle Trail Riding.

Salado Trail near La Luz
Salado Trail near La Luz.
Salado Canyon Trail

Located near High Rolls, the Salado Canyon Trail is a moderate trail constructed along portions of the abandoned Alamogordo and Sacramento Mountain Railroad grade. Volunteers have restored a train trestle of approximately 110 feet that spans a creek, allowing a unique opportunity to ‘tread the train trestle’.

Take US82 to High Rolls, NM. Turn north onto FS Road 162C (turn at Post Office sign). Continue 2.7 miles until you see a small parking area on the right. It is where the powerline crosses the road. Hike down about .1 miles to the trail. You can vcross the reconstructed Salado Canyon Trestle (a railroad bridge) or hike to the Bridal Veil Falls trail, where there is a small waterfall next to the trail.

Switchback Trail

The Switchback trail (named for the railroad switchback this trail follows) is 3.2 miles long. It begins at the Old Cloudcroft Highway trail and ends at Bailey Canyon (FR 206). Find this trail head at Bailey Canyon, about 1 mile north of Cloudcroft on US82. Most of the trail follows the old train route. No motorized vehicles allowed.

Taylor Canyon Trail

The Taylor Canyon trail is 2.0 miles long. It begins at County Road C14 (Rio Penasco Rd) and ends at the Schofield / Benson Canyon trail (T5007C). The trail is open for the following uses: Hiking, Horseback Riding, Mountain Biking, Motorcycle Trail Riding, Off Highway Vehicles (OHV) less than or equal to 50 inches wide.

The Indian Wells

The Indian Wells trail is a 1.2-mile, moderately challenging out-and-back trail in Alamogordo. It takes about 35-minutes to complete. The trail is well-marked, with a variety of terrain and some steep uphill marches. The trail head is located at the New Mexico Museum of Space History. Excellent view of Alamogordo, making it an outstanding vantage point for sunset. There is no shade along the way. Apply sun protection and tote plenty of water.

Mexican Trestle train tracks by Cloudcroft New Mexico
Mexican Trestle train tracks by Cloudcroft New Mexico.
Trestle Depot Recreation Area

Located at the west end of the Village of Cloudcroft, the Trestle Recreation Area offers a day-use picnicking site with access to popular area trails. Water, restroom facilities, interpretive information, access to trails, picnic sites. This is a day-use facility only.

Tunnel Vista Trail/Aquatic Dwellings (WATERFALL)

The half mile trail starts at the overlook between Alamogordo and Cloudcroft. It is short, but a steep descent/ascent. The payoff is a waterfall, which is less than a 15 minute hike from the overlook parking area.

Park west of the tunnel and walk towards tunnel. The trail is across from the “lights on for safety” sign. Stay high along the rock wall. People get off the trail all of the time, which makes getting up and down much more challenging and potentially dangerous.

Willie White Trail

The Willie White Trail is 5.2 miles long. It begins just west of Bluff springs along CR-C17 (Rio Penasco Road) and ends at the Wills Canyon trail. The trail is open for: Hiking, Horseback Riding, Mountain Biking, Motorcycle trail riding, Off Highway Vehicles (OHV) less than or equal to 50" wide. All or most of this trail follows the old steam engine route.

Zinker Canyon Trail

The Zinker Canyon Trail is 2 miles long. It begins at FR 5593 and ends at FR 5660. The trail is open for: Hiking, Horseback Riding, Mountain Biking, Motorcycle Trail Riding.

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