Recently I took a poll on social media to figure out which scenic byway I should write up next. I limited the poll to seven options. Billy the Kid Scenic Byway received the fewest votes. You may wonder why I am writing it up? Well, I figure the lack of votes correlates to a lack of awareness. I enjoy highlighting places that are overlooked. It is one of twenty six New Mexico Scenic Byways, and one of eight that have earned National Scenic Byway distinction.

Billy the Kid Scenic BywayThe Billy the Kid Scenic Byway

The Billy the Kid Scenic Byway was the stomping ground of many of the well-known characters and events associated with the “Old West.” It was home to Billy the Kid, the Mescalero Apache nation, Kit Carson, “Black Jack” Pershing, the Buffalo Soldiers, and Smokey Bear. A fingerprint, carbon-dated to be roughly 28,000 years old, was discovered in a cave 70-miles south of Ruidoso.

Members of the Paleo-Indian cultures converged in the area between 9000 B.C. and 6000 B.C. to hunt the woolly mammoth and the now-extinct species of bison that roamed the area. This area was the backdrop for the Lincoln County War. Ruidoso Downs hosts the world’s richest quarter horse race and the Spencer Theatre is a world class arts and entertainment venue. There are two prominent mountain ranges in the Lincoln National Forest, the Sacramento Mountains to the south and the Capitan Mountains to the north. These ranges define the horizon on the byway, providing beautiful views, and a plethora of trails and camping options.

Billy the Kid Interpretive Center

Start at the Billy the Kid Interpretive Center in the town of Ruidoso Downs for an orientation and a good selection of the obligatory travel brochures and maps. The Hubbard Museum of the American West is next to the visitor’s center. Life-size bronze horses gallop through the garden, recognition of the role of horses in the west. The museum’s exhibits include antique firearms and stagecoaches, Indian art, and the Stradling Collection of bridles, saddles and other items that provide insight into the life of the early settlers in the American West and the many hazards and hardships they faced.

The 84-mile Billy the Kid National Scenic Byway loops through grassy plains and pine forests, passing through the towns of Ruidoso, Ruidoso Downs, Hondo, San Patricio, Lincoln and Capitan, with an optional side jaunt to Fort Stanton. Technically the drive takes a couple of hours, but plan for at least a half day or full day if you want to enjoy the sights at a leisurely pace.

Communities on the Billy the Kid Scenic Byway

Ruidoso Downs

The official visitor’s center is located in Ruidoso Downs, (575) 378-5318. The center showcases the region’s history and provides information about communities and sights along the route. The Hubbard Museum of the American West, a Smithsonian affiliate with an impressive collection of Old West Memorabilia, is next door to the visitor’s center and sets the tone for the exploration ahead.

Ruidoso Downs is the home of the richest race in American Quarter Horse racing, the All-American Futurity. The racing season runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Ruidoso Downs also hosts the Lincoln County Cowboy Symbosium the second week of October. The event gathers the world’s finest cowboy poets, musicians, chuck wagon cooks, and artisans.

San PatricioSan Patricio

The small town of San Patricio was once a favorite hangout of Billy the Kid. Evidently, the community hosted a lot of dances in the 1870s and Billy was fond of dancing. This section of the drive, which passes by the orchards and farms of the Hondo Valley has bucolic beauty, with a rich ranching history. Today, San Patricio is a vibrant artists community, a tradition ensconced by Peter Hurd and Henrietta Wyeth. The family’s Sentinel Ranch is open to visitors. Peter’s son Michael oversees the ranch. There are multiple guest houses available for overnight stays, as well as the Hurd-Rinconada Gallery, with artwork by members of both Hurd and Wyeth family dynasties.

During the harvest season, the San Patricio Berry Farm has a farm stand with fresh berries or apples. They also allow visitors to pick their own. San Patricio is also home to a Benedictine spirituality center, San Patricio Retreat Center. The Catholic church was built in 1875 and named La Iglesia de San Patricio after Saint Patrick. It is the oldest church in the Hondo valley. They built the one-room church with wood and stucco. Recent renovations have returned the church to its former glory.

Hondo

Spanish settlers from the Rio Grande valley founded the community in the 1880s, after the U.S. Army had subdued the Mescalero Apache and raids became less frequent. They originally called it La Junta, meaning “the junction,” because the Rio Bonito and the Rio Ruidoso merge at the site. Later, it was renamed Hondo, meaning “deep,” still inspired by the river’s confluence. An old apple warehouse located in Hondo was the studio of iconic Southwest artist Luis Jimenez until he passed away in 2006.

Jimenez’s fiberglass sculptures can be found internationally, but a fine collection of them is housed not far off the Billy the Kid Scenic Byway, at Roswell’s Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art. The Hondo Iris Farm ships irises of every color nationwide. They welcome visitors during the spring bloom, from May 1 through May 31. If you didn’t grab food in Ruidoso and don’t want to wait until you get to Lincoln, try Tinnie Silver Dollar.

Sign outside of LincolnLincoln

It is hard to imagine that this quiet, peaceful town was the scene of one of New Mexico’s most violent frontier confrontations. The Lincoln State Monument manages nearly 2 dozen historic buildings, most of which are representative of the Territorial architectural style of the era. The Lincoln County War began when John Tunstall opened a mercantile in Lincoln, challenging the monopoly of a local general store run by James Dolan and backed by a cadre of corrupt friends, henchmen and political allies. Billy the Kid became embroiled in the ensuing battle. Interpretive materials in the Tunstall store, courthouse, and other buildings chronicle the battles, allowing visitors to follow in the footsteps of the fateful events that led an orphaned outlaw to an early grave and enduring notoriety.

Lincoln County was founded in 1869, a few years after the Civil War. It was once the largest county in the United States. After the Mexican American war, there was a massive influx from the east; settlers, ranchers, trappers, gamblers, prospectors, opportunists and outlaws. Law enforcement, judges, wealthy merchants, and ranchers wielded enormous political power. Corruption was rampant.

Michael Wallis described the New Mexico Territory as sparsely populated but accounting for “at least 15 percent of all murders in the nation.” Wallis wrote that by 1880:

 “the homicide rate in the New Mexico Territory was forty-seven times higher than the national average, with gunshot wounds as the leading cause of death. Much of that violence occurred in Lincoln County.”

Tunstall Store in LincolnLincoln County War

The Tunstall Store was the epicenter of the conflict. The murder of the owner, John Tunstall, provoked the conflict. Billy the Kid’s loyalty to John Tunstall fueled a determination to exact vengeance, which he did, with several others at his side. There are wooden crosses behind the store marking the graves of two of the men killed during the gunfight.

Lincoln isn’t a ghost town, but most of the buildings have a story to tell. There are no strip malls or internet cafes. Cell phone reception is spotty the moment you leave town. Lincoln is frozen in time. The entire town is a historic site.

Read more about Billy the Kid

Read more about the Lincoln County War

Historic Lodging

Wortley Hotel

Dolan House B & B

Fort Stanton

Between Lincoln and Capitan, there is a turn off on Hwy 220 to Fort Stanton. Within a few miles of turning off, the road passes the Fort Stanton-Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area. Congress established the conservation area in 2009 to protect, conserve, and enhance the unique and nationally important historic, cultural, scientific, archaeological, natural, and educational subterranean cave resources of the Fort Stanton – Snowy River Cave system.

Snowy River cave systemFort Stanton Cave

Fort Stanton Cave, at over 31 miles, it is the second longest cave in New Mexico, the 14th longest cave in the US, the 62th longest in the world, and the largest cave managed by the BLM. The Snowy River cave is a branch of the Fort Stanton Cave, named based on the white calcite stream bed that lines the cave floor. Snowy River is not open to the public, but other caves can be accessed with a permit. They close the caves during the winter to protect hibernating bats. Contact the BLM Roswell Field office for permits.

The entrance to Fort Stanton is less than a mile from the turnoff to the Snowy Rivers Conservation Area. The Fort Stanton Museum provides details about the fort’s lengthy, complex history. It is open daily from 10 am – 4 pm. The grounds are always open. Free admission. Visitors can explore the cemetery or more than 60 miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding, including the 2-mile Rio Bonito Petroglyph National Recreation Trail.

Chuck Schmidt, Field Manager
(575) 627-0272
[email protected]

History of Fort Stanton

One of the most intact 19th century forts in the country, Fort Stanton was home to many who made their mark in American history including Kit Carson, John J. “Blackjack” Pershing, and the Ninth Cavalry Regiment of Buffalo Soldiers. Billy the Kid, during one of his frequent visits to the jails in the area, did a stint in the Fort Stanton guardhouse. They named the fort after Captain Henry W. Stanton. He was killed fighting Apaches in 1855 near present day Mayhill.

Soldiers of the 1st Dragoon and the 3rd and 8th Infantry Regiments built Fort Stanton in 1855 to protect the waves of incoming settlers, ranchers and prospectors from the Mescalero Apache. When the Apache Wars subsided in the late 1880s, troops were reassigned elsewhere, with a skeleton crew maintaining the fort. It was decommissioned in 1898. President William McKinley transferred Fort Stanton property from the War Department to the Marine Hospital Service in 1899, opening America’s first federal tuberculosis sanatorium. About 5000 merchant marines received treatment at Fort Stanton between 1899–1953. The Merchant Marine Cemetery was the final resting place for patients who perished.

Fort Stanton bannerWWII Concentration Camp

During the Great Depression, Fort Stanton was home to a CCC work camp, which was later used as a detention facility during WWII for over 400 German nationals taken from the luxury liner Columbus in 1939. The boat was scuttled off the east coast of the U.S. to keep it out of the hands of the British. All of the sailors were rescued. Our U.K. allies weren’t keen to send skilled naval men back to Germany during a time of war. Since the United States wasn’t involved in the conflict at the time, the Germans were deemed “distressed seamen paroled from the German Embassy.” I am not sure what that means, but they were sent to New Mexico to sit out the war.

The POWs planted a large vegetable garden. They built a recreation hall for the ship’s orchestra to perform. They staged swimming competitions with the locals. Given the brutality of WW2, and the prospect of being sent to the Eastern Front, the Germans didn’t fare badly.

When the U.S. entered the war, a group of German and Japanese Americans were transferred to Fort Stanton on March 10, 1945. The “enemy aliens” were mostly immigrant residents of the U.S. who had been taken into custody as suspected saboteurs. Most of the detainees were held without due process, with no evidence provided, and no day in court. The 31 German American internees labeled “troublemakers” by the Department of Justice were kept separate from the 17 Japanese American “troublemakers.” The latter were deported to Japan in late 1945.

Fort StantonLos Lunas Hospital and Training School

In 1953, Fort Stanton and 27,000 acres were transferred to the State of New Mexico. By 1966, the demand for tuberculosis hospitals waned. The facility became a branch of Los Lunas Hospital and Training School for the mentally handicapped, operating under the New Mexico Department of Health. When that program ended in 1995, it was used briefly as a low security women’s prison and, later, housed several juvenile, drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs. When the State moved to dispose of the property in the mid-nineties, a nonprofit was set up to protect the fort and to preserve the history.  In 2007 Fort Stanton became a State Monument.

Read more about Fort Stanton

Capitan

Capitan was founded in the 1890s. It is currently home to approximately 1500 people. The most famous resident is not a human. Smokey Bear, the real world embodiment of the forest service’s fire prevention campaign, was born in the mountains near Capitan.

In 1950 a wildfire in the nearby Capitan Mountains left an orphaned bear cub’s paws and hind legs badly burned. A New Mexico Department of Game and Fish ranger took the cub to Santa Fe where he was nursed back to health. News quickly spread, with people nationwide following the tiny cub’s progress. The state game warden offered the cub to the Forest Service, with the agreement that the bear would be used for a conservation and wildfire prevention program.

The Forest Service was using the Smokey Bear campaign by 1944. The tiny cub from Capitan become the living embodiment of the campaign. He lived at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. for 26 years. He received so much mail that he was given his own zip code. When Smokey died in 1976, he was returned to his home to be buried at the Smokey Bear Historical Park. The park has several exhibits highlighting Smokey’s life, career, and the fire prevention campaign that made him a legend. The Smokey Bear restaurant in Capitan is a good dining option if your stomach is growling when you arrive.

Smokey BearAlto

The most prominent structure in the tiny community of Alto is the Spencer Theater for the Performing Arts, a 22-million dollar gift to the community from Dow Jones heiress Jackie Spencer and her husband. Opened in 1997, the Spencer Theater is a year-round venue for world-class performances in theater, music, and dance.

The Mescalero Apache lands border Alto. A side trip west on New Mexico 532 leads to Ski Apache on top of Sierra Blanca. The peak of Sierra Blanca soars to over 12,000 feet. It is the tallest peak in southern New Mexico and Ski Apache is the country’s southernmost ski area. Average annual snowfall is over 15 feet. The resort provides a mix of beginner slopes, tough bump runs, a huge bowl, cruising runs and a terrain park with jumps, tubes and rails. Ski Apache is the launching point for the Wind Rider, one of the longest zip lines in the world. The Wind Rider is a three-span zip line launching from over 11,000 feet. It takes approximately 90 minutes to traverse. For an unforgettable experience, take the sunrise or sunset zip.

Ruidoso signRuidoso

Of the communities on the Billy the Kid Scenic Byway, Ruidoso has the most options for dining, lodging, groceries, gas, good coffee, golf courses, galleries and any other urban amenities that you may need during your road trip. Situated high in the Rocky Mountains, Ruidoso is a year-round destination for outdoor recreation and a popular reprieve from the summer heat for people in southern New Mexico and west Texas. Tourism is the lifeblood of the community.

Ruidoso is named after the river that runs through its heart. It is the fourth-fastest growing city in New Mexico, after Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, and Las Cruces. Sierra Blanca Peak is the tallest peak in southern New Mexico. Ski Apache, on top of Sierra Blanca, is New Mexico’s southernmost ski area. Grindstone Lake is in Ruidoso and Bonito Lake is on the way to Capitan. There are numerous streams for fly fishing and trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. If you want to experience the beauty via horse, contact Grindstone Stables.

In addition to a treasure trove of outdoor activities, the Harris Poll has recognized the Ruidoso Art Festival, held annually in late July, as one of the most outstanding juried art shows in the Southwest.

Ruidoso didn’t exist during Billy the Kid’s lifetime; however, two of his friends were killed in the area and, on one of his many stints as a fugitive, he hid out at Old Dowlin Mill, one of the last working water-powered mills in the Southwest.


Billy the Kid National Scenic Byway

791 U.S. Highway 70
Ruidoso Downs, NM 88346
(575) 378-5318

Environment

The altitude along the Billy the Kid Trail ranges from 6,500 to 7,000 feet above sea level. There are few, if any, seasonal limitations. All of the roadways are paved, and snow is cleared in the wintertime when there is significant accumulation.

Although there’s skiing in the area in winter, the best time for a scenic drive is summer, when average temperatures hover between 77°F (25°C) and 82°F (28°C). It’s also a pleasant time to enjoy hiking and fly-fishing in the surrounding national forest.

Lincoln county back roadAnnual Events

April

Trinity Site Tour | The Trinity site is the location of the first atomic bomb explosion on earth. White Sands Missile Range. (575) 678-1134, (575) 541-2444

May

Hondo Iris Festival | May 1-31, 2018 |  Stop by to see a stunning variety of Irises in bloom, creating a cheerful cacophony of color.

Ruidoso Downs Race Track Season | May 25-September 3, 2018 | The Ruidoso Downs weekly racing schedule is Friday through Monday with a 1 pm first post time.

July

Smokey Bear Stampede | July 4-8, 2018 | The nation’s largest open rodeo weekend includes four nightly rodeos, two-day ranch rodeo, youth ranch rodeo, kid’s rough stock rodeo, cook-off, kids events, and nightly dances. On July 4th, enjoy a full day of Independence celebration with a BBQ cook-off, mutton bustin’, goat roping, evening rodeo, fireworks, and a dance.

Mescalero Apache Ceremonial Dances | July 4-7, 2018 | Annual event to witness the coming of age ceremony of Mescalero Apache maidens. Ceremonial dances, a rodeo, and arts and crafts. The fireworks display at Inn of the Mountain Gods on the 4th is always spectacular.

Apache chessLincoln County Art Loop Studio Tour | July 6-8, 2018 | Visit over 20 Lincoln County artists’ studios during the annual Art Loop and meet over 30 artists.

Fort Stanton Live! | July 14, 2018, from 9am-4pm | Annual event that brings costumed re-enactors from the Civil War and Indian Wars era to the Fort for demonstrations, presentations, a concert and a military ball.

Ruidoso Art & Wine Festival | July 27-29, 2018 |  Over 100 of the nation’s most talented artists.

August

Old Lincoln Days | Enjoy a weekend of folk pageants with re-enactors portraying Billy the Kid’s last escape and the notorious Lincoln County War. Admission is $6 for adults and $2 for children.

September

Annual Golden Aspen Motorcycle Rally | September 19-23, 2018 | The Golden Aspen Rally will feature live music, stunt rider, $10,000 poker run, vendors, trade show, bike judging, free meals, and a NEW bike giveaway!

October

Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium | October 12-14, 2018 | Old West storytellers, noted historians, poets, musicians, and chuckwagon cooks. I

Trinity Site Tour | The Trinity site is the location of the first atomic bomb explosion on earth.   White Sands Missile Range. (575) 678-1134) 526-8911

Museums

Hubbard Museum of the American WestHubbard Museum of the American West
1280 Fort Selden Rd.,
15 miles north of Las Cruces on either I-25, exit 19, or Hwy 185
(575) 526-8911

The mission of the Hubbard Museum of the American West is to collect, preserve and interpret the political, social, business, cultural, and environmental history of the American West from the period of human habitation to the present day.

Art

San PatricioHurd La Rinconada Gallery
105 La Rinconada Lane
San Patricio, NM, 88348
(800) 658-6912
[email protected]

Mon. – Sat. from 9 AM – 5 PM
CLOSED SUNDAYS

The Hurd La Rinconada Gallery sits on a knoll overlooking the Rio Ruidoso. The two story gallery features work by Peter Hurd, Michael Hurd, Henriette Wyeth-Hurd, N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, and Paul Horgan.

Spencer Theater
108 Spencer Road
Alto, New Mexico 88312
(575) 336-4800

The Spencer Theater for the Performing Arts opened in October of 1997, creating a year-round venue for world-class performances in theater, music and dance. An aristocrat among theaters, the $22-million structure is splendid and elegant, yet intimate and welcoming. At the heart of the Spencer, in its 514-seat hall, you’ll encounter a powerful experience of the performing arts — outstanding acoustics, intimate seating, and artistry of the highest caliber.

Sierra Blanca viewCamping

The Lincoln National Forest in the Smokey Bear and Sacramento district includes over 70,000 acres of forest for outdoor recreation. There are a number of developed and dispersed campsites in these two areas.

Smokey Bear Ranger District
(575) 257-4095

Argentina/Bonito Trailhead: Open year-round.

A site favored for horseback riding.

Facilities: Tent/RV campsites with vault toilets. No drinking water. Creek. Hiking trails. Horse corrals.

Directions: Highway 48 to Highway 37 to Bonito Lake turnoff. Watch for signs.

Cedar Creek Recreation Area

Open spring through fall.

Camping areas for group camping and a day-use picnic area. Reservations required.

(877) 444-6777.

Facilities: 3 group camping areas and 23 picnic sites for tent/RV with picnic tables, grills, drinking water, vault toilets. Hiking trails. Fitness trail. Pavilion

Directions: Immediately adjacent to the north of the Smokey Bear Ranger Station is Cedar Creek Rd (Forest road 88). Turn left on this road, follow Forest Road 88 for less than 1 mile and you will see the signs and gates for the picnic area on your right.

Monjeau Lookout Camping Area

Open spring through fall. A site with panoramic views of the National Forest. Often windy.

Facilities: 4 campsites with grills. Toilets. No drinking water. Historic Monjeau lookout tower built by CCC. Spectacular views from tower.

Directions: Highway 48 to ski area road. Turn right onto Monjeau Road. Continue to top. The road is steep and rocky and may be closed due to inclement weather. Check with Ranger Station.

Sam Tobias Memorial Group Campground

Open spring through fall.

Facilities: Tent camping, trailer camping, picnic tables, drinking water and parking.

Directions: Immediately adjacent to the north of the Smokey Bear Ranger Station is Cedar Creek Rd (Forest road 88). Turn left on this road, follow Forest Road 88 for less than 1 mile and you will see the signs and gates for the campgrounds on your right.

Skyline Camping Area

Open spring through fall. Dispersed camping near Monjeau Lookout

Facilities: 17 campsites with picnic tables and grills. Vault toilets. No drinking water. Historic Monjeau lookout tower nearby.

Directions: Highway 48 to ski area road. Turn right onto Monjeau Road. Watch for signs

Pennsylvania Canyon

Open year-round. A beautiful site that is not often visited.

Facilities: No toilets. No drinking water. Creek.

Directions: Highway 48 to Highway 37 almost to Nogal. Turn left on forest road 400. Proceed 5 miles, then right on FR-5628.

Cornerstone Bakery pecan cinnamon roll
Cornerstone Bakery in Ruidoso

Dining

Chef Shawn’s Eatery
2415 Sudderth Dr, Ste 5
Ruidoso, NM 88345
(575) 257-2433
Pet Friendly

Cornerstone Bakery & Cafe
1712 Sudderth Dr
Ruidoso, NM 88345
(575) 257-1842

Tina’s Cafe
522 Sudderth Dr
Ruidoso, NM 88345
(575) 257-8930
Pet Friendly

The Village Buttery
2107 Sudderth Dr
Ruidoso, NM 88345
(575) 257-9251
Pet Friendly

Hall of Flame Burgers
2500 Sudderth Dr Ste 2
Ruidoso, NM 88345
(575) 257-9987

Porky’s
2306-2 Sudderth Dr
Ruidoso, NM 88345
(575) 257-0544

Sacred  Grounds Coffee
2704 Sudderth Dr. Ste B
Ruidoso, NM 88345
(575) 257-2273
Pet Friendly

Smokey Bear Restaurant
310 Smokey Bear Blvd
Capitan, NM 88316
(575) 354-2257

Wendell’s Steak & Seafood
287 Carrizo Canyon Rd
Mescalero, NM 88340
(575) 464-7059

Lodging

Inn of the Mountain Gods
287 Carrizo Canyon Rd
Mescalero, NM 88340
(575) 464-7059

Dolan House B & B
826 Calle La Placita
Lincoln, NM 88338
(575) 653.4670
[email protected]

The Escape Resort
1016 Mechem Road
Ruidoso, NM 88345
(888) 762-8551
(575) 258-1234
[email protected]

Hummingbird Cabins
1204 Mechem Dr, Ste 15
Ruidoso, NM 88345
(575) 315-0059
Pet Friendly

Sitzmark Chalet Inn
627 Sudderth Dr
Ruidoso, NM 88345
(800) 658-9694
[email protected]

Story Book Cabins
410 Main Rd
Ruidoso, NM 88345
(575) 257-2115

Hurd La Rinconada Guest Ranch
105 La Rinconada Lane
San Patricio, NM, 88348
(575) 257-2115
(800) 658-6912
[email protected]

Wortley Hotel
Highway 380
Lincoln, New Mexico 88338
(575) 653-4300
[email protected]

RV Parks

Rainbow Lake Cabin and RV
806 Carrizo Canyon Road
Ruidoso, 88345
(877) 630-2267
(575) 630-2267
[email protected]

Circle B RV Park
26514 E. Hwy 70
Ruidoso Downs, 88345
(575) 378-4990

Blue Spruce RV Park
302 Mechem Drive
Ruidoso 88345
(575) 257-7993

Eagle Creek RV Resort

159 Ski Run Rd, Alto, 88312
(575) 336-1131


Horseback riding at Inn of the Mountain GodsThings to Do

Grindstone Stable
523 Resort Dr.
Ruidoso, NM 88345
(575)257-2241
[email protected]

Wind Rider Zip Line at Ski Apache
1286 Ski Run Road
Alto, New Mexico 88312
(575) 464-3633

One of the longest zip lines in the country launches from Ski Apache, on top of majestic Sierra Blanca. The three section zip line takes about 90 minutes to navigate, with speeds from 60-75 mph.

Ruidoso Downs Race Track
PO Box 449
26225 US Hwy 70
Ruidoso Downs, NM 88346
(575) 378-4431
[email protected]

Things to See

Smokey Bear illustrationSmokey the Bear Historic Park

Firefighters rescued a bear cub while fighting a forest fire outside of Capitan during the spring of 1950. The cub took refugre in a tree that was engulfed in flames. He survived, but his paws and hind legs were burned. A New Mexico Department of Game and Fish ranger took the cub to Santa Fe, where his burns were treated. In the meantime, his story spread nationwide. The state game warden offered the cub to the chief of the Forest Service if the cub could be dedicated to a conservation and wildfire prevention program.

Soon the tiny bear was on the mend and on his way to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., where he became the living embodiment of Smokey Bear. The campaign preceded the cub. An advertising agency created the Smokey Bear campaign in the 1940s.

Smokey received so many letters at the zoo that he was given his own zip code. He remained there until his death in 1976. He was returned to New Mexico and buried at the Smokey Bear Historical Park in Capitan.

Fort Stanton State Monument

P.O. Box 1
104 Kit Carson Rd
Fort Stanton, NM 88323
(575) 526-8911
[email protected]

Few sites in the nation encompass the breadth of history seen at the Fort Stanton Historic Site.   Early cultures lived along the Bonito River, leaving behind rich archeological evidence of human occupation. Spanish and Mexican settlers established communities in the nearby area, long before the United States sent the military west to protect settlers journeying to the region from the indigenous Apache Indians who claimed the lands as their own. Named for Captain Henry W. Stanton, the Fort was established in 1855 and operated as a military fortification through 1896.

The Fort Stanton Historic Site is a must-see attraction when visiting Lincoln County.  Nestled on Highway 220 that bisects the Billy the Kid Scenic Byway, New Mexico’s newest historic site features over 155 years of southwestern history ranging from its initial creation as a military garrison to its significance as the first tuberculosis hospital in the state, to an internment camp for German seaman during World War II.

Fort Stanton-Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area

Bureau of Land Management
Roswell Field Office
2909 West Second Street
Roswell, NM 88201
(575) 354-0099
[email protected]

The Fort Stanton – Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area (NCA) was established in 2009 to protect, conserve, and enhance the unique and nationally important historic, cultural, scientific, archaeological, natural, and educational subterranean cave resources of the Fort Stanton – Snowy River Cave system. The NCA was once known as the Fort Stanton Military Reservation.

In 1855, the U.S. Army established Fort Stanton as an Infantry and Cavalry post in the east-central New Mexico Territory to protect settlers in the region. Within the NCA is Fort Stanton Cave, at over 31 miles, it is the second longest cave in New Mexico, the 14th longest cave in the U.S., the 62th longest in the world, and the largest cave managed by the BLM. Snowy River is a significant passage within Fort Stanton Cave, and is the longest cave formation in the world. Today, approximately 15 miles of previously unknown passage have been mapped, without reaching the end.

Lincoln State Monument

Highway 380 Mm 97.5
Lincoln, NM 88338
(575) 653-4025

Lincoln Historic Site is unique in that it manages most of the historical buildings in the community of Lincoln. This community is frozen in time—the 1870’s and 1880’s. Through a gift from the Hubbard Family Trust, the historic site now includes 17 structures and outbuildings, 7 of which are open year round and 2 more seasonally as museums. Most of the buildings in the community are representative of the Territorial Style of adobe architecture in the American Southwest.

Lincoln was the backdrop for one of the most violent conflicts in New Mexico history. Today’s visitors can see the Old Lincoln County Courthouse with museum exhibits that recount the details of the Lincoln County War and the historic use of the “House” as store, residence, Masonic Lodge, courthouse, and jail. Walk in the footsteps of Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, and other famous and infamous characters of the Wild West. Trace the events of 1878 through the Courthouse and the Tunstall Store, with their preserved 19th-century atmosphere.

Remarkably, the Tunstall Store contains displays of the original 19th-century merchandise in the original shelving and cases! Continue your walk through history by visiting El Torreón (a defensive tower built by native New Mexican settlers in the 1850s), the San Juan Mission Church, the Convento, Dr. Woods’ House, the Montaño store and other historic structures throughout the town. The Anderson-Freeman Visitor’s Center & Museum features historical exhibits in a timeline starting with American Indian prehistory and ending with the Lincoln County War. The visitor center shows a 22-minute video about the Lincoln County War and the town’s history every half hour.

Tower in LincolnVisiting Information

Hours and Days of Operation
9 AM – 5 PM 7 days a week
Closed New Year’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day.
Twenty-two minute video begins at the Visitor’s Center every half hour.

Admission Prices
Adults – $5.00
Children 17 and under – Free
New Mexico Senior Citizens (60+) – Free on Wednesdays
New Mexico Residents – Free the 1st Sunday of Every Month
Blue Star Program for Active Duty Military Families (up to 5 family members) – Free Memorial Day through Labor Day

Nearby

Cloudcroft

Easily accessible, but seldom hiked trail accessed by the road to Soledad Canyon. It is a bit more challenging than Soledad Canyon and Dripping Springs, but a beautiful, less populated option for hiking.

Valley of Fire

This amazing landscape of twisted and buckled lava 165 feet thick occurred between 1,500 and 5,000 years ago and stretches for 45-miles to the edge of White Sands. It is a study in contrasts.

Richard FarnsworthTrails

Perk Ridge Trail

Perk Ridge Trail is a moderate 4.8 mile loop trail with minimal traffic. Dogs and horses are allowed on the trail.

Cedar Creek Trail

Cedar Creek Trail is a 3.6 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail that is rated as moderate and primarily used for hiking.

South Fork of the Rio Bonito Trail

South Fork of the Rio Bonito Trail is a 11.5 mile moderately trafficked loop trail that features a river and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until November.

Willie White and Wills Canyon Loop Trail

Willie White and Wills Canyon Loop Trail is a 10.1 mile moderately trafficked loop trail that features a waterfall. The trail is rated as moderate offers a number of activity options. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

Sierra Blanca at Ski Apache Trail

Sierra Blanca at Ski Apache is a 5.4 mile out and back trail that is rated as moderate offers a number of activity options.

Telephone Canyon, Miner’s Road, Eagle Creek Loop

Telephone Canyon, Miner’s Road, Eagle Creek Loop is a 6.1 mile moderately trafficked loop trail that is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and trail running and is accessible year-round.

Lookout Mountain Loop Trail

Lookout Mountain Loop is a 6.1 mile loop trail that features beautiful wild flowers. The trail is rated as moderate and primarily used for hiking, trail running, and downhill skiing.

Mills Canyon Trail to Monjeau Peak Trail

Mills Canyon Trail to Monjeau Peak is a 10.1 mile out and back trail that features beautiful wild flowers. The trail is rated as moderate and primarily used for hiking and trail running.

Dry Mills Trail

Dry Mills Trail is a 6.2 mile out and back trail located that is rated as moderate and primarily used for hiking, walking, and trail running.

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2 COMMENTS

    • Haven’t done that one yet. This is like putting together a huge quilt. There are so many pieces to the story. That Billy the Kid Scenic Byway article evolved into five…Lincoln, Billy the Kid, Fort Stanton, Snowy River caves. It could have become even more, but I had to rein it in to get any of the batch posted. Otherwise, I start one and end up with 12 half written. Why do you think I haven’t written about Chaco yet? I want to, but I’m daunted, because it is unpacking a big topic and even cursory coverage will invariably morphed into thousands and thousands of words. Give me time…I WILL get to it! 🙂

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