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LAS CRUCES

The City of Crosses

Doña Ana County

 

Doña Ana County, established in 1852, is one of 33 counties in New Mexico. It is the second-most populated county in the state. The county seat, Las Cruces, has been ranked as one of the fastest-growing communities in the United States for the past decade.

 

Doña Ana County is celebrated for its natural wonders, from the peaks of the Organ Needles to the southwestern Chihuahuan Desert. The county encompasses 3,804 square miles, bordering El Paso County, Texas, to the east and southeast, Chihuahua, Mexico, directly south, Luna County to the west, Sierra County to the north and Otero County to the east. This area was a critical strategic resource in the development of missile technology and space flight. Training for the Apollo Space Program was conducted here, as was bombing practice for bomber pilots and crews during WWII.

 

Dinosaur footprints at Prehistoric Trackways National Monument attest to life before humans, when a sea covered the region and the geological activity was a tectonic cocktail of earthquakes and volcanoes. Petroglyph-lined canyons in the Sierra de las Uvas Mountains, and Mogollon relics discovered near the natural springs in the Organ Mountains, attest to long term human habitation, from ancient hunter gatherers to Mogollon to Apache. Doña Ana County is where the Camino Real, traversed by Spanish conquistadors and colonists, intersected with the American West, home to ranchers, gunslingers, homesteaders, lawmen, miners, soldiers, outlaws and the Apache. Billy the Kid escaped from the jail in Mesilla. Geronimo hid in the mountains nearby.

 

The Camino Real follows ancient trade routes established by indigenous tribes from north to south, used by the Aztecs, among others. From Coronado’s initial search for gold in 1540 to Juan de Oñate’s expedition, that settled in northern New Mexico to convert the Puebloans in 1598, the Spanish conquistadors, supplies and settlers followed this route.

 

The Doña Ana paraje (rest stop) was one of the earliest natural landmarks in southern New Mexico, located in the Ancon de Doña Ana, about 50 miles north of El Paso. An early reference to this campsite is found in the notes of Governor Oterman. He camped there on February 4, 1682, following an unsuccessful expedition into New Mexico to reclaim Santa Fe after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Doña Ana afforded the only protection for travelers passing through the dangerous stretch of the Camino Real known as the Jornada del Muerto, 90 miles between between El Paso del Norte and Socorro, with no water, no shelter and plenty of Apache. Other than sparse and sporadic parajes , the Spanish didn’t establish permanent villages on this route. Why? Apache.

 

The Apache

Apache territory formed a box between modern day El Paso, Albuquerque, Phoenix, into northern Mexico. The Puebloans, who have lived next to the Apache for centuries can attest to their propensity to raid when resources are scarce, which was frequent in the climatologically schizophrenic southwest. There is a distinct correlation between drought and the intensity and frequency of raids.

 

For centuries, the Apache served as gatekeepers between the land that would become Mexico and the land that would become the American Southwest. Their language is one of seven southern Athabaskan languages (as is Navajo aka Diné), which indicates that they migrated into this region from the north. Their linguistic cousins live in northern Canada and Alaska. The Apache and Navajo took over a lot of the territory previously inhabited by the Ancestral Puebloan, Mogollon and Hohokam cultures. They arrived after these ancient civilizations collapsed. They were nomadic tribes. By the time the Spanish arrived in southern New Mexico, small bands of Apache roamed large areas throughout southern New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and northern Mexico, from high elevation to low, setting up camp in different areas based on following game, harvesting a variety of edible foliage and trade.

 

In terms of ferocity and warrior ethos, the Apache were rivaled by their neighbors to the east, the Comanche. Between the two, southern New Mexico was inhospitable for settlers until after the Mexican American War when forts were established, with an ongoing military presence in the region to combat the Apache and Navajo raids. People who would become legends during the Apache Wars; Victorio, Cochise, Geronimo, Mangas Coloradas, the Apache Kid, all knew these hills, canyons, caves and mountains well.

 

Doña Ana

Within one generation, Doña Ana residents experienced a great flood, settled Apache country as refugees at great personal peril, saw the flag change three times, with one change of “official” language in the 1800s. These were tumultuous times in the southwest.

 

After centuries of Spanish rule, Mexico achieved independence in 1821. Spain yielded this region to Mexico. The transition from the Spanish to Mexican government created cultural and political upheaval. The lack of regulation and oversight triggered a flood of international trade along the newly unrestricted El Camino Real, known at the time as the Chihuahua Trail.

 

The Rio Grande flood of 1829, less than a decade after Mexico achieved independence, was an environmental catastrophe. The river inundated farmland from Tomé, south along the Rio Grande floodplain, to the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The deluge displaced farmers and homesteaders , who sought refuge in El Paso. 116 of the flood refugees petitioned the Mexican government for El Ancón del Doña Ana (Doña Ana Bend Colony Grant), an arable stretch of unoccupied land 50 miles to the north.  The grant’s north end encompassed the site of the colonial-era paraje on El Camino Real.

 

In the spring of 1843, 14 out of 116 of the grant petitioners mustered the courage to move to Doña Ana, despite the hazard off Apache and Comanche raids. They situated the village on a plateau high above the floodplain, and after digging a diversion dam and a system of acequias (irrigation ditches), they constructed the community according to the traditional Spanish-Mexican village plan. Streets were laid out in 35-foot grids of 137-square-foot lots. Ultimately, many of these lots were subdivided for inheritance purposes, giving Doña Ana its shape as a grid of rectangular blocks. Cristo Rey Street, adjacent to the church in Doña Ana, follows the original path of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, passing through the Doña Ana Village Historic District. This community is the oldest permanent Hispano settlement in southern New Mexico.

 

As Spanish influence in the west weakened, the ambitions of the United States expanded. Their eyes turned west towards the land previously held by the Spanish. “Manifest Destiny” was the belief that the United States was innately destined to stretch from coast to coast. It was the underlying tenet behind the United States attacking Mexico in 1846, challenging their control of the land around the Rio Grande. That philosophy of dominance as destiny was the underpinning of the aggressive military actions against Mexico, Hispanos and the indigenous population during the western expansion from the mid-1800s into the early-1900s.

 

The war was brief. Mexico signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, yielding land east of the Rio Grande to the United States. Inhabitants that remained loyal to Mexico moved to the other side of the river to establish the village of Mesilla, which was still within Mexico’s boundaries. However, their allegiance to Mexico was quickly thwarted. Based on pressure from the railroads to create a east-west line, the Gadsden Purchase in 1853 secured the 29,670-square-mile border region of present-day southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, including the Mesilla Valley.

 

With the region’s resources came the region’s problems, primarily in the form of limited water, isolation with limited resources, raids and lawlessness, combined with the need to navigate a unique blend of cultures, customs and languages. These issues were exacerbated by the influx of people after the war, both military and civilian. The discovery of gold and silver in the mountain ranges of southern New Mexico enticed more people to hazard deeper into Apache territory. Forts were established throughout New Mexico, providing military support for the numerous settlements, ranches, mining camps and homesteads being established in the territory.

 

The Butterfield Stagecoach was established to provide a mail conduit, passenger line and supply chain to the rest of the country. The ruts from the stagecoach wheels can still be readily seen. The Butterfield contract called for semi-weekly runs, covering 2,800 miles, in a maximum of 25 days. The stages traveled an average of 5/mph around the clock, averaging 120 miles a day.  Within two and a half years Butterfield sold the operation to Wells Fargo, adding to their dominance of stage services throughout the west, which they maintained until the arrival of the railroad.

Las Cruces

 

Las Cruces' origin story traces across the Rio Grande, indelibly linked to Doña Ana and Mesilla and the turmoil that existed after the Mexican American war.

 

The oldest permanent settlements in southern New Mexico were established by the Spanish. Long term parajes (rest stops) along the Camino Real became villages as trade on the route intensified after Mexican Independence. Doña Ana, just north of present-day Las Cruces, was the first community established in the area.

 

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ceded the territory that became the states of California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona and New Mexico to the United States, including the village of Doña Ana. The United States sent Army troops, under the command of Lt. Delos Bennett Sackett, to patrol the region and to protect the arriving settlers, soldiers and resources. The rapid population growth overwhelmed the small community. The leader in Doña Ana, Don Pablo Melendres, asked Sackett to establish a new town to relieve the pressure on his village. Sackett agreed.

 

Mesquite Historic District

The site for the new town was established six miles south of Doña Ana. Using rawhide ropes and stakes, Sackett laid out the beginnings of present-day Las Cruces. He laid out 84 blocks, each containing four lots. 120 people gathered and drew lots from a hat to determine who got what site.

 

The Mesquite Historic District is the original site partitioned for Las Cruces. It stretches across Campo, San Pedro, Tornillo and Mesquite streets, between Chestnut and Colorado avenues. From its block-long cemetery and grassy Klein Park, the district is a colorful array of galleries, whimsical gardens and cafes. Even as Las Cruces continues to evolve around it and homeowners paint their houses pink, green, yellow, or blue, the old town site retains its historic heart. Many of the district’s oldest streets and buildings remain. Among them is Mesquite Street, which generally follows the original path of El Camino Real. The neighborhood is home to 713 historic homes and buildings, though it is only half its original size.

 

Recent efforts to boost awareness of the historical significance of El Camino Real have enhanced pride in the trail and awareness of the benefit of the local history to travel and, therefore, community finances. The increased interest in revitalizing historic neighborhoods has fueled architectural preservation initiatives.

 

Some think Mesquite has the potential to become “the Canyon Road of Las Cruces,” a reference to Santa Fe’s well known street of world class art galleries in historic adobe homes. In recent years, there have been attempts to hold periodic studio and gallery tours in the area, which has attracted artists from Australia, Belgium and the United States. They have established residences, studios and galleries on Mesquite Street.

 

The Crosses? The source of the name is a matter of debate, with legend and lore playing heavily into the various versions and interpretations.

Version 1: In 1852, a long caravan of 45 carts, drawn by oxen, heavily loaded with freight from Santa Fe to Chihuahua was attacked by the Mescalero-Apache and destroyed. 50 men were killed and buried on the spot, with crosses erected to commemorate the site. There are other versions of this story where the identity and number of people vary, but it invariably ends in death, usually involving Apache, with crosses erected.

 

Version 2: The name Las Cruces doesn't have anything to do with crosses and grave sites. It is simply anglos mangling Spanish, morphing "the crossing" or "crossroads" with crosses, with Los Cruces becoming Las Cruces over time.

 

The establishment of Las Cruces did take pressure off Doña Ana, but the transition from Spanish to Mexican to American took a toll on many of the long term residents of Doña Ana, many of whom remained loyal to Mexico. In 1850 more than 60 families moved to the west side of the Rio Grand to remain in Mexico. They founded Mesilla, meaning "little mesa." However, their attempt to evade American citizenship was unsuccessful. Based on prodding from the railroad companies, the United States negotiated the Gadsden Purchase 4 years later, purchasing the 30,000-square mile strip of land along the southern border for $10 million. Mesilla was absorbed.

 

Las Cruces developed slowly, supported by trade, freight operations ferrying supplies across the southwest, farming and mining in the Organ Mountains. As Chihuahua Trail traders, American freighters and others took up residence, the town site expanded to the east and north. In addition to general stores and rooming houses, bars and brothels became a big draw, as Las Cruces became a playground for cowboys, miners and soldiers from Fort Fillmore and Fort Selden, earning a reputation as a rowdy and dangerous town.

 

The railroad arrived in the late 1800s, coinciding with a mining boom in southern New Mexico. There was a lot of gold and silver pouring out of the hills of southern New Mexico in the 1880s. Las Cruces was a critical transportation hub in the region. The first train arrived in April, 1881. By 1888, the New Mexico College of Agriculture & Mechanic Arts opened its doors. The first class of five students graduated in 1893. The railroad also ignited population growth. The town’s population tripled to 3,000 by 1900. In 1907, Las Cruces was officially incorporated as a town. Five years later, in 1912, New Mexico became the 47th state. By the 1920s, Las Cruces’ population was close to 4,000 residents. By 1940, it was almost 9,000.

 

The outbreak of World War II had a profound impact on the region. More than 2,000 New Mexicans died during the war, many of them from southern New Mexico, many on the Bataan Death March. Additionally, with a large percentage of the working age men serving in the military overseas, there was a shortage of farm labor. German and Italian POWs were brought to New Mexico to work in the fields. The Tularosa Basin, east of Las Cruces, became one of the army’s most important weapons testing grounds. The Trinity Site, located at the basin’s north end, was the site of the first atomic bomb explosion. By 1945, the Army Corps of Engineers declared White Sands Proving Ground an area of military necessity, with air space protected from ground to infinity (theoretically).

 

Want to know more about Las Cruces?

Visitors can learn more about the region’s culture and heritage at one of several city museums, all of which are free admission: Branigan Cultural Center, the Las Cruces Art Museum, the Museum of Nature and Science, and the Las Cruces Railroad Museum.

 

There are three national monuments less than an hour’s drive from downtown Las Cruces: Organ Mountain Desert Peaks National Monument, the Prehistoric Trackways National Monument and White Sands National Monument. All three offer outdoor recreation opportunities, from hiking and backcountry camping to sand dune sledding, rock climbing or mountain biking. More hiking and adventure options are included based on interest in the listings.

 

If you are visiting from elsewhere and want your own supply of chile, the Chile Pepper Institute is on the NMSU campus, appropriately convenient to Hatch. The institute is the world’s only international, nonprofit organization devoted to education and the research of chile peppers. They have a public Teaching Garden, where 150 of the world’s hottest chiles from around the world are grown. The Teaching Garden is open seven days a week from June to October. Chile seeds, food items and other merchandise are available at the visitors center and at the NMSU gift shop.

 

If you are looking for a guide, David at Southwest Expeditions provides a variety of tours, from rafting the Rio Grande and flying along the Organ Mountains (which I recommend at sunset) to following in the footsteps of Billy the Kid and exploring the fascinating history of Old Mesilla. His list of tours is extensive, with something for everyone, from adventure seekers to family travel.

Related

WHITE SANDS

White Sands National Monument is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The cascading gypsum dunes are spectacular year round, but sunrise, sunset and under a full moon are magical.

ORGAN MOUNTAINS - DESERT PEAKS

New Mexico's most recent national monument, the Organ Peaks define the horizon of Las Cruces, providing incredible hiking, biking, rock climbing and bird watching.

CONTINENTAL DIVIDE TRAIL

For thru-hikers, the Continental Divide Trail is the hardest of the nation's triple crown trails, running from the Mexico/New Mexico border, over the Rocky Mountains, to the border of Canada.

Recent

WORLD HERITAGE SITES

With 3 of the nation's 23 UNESCO World Heritage sites, New Mexico has more than any other state: Carlsbad Caverns, Chaco Canyon and Taos Pueblo.

BISTI / DE-NA-ZIN WILDERNESS

Off world ambiance. The Bisti Wilderness is what remains of an ancient river delta that poured into the sea that covered most of New Mexico. A treasure trove for paleontologists and a rugged source of solitude for wilderness enthusiasts.

SPANISH MISSIONS OF NEW MEXICO

A guide to the Spanish missions of New Mexico. Though most were destroyed in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, several were rebuilt prior to California's first mission in 1776 (San Diego).

New Mexico Outdoors
Dripping Springs Trail
 

History & hiking. Dripping Spring has a noteworthy past. From providing an oasis, and rich source of game, to the ancient inhabitants of southern New Mexico, the Jornada Mogollon to a host of colorful characters from the Old West. A cave in the cliffs near the parking area was home to the Hermit in the late 1860s. A popular resort was built near Dripping Spring in the 1870s and a tuberculosis sanitarium in the early 1900s.

New Mexico People
Photographer | Wayne Suggs
 

A native of Las Cruces, Wayne Suggs is a talented photographer, who consistently captures the beauty of southern New Mexico's stark landscapes. With a knack for light, composition and color, he showcases the splendor of the Organ Mountains and the pristine wilderness areas often overlooked by locals and visitors. For ideas or to see more of his work, check out his gallery and website.

New Mexico Agriculture
Hatch | Chile Capital of the World
 

Hatch was originally settled as Santa Barbara in 1851. Apache raids drove the settlers off until the establishment of Ft. Thorn in 1853. Ft. Thorn was abandoned in 1860 and the settlers once again had to leave the area. The Village was not re-occupied until 1875 and it was then named Hatch after General Hatch who had been a commander at Ft. Thorn. The Village of Hatch became incorporated with the state of New Mexico in 1928.

HATCH

The Chile Capital of the World

Mesilla

 

Humans have inhabited the Mesilla Valley for thousands of years, from ancient hunter-gatherers to the Mogollon and, later, the Mansos. The river provided a steady supply of food and water and the warm climate improved the odds of survival. Over time, those people migrated from the area, leaving only traces of their existence through pottery shards and petroglyphs. Their influence in the region was quickly supplanted by the Apache, who migrated into the land the Mogollon had vacated. Archaeologists estimate that the Apache and Navajo arrived in New Mexico between 1200 – 1400 A.D. Oral history suggests the migration may have started earlier than that.

 

From the arrival of Coronado in 1540, looking for legendary cities of gold in the north, the Mesilla Valley was located on the preferred route between the Spanish capital in Mexico City and the northern frontier, El Camino Real (The Royal Road). In 1598 Don Juan de Oñate camped in the valley on his way north to establish the first European colony in North America, San Juan de los Caballero, near present-day Española. El Camino Real became the 1600-mile lifeline between Mexico City and Santa Fe; however, no permanent settlements were established for over 200 years. Southern New Mexico was Apache territory. It wasn't a good place to linger.

 

It wasn't until after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 that the first permanent settlers arrived. The citizens of Doña Ana who wanted to remain citizens of Mexico crossed the river and established Mesilla 7 miles down river, on the Mexico side of the border. The new community thrived. By 1850, Mesilla had established itself as an important transportation hub for both supplies and people. However, the consistent Apache raids kept the community on high alert. Periodically Apaches swept through the valley, stealing livestock and food, murdering colonists and seizing captives. In response, the villagers sent out the Mesilla Guard, a militia comprised of a man from each household. They would indiscriminately take revenge on any Apache they could find.

 

By 1851, the United States government established Fort Fillmore on the other side of the river to protect their newly conquered territory and the influx of settlers. Mesilla was closer to the fort than Las Cruces or Doña Ana. The village became the supply center for the garrisoned troops, providing entertainment, food, hay and building materials. The Mexican inhabitants of Mesilla provided the skills needed to build an adobe fort. By mid-century the village’s population reached 3,000, making it the largest town between San Antonio and San Diego, It was an important stop for both the Butterfield Stage Line and the San Antonio-San Diego Mail Lines. Around the plaza, fine hotels and restaurants were built to accommodate the influx of travelers and new residents. The mix of political views and cultures frequently escalated into conflict, fist fights, riots and shootouts.

 

The United States government negotiated The Gadsden Purchase in 1854 based on pressure from the railroads to build a direct east-west line. The Gadsden Purchase, or Mexican-American Treaty v2.0, was an agreement between the United States and Mexico, wherein the United States agreed to pay Mexico $10 million for the 29,670-square mile strip of northern Mexico that would become part of Arizona and New Mexico. Conveniently, the transaction provided the land necessary for a southern transcontinental railroad. Mesilla, like many border communities, was absorbed into the United States in the process.

 

As construction of the railroad commenced, there was an influx of people. The workers consumed huge quantities of beef, placing city officials at the mercy of cattle rustlers. Gunfights were de rigueur in the streets of both Las Cruces and Mesilla, Criminals like Nicolas Provencio and Dutch Hubert were regulars in both towns. William H. Bonney, a.k.a. Billy the Kid was tried and convicted for murder in Mesilla. It was said that during sentencing, the judge told Billy he would hang until he was “dead, dead, dead,” to which Billy replied, “Well you can go to hell, hell, hell.” Billy was later shot and killed by Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett after escaping from a Lincoln County jail cell, where he was awaiting execution.

 

Mesilla continued to grow and prosper until the 1880s when the Santa Fe Railroad unexpectedly selected Las Cruces instead of Mesilla for the location of its newest route. There are conflicting explanations as to why Las Cruces was chosen rather than Mesilla, but the most common is that Mesilla landowners resented the railroad’s assumption that local residents would help build the line and/or that they got greedy and asked the railroad for too much money for right of way. Regardless, a Las Cruces businessman offered the railroad free land in exchange for the rights to develop along the tracks and the railroad opted to build through Las Cruces rather than Mesilla. With attention now focused on Las Cruces, Mesilla’s commercial importance began to wane.

 

Visiting Mesilla is like stepping into the past. Its size and population is virtually the same as it was 120 years ago. There is new architecture, but it's rare. Where a stagecoach depot, saloon, courthouse and hotel once stood, there are restaurants, art galleries, bookstores and shops in the same buildings. In the 1960s, the town's board of trustees passed a zoning code that preserves the town's historic character and charm. On some weekends, the plaza hosts festivals and events, like Cinco de Mayo, Diez y Seis de Septiembre and Dia de los Muertos, all celebrating the town’s heritage and colorful past. During the holiday season, the plaza is aglow with luminarias and filled with the sounds of carolers. Landmarks include the San Albino Church, built from adobe more than 100 years ago, the Gadsden Museum, a local landmark recounting the area’s rich history, or the old Butterfield Stage depot. It houses a four-star restaurant, La Posta de Mesilla, which has a well-deserved worldwide reputation for excellent Mexican food.

 

Hatch

Red or green? Hot or mild? These questions are a daily reminder of the importance of New Mexico’s culinary staple…chile. Hatch is synonymous with chile, to the extent that people outside of New Mexico think it is a type of chile rather than a place. As the self-proclaimed “Chile Capital of the World,” chile is Hatch’s claim to fame

Hatch was originally settled as Santa Barbara in 1851, but Apache raids drove the settlers off until the establishment of Ft. Thorn in 1853. Ft. Thorn was about 5 miles from the present village. Ft. Thorn was abandoned in 1860 and the settlers once again abandoned the area. The Village was not re-occupied until 1875. It was named Hatch after General Hatch, a former commander at Ft. Thorn.

The economy in Hatch is dependent on agriculture. Irrigation comes from underground wells, the Rio Grande River, and Elephant Butte Reservoir, 40 miles north of Hatch. Crops include onions, cotton, corn, pecans, alfalfa, lettuce, cabbage, oats and, of course, chile. Hatch chile is known around the world for being flavorful, meaty and spicy. Farmers in Hatch have worked in conjunction with researchers at the Chile Institute to develop a variety of chile strains, from hotter, to more disease resistant, to larger, always looking for a variety of appealing characteristics.

The big annual event is the Hatch Chile Festival, held annually on Labor Day Weekend. The festival was created to celebrate Hatch being the Chile Capital of the World. Traffic to the festival is heinous. I highly recommend going the week before or after the festival to avoid the crowds…unless you are a fan of rural traffic gridlock.

Facts

Las Cruces is located in southern New Mexico, at the foot of the Organ Mountains, on the banks of the Rio Grande, at the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert, 225 miles south of Albuquerque, 275 miles east of Tucson, AZ, and 42 miles west of El Paso, TX at the intersection of I-10 & I-25.

 

Established: 1849

 

Population:

Doña Ana County: 200,000

Las Cruces: 95,000

 

Elevation: 3,896 feet

 

Weather: Las Cruces enjoys 350 days of sunshine a year. Temperatures in the summer months routinely reach the high 90s, with nighttime lows in the 60s. The fall air is a bit cooler with daytime highs of mid 70s to low 80s.

 

During the winter, when northern states are digging themselves out from under the snow, Las Cruces basks in daytime temperatures ranging from the upper 50s to lower 60s. As spring arrives in March and April, temperatures climb steadily from the low to high 80s.

 

Las Cruces receives an average of 8.5 inches of rain per year and no more than two inches of snow in the winter. July and August are monsoon season months. The average rainfall is 2” per month.

 

On average, the warmest month is June and the coldest month is December. The record high is 113 degrees in 1994 and the record low is -17 degrees in 1962.

Dining

Crowd Sourced suggestions from the locals following

New Mexico Nomad on Facebook & Twitter

 

A Bite of Belgium (for tasty pastry)

741 N Alameda Blvd #16, Las Cruces, NM 88005

(575) 527-2483

 

Andele | TOP PICK

1950 Calle Del Norte #1-3, Mesilla, NM 88046

(575) 526-9631

 

Andele’s Dog House | TOP PICK

1983 Calle Del Norte, Las Cruces, NM 88005

(575) 526-1271

 

Beck’s Coffee (for caffeine)

130 N Mesquite St, Las Cruces, NM 88001

(575) 556-9850

 

Spotted Dog (for beer)

2920 Avenida de Mesilla, Las Cruces, NM 88005

(575) 650-2729

 

Borderland BBQ

3509 Blackhawk St, Las Cruces, NM 88001

(575) 635-9057

 

Café de Mesilla

2190 Avenida de Mesilla, Las Cruces, NM 88005

(575) 524-0000

 

Caliche’s

590 S Valley Dr, Las Cruces, NM 88005

(575) 647-5066

 

Chachis

505, Joe Gutierrez St, Las Cruces, NM 88007

 

(575) 652-3071

 

Chala’s

2790 Avenida de Mesilla, Las Cruces, NM 88005

(575) 652-4143

 

Chopes | TOP PICK

16145 NM-28, La Mesa, NM 88044

(575) 233-3420

 

Los Compas

603 S Nevarez St, Las Cruces, NM 88001

(575) 523-1778

 

Day’s Hamburgers

295 Main St, Las Cruces, NM 88001

(575) 523-8665

 

Delicias

1413 E Amador Ave, Las Cruces, NM 88001

(575) 541-0902

 

Double Eagle

2355 Calle De Guadalupe, Mesilla, NM 88046

(575) 523-6700

 

Dragonfly

139 N Downtown Mall, Las Cruces, NM 88005

(575) 353-9866

 

El Sombrero

363 S Espina St, Las Cruces, NM 88001

(575) 524-9911

 

Hacienda de Mesilla

1891 Avenida de Mesilla, Mesilla, NM 88046

(575) 652-4953

 

High Desert Brewing

1201 W Hadley Ave, Las Cruces, NM 88005

(575) 525-6752

Josephina’s

2261 Calle De Guadalupe, Mesilla, NM 88046

(575) 525-2620

 

La Nueva Casita

195 N Mesquite St, Las Cruces, NM 88001

(575) 523-5434

 

La Posta de Mesilla

2410 Calle De San Albino, Mesilla, NM 88046

(575) 524-3524

 

Milagro Coffee (for caffeine)

1733 E University Ave, Las Cruces, NM 88001

(575) 532-1042

 

Nellie’s | TOP PICK

1226 W Hadley Ave, Las Cruces, NM 88005

(575) 524-9982

 

Nopolito’s | | TOP PICK

310 S Mesquite St, Las Cruces, NM 88001

(575) 524-0003

 

Ranchway

604 N Valley Dr, Las Cruces, NM 88005

(575) 523-7361

 

Si Señor

1551 E Amador Ave, Las Cruces, NM 88001

(575) 527-0817

 

Sparky’s | TOP PICK

115 Franklin St, Hatch, NM 87937

(575) 267-4222

 

Spotted Dog Brewing (for beer)

2920 Avenida de Mesilla, Las Cruces, NM 88005

(575) 650-2729

 

St. Clair Winery

1720 Avenida de Mesilla, Las Cruces, NM 88005

(575) 524-2408

 

The Bean (for caffeine)

2011 Avenida de Mesilla, Las Cruces, NM 88005

(575) 527-5155

 

The Game

2605 S Espina St, Las Cruces, NM 88001

(575) 524-4263

 

The Shed

810 S Valley Dr, Las Cruces, NM 88005

(575) 525-2636

Lodging

Encanto

705 S. Telshor Blvd.

(575) 522-4300

 

Casa de Rosie

2140 Calle Del Norte, Las Cruces, NM 88005

(575) 993-1410

 

Hacienda de Mesilla

1803 Avenida de Mesilla

(575) 652-4953

 

Josefina’s Old Gate

2261 Calle de Guadalupe

(575) 525-2620

 

Lundeen Inn of the Arts

618 S. Alameda Blvd.

(575) 526-3326

Museums

Branigan Cultural Center

501 N. Main St. on the Downtown Mall

575-541-2155

 

Free admission. The Branigan Cultural Center features in-house and traveling exhibitions, regional historical and permanent collections, and the work of local and regional artists.

 

Doña Ana County Historical Museum of Lawmen

845 N. Motel Blvd. inside the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Department

575-525-1911

 

Free admission. Artifacts include law enforcement and historical memorabilia, a gun collection, a memorial to fallen officers and Pat Garrett’s desk.

 

Fort Selden State Monument

1280 Fort Selden Rd. 15 miles north of Las Cruces on either I-25, exit 19, or Hwy 185

575-526-8911

 

Admission $3. Fort Selden was built in 1865 by the United States Army to protect the settlers of the Mesilla Valley and was the original home of the Buffalo Soldiers. Today, part of the fort’s adobe brick walls remain along with a visitor center featuring exhibits on frontier and military life. Living history demonstrations are occasionally offered on weekends.

 

Las Cruces Museum of Art

491 N. Main St. on the Downtown Mall

575-541-2137

 

Free admission. The Las Cruces Museum of Art hosts traveling exhibits and features the works of regionally and nationally known artists. The exhibits change several times a year and are often accompanied by lectures and

demonstrations.

 

Las Cruces Railroad Museum

351 N. Mesilla St.

575-647-4480

 

Free admission. The Railroad Museum interprets the railroading history of Las Cruces and the Mesilla Valley. Housed in a historic Santa Fe Depot, displays include railroading tools, railroadiana and model trains.

 

Las Cruces Museum of Nature & Science

411 N. Main St.

575-522-3120

 

Free admission. The museum features live animals and plants of the Chihuahuan Desert, along with hands-on science and natural history exhibits for children. Visiting shows run the gamut from dinosaurs to the solar system.

 

New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum

4100 Dripping Springs Rd. 1.5 miles east of Telshor Blvd. on University Ave.

575-522-4100

 

Admission $1-5. This interactive, 47-acre museum is packed with real stories about real people, bringing New Mexico’s 3,000-year history of farming and ranching to life. Visitors can watch a cow being milked, stroll corrals filled with livestock, enjoy gardens or watch hands-on exhibits such as blacksmithing, quilting, water dosing and more. Living history demonstrations are occasionally offered on weekends.

 

New Mexico State University Arthropod Museum

Skeen Hall, room 168, corner of Espina Dr. and College Dr. on the campus of NMSU

575-646-7082

Free admission. Appointments not needed, but call ahead. A collection of approximately 140,000 arthropod specimens from the American Southwest and northern Mexico, with a special emphasis on arthropods from the state of New Mexico.

 

New Mexico State University Museum – Kent Hall

1280 E. University Ave. Corner of University Ave. and Solano Dr.

575-646-5161

 

Free admission. The museum collections are primarily anthropological with secondary collections in history and the natural sciences. The collections document the cultural diversity of the border in the greater southwestern United States and northern Mexico, focusing on the traditions of ongoing historic and prehistoric cultures.

 

White Sands Missile Range Museum and Missile Park

Located on White Sands Base, 25 miles east of Las Cruces on Hwy 70

575-678-8824

 

Free admission. You must have a current driver’s license, car registration and proof of insurance to enter the base. Tell sentries you are going to visit the museum and Missile Park. The facilities focus on the origin of the U.S. missile and space programs, and the beginning of the nuclear age. The Missile Park features weapons that won the Cold War and Operation Desert Storm.

 

Zuhl Geological Collection at New Mexico State University

775 College Dr. inside the NMSU Alumni and Visitors Center

575-646-3616

 

Free admission. The Zuhl Geological Collection is one of the best-kept secrets in all of Las Cruces. The collections consists of thousands of petrified wood, minerals, fossils and geological artifacts showcased at New Mexico State University. The collection represents the lifetime legacy of Las Cruces residents Herb and Joan Zuhl, who have collected these items for more than 30 years and maintained a gallery in Manhattan before retiring to Las Cruces.

Wine & Beer

Breweries

 

Bosque Brewing Company Taproom

901 E. University

Bldg. 985, Ste B.

(575) 571-4626

 

Rotating menu of New Mexico-brewed beers, pet-friendly outdoor patio, live entertainment weekly. Their La Cumbre brew won the National IPA competition in 2017.

 

De La Vegas Pecan Grill and Brewery

500 S. Telshor Blvd.

(575) 521-1099

 

12 specially brewed beers, full menu, patio seating available, live entertainment weekly.

 

High Desert Brewery

1201 W. Hadley Ave.

(575) 525-6752

 

Rotating menu of locally-brewed beers, full menu, pet-friendly outdoor patio, live entertainment weekly.

 

Picacho Peak Brewing Company

3900 W Picacho Ave.

Located at the Grapevine Plaza.

(575) 680-6394

 

Located at the historic Grapevine Plaza, Picacho Peak Brewing company is the home of fresh, smooth craft beer.

 

Spotted Dog Brewery

2920 Avenida de Mesilla

(575) 650-2729

 

Rotating menu of locally-brewed beers, pet-friendly outdoor patio.

Wineries

 

Amaro Winery

402 S. Melendres St.

(575) 527-5310

 

A locally owned family vineyard. Tasting available.

 

Fort Selden Winery

1233 Fort Selden Rd.

(575) 647-9585

 

Featuring a variety of wine produced at Fort Selden Winery.

 

Heart of the Desert Winery

2355 Calle de Guadalupe

(575) 647-2115

 

Wine from Eagle Ranch Winery including the 2009 New Mexico State Fair Wine Competition gold (Merlot), silver (Red) and bronze (Pistachio Rosé) winners.

 

Luna Rossa Winery

1321 Avenida de Mesilla

(575) 526-2484

 

Winery and wine tasting room offering award winning varieties.

 

La Viña Winery

4201 S. Highway 28

(25 miles south of Las Cruces)

(575) 882-7632

 

Open Daily (except Wednesday). Tours at 11:30 daily by appointment. La Viña is New Mexico’s oldest winery and hosts the state’s oldest wine festival every October, plus a blues & Jazz festival in April.

 

NM Vintage Wines, Beers + Cigars

2461 Calle de Principal

(575) 523-9463

 

Step inside the 1850’s era adobe building and you’ll find a cozy spot rich in history. Recently ranked the #1 Wine Bar in the state, the NM Vintage Wines, Beers + Cigars tasting room serves some of the best wines and craft beers in the state.

 

Rio Grande Vineyard and Winery

5321 Highway 28 at mile marker 25

(4 ½ miles past Old Mesilla)

(575) 524-3985

 

Wine tasting and tours of the vineyard.

 

Sombra Antigua Vineyard and Winery

430 La Vina Road

Anthony, NM

(915) 241-4349

 

Serving Montepulciano, Dolcetto, Tempranillo, red table wine and a sweet white table wine.

 

St. Clair Winery & Bistro

1800 Avenida de Mesilla

(575) 524-0390

 

St. Clair offers a variety of still and sparkling wines.

 

St. Clair Winery (in Deming)

1325 De Baca Rd.

Deming, NM

(575) 546-9324

 

Cabernet, Chardonnay, Zinfandel and other wine grapes. Tours are offered Saturdays and Sundays and no appointment is needed.

Arts

Art Galaxy

2521 Avenida de Mesilla  |  (575) 525-8178

A cooperative gallery featuring local and regional artists in a variety of mediums.

 

Bonnie Mandoe Studio/Gallery

825 Quesenberry St.  |  Las Cruces, (575) 523-9760

A selection of oil paintings depicting the Mesilla Valley and more.

 

Dee Groves Gallery

2220 Calle de Parian  |  (575) 527-0710

Majestic photographs by LC Groves featuring dynamic desert and Organ Mountain scenes. Also featured are watercolors and pencils by Steve Hanks.

 

Galeria on the Plaza

2310 Calle de Principal  |  (575) 526-9771

Featuring folk-art, Santos, retablos, crosses & local artists.

 

Jeri Desrochers Studio Gallery

3655 Canyon Ridge Arc    |  (575) 640-9836

Vibrant paintings of the southwest by appointment only.

 

Joyce T. Macrorie Studio Gallery

639 S. San Pedro St.  |  (575) 541-0408

Paintings, prints and jewelry by Joyce Macrorie and other local artists.

 

Justus Wright Galeria

925 S. Walnut Ave.  |  (575) 526-6101

Featuring art and illustrations by Jud Wright and a variety of Southwest artists, photographers and sculptors.

 

Linda Lundeen Galleries

618 S. Alameda Blvd.  |  (575) 526-3326

Fine art in all media from national and international artists.

 

Main Street Gallery

311 N. Downtown Mall  |  (575) 647-0508

Fine artworks by local and regional artists in a variety of mediums.

 

Mesilla Valley Fine Arts Gallery

2470A Calle de Guadalupe  |  (575) 522-2933

A cooperative gallery featuring local and regional artists in a variety of mediums.

 

Mesquite Art Gallery

340 N Mesquite St.  |  (575) 640-3502

Photography, painting and 3D art from selected national artists.

 

New Mexico State University Art Gallery

Williams Hall, on the campus of New Mexico State University  |  (575) 646-2545

Contemporary and historical works. Featuring a permanent collection of over 2,600 objects and the world’s largest collection of Mexican retablos.

 

New Mexico State University Corbett Center Gallery

Inside Corbett Center on the campus of New Mexico State University  |  (575) 646-3200

 

Virginia Maria Romero Studio Gallery

4636 Maxim Court  |  (575) 644-0214

Paintings, retablos and prints by appointment only.

Golf

New Mexico State University Golf Course

3000 Herb Wimberly Dr.

575-646-3219

 

New Mexico State University Golf Course. is Las Cruces' longest course, measuring more than 7,000 yards (from the blue tees). This 18-hole course takes golfers on a scenic journey of challenging greens and fairways, framed by native desert landscape.  As the only university in New Mexico and one of the few in the nation to offer the Professional Golf Management program (PGM), NMSU is also one of the most challenging public courses in the state.

 

Picacho Hills Country Club (private)

6861 Via Campestre in Picacho Hills,

575- 523-8641

 

Picacho Hills Country Club is the only private membership course in the city and offers reciprocal agreements with other clubs. The 18-hole, par-72 layout was built in 1978 and features bent-grass tees and greens, and bluegrass fairways. The desert-style course is located on the city’s west side, minutes from downtown. The private club has practice facilities, tennis courts, a swimming pool and full-service clubhouse with restaurant.

 

Red Hawk Golf Course

3601 Arroyo Rd.

575-513-7628

 

Red Hawk Golf Course is an 18-hole course located on the city’s east mesa featuring rolling greens and a spacious design. It features five sets of tees with yardage ranging from 5,502 to 7,523. Hazards include five lakes (with water coming into play on eight holes) and 76 bunkers.

 

Sonoma Ranch Golf Course

1274 Golf Club Rd.

575-521-1818

 

Sonoma Ranch Golf Course is one of southern New Mexico’s finest public golf courses. The course was also nominated for “Best New Course” in 2000 by Golf Digest. The 18-hole, par-72 layout challenges golfers with fairways and greens that blend with the desert landscape. The stark peaks of the Organ Mountains provide a magnificent backdrop to the course.

 

In addition to the fine courses Las Cruces has to offer, there are several courses located only a short distance away. Dos Lagos Golf Course, Santa Teresa Country Club & Golf Course and Anthony Country Club Golf Course are all about 30 minutes south of Las Cruces. Desert Lakes Golf Course is a public course in Alamogordo, N.M., about an hour east of Las Cruces. 30 minutes east of Alamogordo is the Lodge at Cloudcroft Golf Course, open April through November.

Trails

Aden Hills

 

No fee. Located about 20 miles west of Las Cruces, the area offers a variety of trails for hiking and biking, with several managed trails for OHV use. Aden Crater, in the northern part of the field, originated with a succession of lava flows that issued from a single vent, building up a shield cone over time. Volcanic “spatter” – droplets of molten rock – erupted next, forming a rim around the crater. Molten rock flows returned, issuing from the vent to become trapped by the spatter rim as a “lake” of lava. Small explosive eruptions became Aden Crater’s dying gasp, and as the last of the lava drained away down the vent, the immediately surrounding surface collapsed, leaving a large pit within the crater.

 

In the 1960s, investigators exploring a fumarole – a vent through which gasses escaped – discovered the desiccated remains of a giant ground sloth. It had lived near the end of the last Ice Age, roughly 11,000 years ago, during the same time that nomads hunted big game in the area. Somehow, the sloth had fallen into the vent to its death. The Lava Flow is also reputed to have been home to various outlaws and others on the run who sought its rugged shelter.

 

From Interstate 10 exit 127 (Corralitos Road) take the southern frontage road west bound for approximately 1.5 miles. Continue straight onto the dirt road (the paved road will curve south) for approximately 4.2 miles. The entrance to the staging area is on the left just beyond the cattle guard.

 

Aguirre Springs

 

Aguirre Spring Campground is located 21 miles east of Las Cruces. The fees are $3/day for day use. $3/night to camp. $25 reservation fee for the two group campsites. Take U.S. 70 for 14 miles east of the I-25/U.S. 70 interchange in Las Cruces, then turn south on the Aguirre Spring Road (1.1 miles after San Augustine Pass) for six miles. At mile 4 the road becomes a one-way loop and climbs steeply.

 

Pine Tree Trail is a 4.2 mile loop trail, usually low traffic. This trail is a bit more taxing than dripping springs…call it moderate. The wild flowers and foliage is beautiful, an oasis in the desert. When it rains or there is snow melt, the spontaneous waterfalls at Aguirre Springs are beautiful. Dogs are allowed.

 

Bosque Trail Riverwalk

 

This 11.9 mile trail follows the Rio Grande Bosque from New Mexico to Texas, the starting point of a trail that is being developed along the Rio Grande statewide. Trail can be accessed south of Washington St. (near Anthony) and Racetrack Dr. (Sunland Park).

 

Doña Ana Mountains

 

No fee. These are the premier mountain biking trails in the Las Cruces area, with miles and miles of trails ranging from beginner or even kid friendly to quite challenging and rocky terrain for experts. Located about 5 miles north of Las Cruces, there are several trails, 15 miles of mountain biking trails and 7 miles of horseback trails (which are not signed as well as the other trails). The southern trails are recommended for beginners as they are reasonably lengthy and not as technical as opposed to the northern trails which are shorter but more technical. It is also the home of the Horny Toad Hustle, a autumn MTB race, and usually the best attended in the state (sponsored by Outdoor Adventures, of course).

Take I-25 north to the Doña Ana exit, go east and turn left on Del Rey, turn at the next right (Calle Las Lomas). Turn left on La Reina, then turn right onto Desert Wind. Go east for about 1.4 miles and go through the cattle guard. On a primitive dirt road, go for another 1/2 mile. The trailhead is just past the power line.

 

Drippings Springs | Map

 

$3/day. $25 reservation for group picnic site. The Dripping Springs Natural Area is located 10 miles east of Las Cruces. From Exit 1 on Interstate 25, take University Avenue/Dripping Springs Road east to the end. There are almost 5 miles of easy hiking trails, including the Dripping Springs Trail, which shows off desert scrub and low elevation pinon-juniper and oak woodlands on the way to the ruins of the Van Patten Mountain Camp and Boyd’s tuberculosis sanitarium.

 

Dripping Springs Trail intersects with the Crawford Trail at the ¾ mile mark. Stay on the right fork to stay on Dripping Springs Trail. At about 1.3 miles there is a fork in the trail. Take the right branch. Take a right at the next junction as well. The old Boyd Sanitarium is about 0.1 miles. When looking at the dining hall, look for the rock stairway on the left side. Follow the stairway up and left to the waterfall above the area. Return on the same path. Return to the prior junction and take a right. The remains of the Van Patten Mountain Camp is about 300 feet up the trail. After exploring the camp, continue around the loop trail to the main trail to return to the visitor's center or to hike the other loops.

 

La Cueva Trail has a spur that goes to the Hermit’s cave, an Italian gentleman that took up residence for a couple of years at the end of the 1860s. It didn’t end well. He was murdered, found with a knife through his back. The La Cueva Trail has another spur that goes into a dead end canyon with a nice waterfall that creates a tiny desert oasis.

 

The entire area also boasts excellent wildlife viewing opportunities, which includes deer, rabbits, rattlesnakes and very large spiders (tarantulas). I saw four of the latter on my last visit…different varieties.

 

Kilbourne Hole

 

No fee. Kilbourne Hole is part of the little-known Portillo volcanic field, stretching across portions of New Mexico and Chihuahua states. Created between 24,000 and 80,000 years ago, the crater formed when magma heated groundwater to forceful pressures, creating a steam explosion. This type of shallow crater is called a maar, and other examples can be found in Patagonia, Auckland, and the Seward Peninsula in Alaska. A second, smaller maar, Hunt's Hole, is located two miles south of Kilbourne.

 

Due to its unique nature and resemblance to craters on the moon and Mars, astronauts from Apollo programs 12 through 17 visited Kilbourne Hole as part of their geology field exercises. Today it continues to be used for training and scientific purposes; among those, the U.S. Border Patrol conducts helicopter training operations around and inside the crater. Kilbourne Hole was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1975.

 

The trail here features some brief up and down sections as it follows basalt cliffs along the crater rim. Sandy portions of the trail require endurance and perseverance; the loop feels longer than the eight miles that it measures. With no shade, no water, no facilities, no cell phone reception and the entire area typically all to yourself, this is a true desert hike.

 

Located about 47 miles south of Las Cruces in a desert basin between the Potrillo Mountains and the Rio Grande. From Interstate 25 take the Vado Exit (10 miles south of Las Cruces) and NM 227 west 3 miles to NM 28. Take NM28 south (left) 2 miles to Dona Ana County Road (CR) B008. Take CR B008 west (right) 11 miles to Dona Ana CR B004 and turn south (left). Drive 6½ miles to railroad tracks. Turn left and cross railroad. Turn west (right) on Dona Ana CR A017 and drive for 7 miles to Dona Ana CR A011. Turn west (right) and proceed 8 miles to Kilbourne Hole. Kilbourne Hole is on the right, past the big tan dirt bank.

 

Mesilla Bosque State Park

 

No fee. The park is located on the Rio Grande near Las Cruces. 1.5 miles from historic Mesilla. Visitors have many opportunities to view wildlife in natural surroundings while strolling one of the self-guided nature trails. Enjoy a fun ranger-led tour!

 

Picacho Peak

 

No fee. Located just 7 miles west of Downtown Las Cruces, Picacho Peak is a 4959-foot high volcanic peak, composed of rhyolite (mostly quartz and feldspar) that solidified at the surface approximately 35 million years ago. The recreation area has over 15 miles of mountain biking, hiking, and equestrian trails. Picacho Peak Via Box Canyon Loop Trail is a 5.5 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Dona Ana, New Mexico that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, birding, and horses and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

 

After approximately 1 mile on Picacho Hills Drive, veer to the left onto Barcelona Ridge Road. Travel approximately 1 mile to Anthem Road and turn right. Follow Anthem Road approximately 1 mile to Loop Road and turn right. Loop Road turns into dirt. Approximately 0.9 mile turn right and follow to the Picacho Mountain Recreation Area.

 

Robledo Mountains “SST Trail”

 

No fee. For something more challenging, there is the “SST” trail. This area is open to off-road vehicle use (rock crawling; extreme four-wheel drive trails), hiking and mountain biking. The trails are dominated by enormous rocks, making the terrain extraordinarily challenging for riders. The extreme OHV trails require specialized vehicles, with locking differentials, winches, and expert drivers. Vehicle damage is not uncommon on these very difficult OHV trails. The area also includes the "SST" mountain bike trail, which is open only to non-motorized uses. It also is an extremely technical trail -- traversing challenging rocky terrain, steep canyons, and mountain-top ridges -- and requires expert riding skills.

 

The Robledo Mountains OHV Area and SST Trail is located about 4 miles north of Las Cruces. Take Valley Drive (U.S. 85) north to Shalem Colony Trail, go west on Shalem Colony Trail across the Rio Grande, turn right on Rocky Acres Trail, and take the first left off the wide dirt road. You will see signs for extreme four-wheel drive trails south of the main road; trails north of that road have been closed. The main road goes west toward a rock mine; take the left fork in the arroyo bottom, climb the hill, and go right up the canyon bottom to find the mountain bike trail and additional extreme four-wheel drive routes.

 

Sierra Vista Trail

 

No fee. For more experienced hikers, the Sierra Vista Trail runs along the edge of the Organ mountains, with beautiful views of the mountains and the Rio Grande Valley. It eventually connects with the Franklin Mountain State Park.

 

There are several trail heads. One is along the Soledad Canyon Road. From Exit 1 on Interstate 25, take University Avenue/Dripping Springs Road east for about 4.5 miles, then turn south on the Soledad Canyon Road. That road will turn east in a mile; follow it until you come to a parking area on your right. You can also access the Mossman Arroyo Road trailhead by exiting Interstate 10 at the Mesquite exit. Other trailheads can be reached by taking the Vado Exit off Interstate 10, and NM 404 at Anthony Gap.

 

Soledad Canyon/Bar Canyon Waterfall

 

No fee. The trail at Soledad Canyon is every bit as beautiful as those at Dripping Spring, but this trail tends to be less populated. Soledad Canyon Loop is a 3.3-mile loop trail located 10 miles east of Las Cruces. The trails are primarily used for hiking, trail running, horses, and mountain biking. From Exit 1 on Interstate 25, take University Avenue/Dripping Springs Road east for about 4.5 miles, then turn south on the Soledad Canyon Road. That road will turn east in a mile; follow it all the way to the end. It is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

 

To get to the waterfall, stay to the right when the trail branches, then follow the trail counter-clockwise. Approximately 1.5 miles in there is a junction where the trail divides. You can follow the loop to the left, or continue straight ahead to the old rock house and the waterfall. At just over a half a mile there is an old rock house. Continue on the trail to the waterfall. It will head to the right, up a small hill, then left into a narrow dead-end canyon. The waterfall is all the way at the back. To finish the loop, return to the junction where the trail divided. Turn right. Follow the trail back to the parking area.

 

Tortugas “A” Mountain

 

No fee. This trail is readily accessible, located 3 miles east of New Mexico State University. There are two trails that circle around the mountain for hiking or mountain biking. One of the trails leads to the top, which provides a spectacular view of the city, sunrise or sunset. Fairly easy hike, though there is a climb. Mountain biking the trail would be more challenging.

 

Take I-25 north or south to the University exit (Exit 1) in Las Cruces. Turn east on University Avenue and follow it until A Mountain is directly to your right. Once you reach the north side of the mountain, there are two areas where cars can be parked, the most popular being the second one as you go east.

 

Trails in Town | Map Trails in Las Cruces

 

For when you want to go for a stroll in Las Cruces, but don’t want to drive far.

RV Parks

Coachlight Inn

301 S. Motel Blvd.

(575) 526-3301

 

Hacienda RV

740 Stern Dr.

(575) 528-5800

 

Las Cruces KOA

814 Weinrich Rd.

(575) 526-6555

 

Siesta RV Park

1551 Avenida de Mesilla

(575) 523-6816

 

Sunny Acres RV Park

595 N. Valley Dr.

(575) 524-1716

Day Trips

Ghost Towns

 

Ghost towns are scattered throughout New Mexico. Most were constructed in the late 1800s in response to the silver and gold mining boom. Many of these towns were abandoned when the ore ran out or when the market crashed in the 1890s. In several the remaining residents have worked to restore the original structures and to keep the towns alive.

 

Several ghost towns are found on or near the routes of the Geronimo Trail and Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byways, including Engle, Chloride, Hanover, Fierro, Hillsboro, Lake Valley, Mogollon, Monticello and Pinos Altos.

 

Caballo Lake State Park

50 miles north of Las Cruces on I-25

(575) 743-3942

 

Located 20 miles downstream from Elephant Butte, Caballo Lake State Park offers camping, RVs, boating, fishing, swimming and hiking.

 

City of Rocks State Park

65 miles west of Las Cruces on I-10 to Deming. Take US 180 northwest for 24 miles, then take NM 61 northeast for four miles

(575) 536-2800

 

Located about halfway between Silver City and Deming, City of Rocks is a unique conglomeration of boulders deposited on the plains by a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago. The park offers camp sites, hiking trails, excellent mountain biking, wildlife viewing, stargazing, picnic areas, a visitor center and a desert botanical garden.

 

Elephant Butte Lake State Park

70 miles north of Las Cruces on I-25

(575) 744-5923

 

The largest of New Mexico’s lakes provides opportunities for camping, boating, fishing, hiking and swimming. The city of Elephant Butte also welcomes visitors with lodging, restaurants and recreational services.

 

Gila National Forest

65 miles west of Las Cruces on I-10 to Deming, take Hwy. 180 northeast for 52 miles, then take Hwy. 15 north

(575) 388-8201

 

The 6th largest National Forest in the country, the Gila National Forest is the largest wilderness area in the Southwest, covering approximately 22,700,000 acres in four counties. It encompasses the Black, Mogollon, Diablo and Blue mountain ranges with several natural hot springs along the Gila River and pristine wilderness for camping, hiking, horseback riding, wildlife viewing and more.

 

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

(575) 536-9461

 

This monument, located in the beautiful Gila Wilderness, offers a glimpse into the homes and lives of the Mogollon culture, who resided in these lofty dwellings for about 20 years between 1280 and the early 1300s. The trail to the Gila Cliff Dwellings is open from 9 am to 4 pm. The visitor center is open from 8 am to 4:30 pm.

 

Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway

This 150 mile byway starts at the Geronimo Trail Visitors Center in Truth or Consequences

(575-894-6600)

 

This could also be considered the ghost town tour, because this route passes through several of the Black Range boom towns, including Kingston and Hillsboro.

 

Leasburg State Park

Radium Springs, NM

(575) 524-4068

 

Leasburg Dam State Park offers camping, picnicking and bird watching. From mid-March to mid-October the park offers fishing, canoeing and kayaking. Leasburg Diversion Dam was constructed in 1908 on the Rio Grande  at the head of Mesilla Valley. This structure diverts water into the Leasburg Canal for the upper 31,600 acres of the Mesilla Valley irrigation system. Fort Selden: Adjacent Fort Selden State Monument has a museum and trails at a 19th-century military outpost.

 

Lincoln National Forest

65 miles east of Las Cruces on Hwy. 70 to Alamogordo, then take Hwy. 82 east for 35 miles

 

Known as the birthplace of Smokey Bear, the forest encompasses three major mountain ranges: Sacramento, Guadalupe and Capitan, covering 1,103,441 acres in four different counties. Elevations of 4,000 to 11,500 feet pass through five different life zones from Chihuahuan Desert to sub-alpine forest. Recreational opportunities include hiking, biking, winter sports, horseback riding and more. The villages of Ruidoso and Cloudcroft offer visitor information, recreation services, dining and shops.

 

New Mexico Museum of Space History

Head 65 miles east of Las Cruces on Hwy. 70.

3198 State Rte 2001, Alamogordo, NM

(575) 437-2840, (877) 333-6589

 

Located in Alamogordo, NM, this museum displays an extensive collection of information and artifacts about the space age and New Mexico’s contributions in the museum’s indoor and outdoor exhibits. The neighboring Clyde W. Tombaugh IMAX Dome Theater and Planetarium is home to southern New Mexico’s only IMAX theater. The museum is open daily from 9 am-5 pm (closed Thanksgiving and Christmas), and admission is $4-$6.

 

Oliver Lee State Park

65 miles east of Las Cruces on Hwy. 70 to Alamogordo.

Take US 54 south for 12 miles

(575) 437-8284

 

Named for Oliver Milton Lee, a pioneer southern New Mexico rancher and state legislator, Oliver Lee Memorial State Park is located at the mouth of Dog Canyon in the rugged Sacramento Mountains south of Alamogordo. Recreational opportunities include camping, hiking, picnicking and birding.

 

Percha Dam State Park

50 miles north of Las Cruces on I-25

(575) 743-3942

 

Less than 10 miles downstream from Caballo Lake is the Percha Dam State Park. Visitors can enjoy hiking, boating, camping and picnicking.

 

Rockhound State Park

65 miles west of Las Cruces on I-10 to Deming. Take NM 11 south for five miles, then take NM 141 east for nine miles

(575) 546-6182

 

South of Deming, NM, in the slopes of the Little Florida Mountains, Rockhound State Park provides opportunities for hiking, picnicking and camping. The visitor center provides insight into the unique history and geology of the area. Up to 15 pounds of rocks and semi-precious gem stones are yours for the taking.

 

Spaceport Visitor Center

70 Miles north of Las Cruces on I-25. 301 S. Foch St., Truth or Consequences, NM

 

Located among the historic downtown and numerous hot springs of Truth or Consequences, the Spaceport Visitor Center is packed with exciting educational and interactive space exhibits.

 

Sunspot Scenic Byway

South of Cloudcroft

 

This short 15 mile drive to the Sunspot Visitor Center and Museum and the Apache Point Observatory begins just south of Cloudcroft, following a route filled with hiking opportunities and scenic views of pine, aspen and fir forests.

 

Trail of the Mountain Spirits National Scenic Byway

Junction of state Hwys 152 and 180

 

This 93 mile National Scenic Byway begins in Silver City at the junction of state Hwys 152 and 180.  The drive will take you around the southwest corner of New Mexico, through the Gila Wilderness Area, back and forth across the forested Continental Divide and to ancient cliff dwellings occupied by the Mogollon. The byway serves as the route for the grueling annual Tour of the Gila race.

 

White Sands National Monument

19955 Highway 70 West

Alamogordo, NM 88310

Email: whsa_interpretation@nps.gov

(575) 479-6124

 

Hiking, year-round sledding on the dunes, primitive camping, full moon hikes, spectacular sunrises and sunsets, White Sands is a natural treasure and consistently photogenic. Unlike dunes composed of quartz-based sand, gypsum does not readily convert the sun's energy into heat. As a result, the surface temperature of White Sands doesn’t get as hot as sand on a beach would. The dunes can be comfortably traversed barefoot most of the year. Even when the surface of the sand gets too hot, it is cool just below the surface, because the gypsum retains moisture from the playa of the Alkali Flat. Occasionally the road into the monument can close due to missile testing. Check here for the latest information.

Birdwatching

The Las Cruces area offers a unique mix of habitats with an impressive diversity of bird watching opportunities. Situated at the north end of the Chihuahuan Desert, Las Cruces has the added dimensions of the Rio Grande River, and the nearby Organ Mountains.

 

Birding hotspots include Dripping Springs, the Old Refuge on the west side of the Rio Grande near Mesilla Dam, the Picacho Bosque Wildlife Management Area, Leasburg Dam and Percha Dam State Parks. Wintering waterfowl and raptors abound at Elephant Butte and Caballo Lake. Higher elevation species can be found in the cool forests of the Black Range along NM Highway 152.

 

Special arrangements can be made to visit the spectacular Ladder Ranch, just north of Hillsboro, where over 200 species of birds have been observed.

 

Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park

5000 Calle del Norte, Mesilla,

(575) 523-4398

 

Located on the western bank of the Rio Grande, southwest of the town of Mesilla. The heart of the park is 52 acres of Rio Grande floodplain known as the ”Old Refuge;” the total park acreage is about 945 acres of both wetlands and Chihuahuan Desert. The goals of the park are conservation, education, and restoration.

 

Percha Dam State Park

 

Set in the intimate shade of towering cottonwoods, Percha Dam State Park features camping, picnicking, fishing and bird watching on the Rio Grande. Park Place: Cottonwood and velvet ash trees shelter park visitors from the southern New Mexico sun. Visitors fish and swim to the backdrop of the Rio Grande.

 

Top Five: One of the five top birding sites in New Mexico, Percha Dam State Park is particularly bird-acious during spring and autumn migration seasons. (575) 743-3942

Campgrounds

Aguirre Spring Campground

 

Located on the east side of Organ Mountains, 21 miles east of Las Cruces in Dona Ana County. • Directions: Take U.S. 70 for 14 miles east of the I-25/U.S. 70 interchange in Las Cruces, then turn south on the Aguirre Spring Road (1.1 miles after San Augustine Pass) for six miles. At mile 4 the road becomes a one-way loop and climbs steeply.

 

From April to October, the entrance gate is open from 8:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. From October until April, it is open from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Non-campers must be out by 10:00 p.m. year-round. (575) 525-4300

 

Fees: $3 per vehicle for day use and $3 per night to camp. There is a $25 reservation fee for the two group campsites.

 

Caballo Lake State Park

10 Palomino Rd.

Caballo, NM

(575) 743-3942

 

The Caballo Mountains serve as a majestic backdrop for Caballo Lake State Park. The park boasts a full array of water recreation, winter waterfowl watching, and cactus gardens in bloom. Boating, sailing, swimming, water skiing, fishing and windsurfing are some of the wet and wild activities available at the Park. Lake and river provide anglers with the opportunity to catch a variety of fish including catfish, largemouth bass, walleye, white bass, crappie, bluegill, northern pike and sunfish.

 

Las Cruces KOA

814 Weinrich Rd.

(575) 526-6555

 

Conveniently located off I-10 at exit 135. Las Cruces KOA sits on the west mesa overlooking the Organ Mountains, the city of Las Cruces and the historic Mesilla Valley. Choose from romantic view sites (pull-in or back-in) with 180 degree views, deluxe pull thru sites up to 80 feet long, sodded tent sites that provide a grass carpet under shade trees, or kamping cabins (heated or cooled for your comfort). Full hook-up sites feature free cable TV and wireless internet access. 50 AMP service is available in our view sites and deluxe pull thru sites. Onsite heated swimming pool, clean restrooms/showers and laundry facilities. Weekly and monthly rates are available. Non-aggressive pets are welcome!

 

Leasburg State Park

 

Leasburg Dam State Park offers camping, picnicking and bird watching in Radium Springs. From mid-March to mid-October the park offers fishing, canoeing and kayaking. Here a trio of snowy egrets looks for better fishing above historic Leasburg Dam. Leasburg Diversion Dam: Leasburg Diversion Dam was constructed in 1908 on the Rio Grande 62 miles north of El Paso at the head of Mesilla Valley. This structure diverts water into the Leasburg Canal for the upper 31,600 acres of the Mesilla Valley irrigation system. Recent Makeover: The park has attractive picnic and camping facilities on the Rio Grande, a modern restroom with showers, a new playground for the young at heart, a new campfire circle for evening programs, and a new visitor center with exhibits. Fort Selden: Adjacent Fort Selden State Monument has a museum and trails at a 19th-century military outpost. (575) 524-4068

 

Percha Dam State Park

 

Set in the intimate shade of towering cottonwoods, Percha Dam State Park features camping, picnicking, fishing and bird watching on the Rio Grande. Park Place: Cottonwood and velvet ash trees shelter park visitors from the southern New Mexico sun. Visitors fish and swim to the backdrop of the Rio Grande.

 

Top Five: One of the five top birding sites in New Mexico, Percha Dam State Park is particularly bird-acious during spring and autumn migration seasons. (575) 743-3942

Things to See & Do

Achenback Canyon bouldering

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.

 

To get there, take University out of town, towards the mountain.  Take a right onto Soledad Canyon Road, then a left at the fire station in order to stay on Soledad.  Right onto Ladera Canyon road.  After about .6 miles, left onto an unmarked gravel road. Drive east on country road C077, then turn right onto Soledad Canyon rd. Once at the top of the hill turn right onto Ladera Canyon rd. Head down the road until you see a group of dumpsters. Turn left up the dirt road and follow it through the fence.

 

Aden Crater

The Potrillo Volcanic Field is a 500-square-mile Chihuahuan Desert landscape of lava flows, cinder and shield cones, immense craters, structural fracturing, low mountains, playa lakes, cacti and scrub. It is located immediately north of the Mexican border. Aden Crater, in the northern part of the field, originated with a succession of lava flows that issued from a single vent, building up a shield cone over time. Volcanic “spatter” – droplets of molten rock – erupted next, forming a rim around the crater. Molten rock flows returned, issuing from the vent to become trapped by the spatter rim as a “lake” of lava. Small explosive eruptions became Aden Crater’s dying gasp, and as the last of the lava drained away down the vent, the immediately surrounding surface collapsed, leaving a large pit within the crater.

 

Exploring the history of the Camino Real

In 1598, Spanish Conquistador Juan de Oñate and his followers founded the first European settlements along the upper Rio Grande. The new road from Mexico City to Santa Fe became the Camino Real. This Royal Road covered 1,500 miles and linked the New Mexico provinces to the religion, language, and architecture of the colonial capital in Mexico City. North of Las Cruces, the marshy riverbanks became impassable for caravans on the Camino Real. Travelers chose the Jornada del Muerto, or Journey of the Dead Man. This part of the trail veered away from the river valley in a ninety mile, waterless stretch. The southern terminus of this route is Fort Selden in Radium Springs, north of Las Cruces and the northern terminus is near Fort Craig, south of Socorro.

 

This trade route was critical to the development of the Spanish empire in New Mexico, connecting the early settlers with the resources and supplies needed to defend their newfound communities. From Mesilla through the small communities lining the Rio Grande, Doña Ana county provides the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the conquistadors that expanded the Spanish empire into the new world.

 

Getting a chile fix

New Mexico’s cuisine is noteworthy in the consistent use of piquant peppers. No community is better known for their peppers than Hatch, the self-declared chile capital of the world. This small, agricultural community generates a significant portion of New Mexico’s overall green chile production, with farm stands lining the main streets. Though Hatch is the ideal place to load up on chile by the bushel or by the truckload, there are also numerous places to get a chile fix on the fly, including Sparky’s, a fun and festive diner festooned with interesting/odd/peculiar roadside décor. They are known for their green chile cheeseburger, a behemoth of a burger, generously slathered with the delicious green chile that put Hatch on the map for foodies.

 

Several strains of chile were developed based on a collaboration between the farmers in Hatch, like James Franzoy and the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University. Big Jim is named after James Franzoy. The Franzoy family was also instrumental in developing Lumbre, the XXX hot variety.

 

The Chile Pepper Institute is on the NMSU campus. Staff is usually available Monday – Friday if you have questions.

 

Chile Pepper Institute Visitors Center and Gift Shop

Gerald Thomas Hall, Room 265

945 College Ave.

575-646-5284

 

The Chile Pepper Institute Teaching Garden is open seven days a week, June to October, at 113 W. University Ave.

 

Fort Selden State Monument

1280 Fort Selden Rd. 15 miles north of Las Cruces on either I-25, exit 19, or Hwy 185

575-526-8911

 

Admission $3. Fort Selden was built in 1865 by the United States Army to protect the settlers of the Mesilla Valley. Itwas the original home of the Buffalo Soldiers. It was located on the southern terminus of the Jornada del Muerto. Today, part of the fort’s adobe brick walls remain along with a visitor center featuring exhibits on frontier and military life. Living history demonstrations are occasionally offered on weekends.

 

Haunted Las Cruces

Amador Hotel - The Amador Hotel, built in 1866, is popular among the area’s ghost tours. Witnesses describe apparitions, shadows, malfunctioning flashlights, and scratches that appeared on a man’s arm as he was touring the upstairs. That’s where Annie is said to reside, a playful spirit who has asked ghost investigators to bring her a purple toy.

 

Doña Ana County Courthouse – This historic courthouse was built in 1937. The third floor on the courthouse was the jail. It is no longer used for judicial affairs and is being converted into a high end hotel. Evidently several people have died in the building. Paranormal investigators here claim to have encountered a violent entity and a shadowy apparition, and have reported hearing voices and feeling cold spots.

 

Double Eagle – The spirits associated with the Double Eagle were Las Cruces’ version of Romeo and Juliet. Their names were Armando and Inez. Armando was from a wealthy family. Inez worked for his parents as a maid. They fell in love, but hid their relationship from Armando’s mom, knowing she wouldn’t approve. She found out and forbid them from seeing one another, quickly setting up a marriage for Armando with someone she deemed more appropriate. When she returned to Las Cruces to tell Armando about his upcoming nuptials to a stranger, she discovered him with Inez. She flipped out, grabbed a pair of scissors and stabbed the girl. Armando tried to protect Inez, but his mother was savage, inadvertently stabbing him in the back. Inez died in Armando’s arms. Armando died a few days later. The family quickly sold the property and moved to Mexico. Some believe that Armando and Inez continue to haunt the property, which is now the Double Eagle. They were murdered in the Carlotta room.

 

The Fountain Theatre – The Fountain Theatre is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a frustrated actress. The Albert Fountain family built the theatre as a vaudeville house in 1905. It now serves as an independent theater, showcasing independent, art, classic and foreign films. It has rickety wooden seats, café tables and chairs and historical wall murals.

 

La Posta de Mesilla Restaurant –Employees talk about ghosts smashing glasses, moving chairs, opening and closing doors, throwing clocks, chilling the air, exuding sulfur smells and shoving customers. Having worked in food service, it is handy to have ghosts to blame for harassing the guests.

 

Mesilla Cemetery – When looking for ghosts, why not search the obvious places, right? In this case, search for the witch’s grave in the San Albino Cemetery at the end of Calle de Guadalupe. Look for the cinderblock and cement tomb decorated with a black cross that someone carved with the number 666. Legend has it this is the witch’s tomb. It is the only headstone in the cemetery that has no name inscribed on it. There is no record of who is buried there or what they may have done to warrant a fortified grave, but the tale is that her ghost is restless, looking for a crack to escape. Those who live near the cemetery repair any cracks that appear. Neighbors are not fond of visitors poking around the cemetery after hours.

 

Railroad Museum - This old train depot now serves as a railroad museum, and is rumoured to be haunted by at least three spirits, including two ghostly men and a woman in an old-fashioned dress. Voices have also been heard when there is no one around.

 

Kilbourne Hole

Several hundred thousand years ago, in the area that would become known as the Potrillo Volcanic Field, white-hot molten rock or magma, extruded by the internal pressures of our planet, rose from depths as deep as 50 miles up through structural fractures toward the surface. It would change the face of the landscape.

 

Kilbourne Hole, a world-famous National Natural Landmark located in the eastern edge of the field, has long attracted scientists who want to compare the maar with similar features on other bodies in the solar system. Lunar scientists and Apollo astronauts studied Kilbourne Hole back in the 1960’s, during our manned flights to the moon. More recently, scientists have compared Kilbourne Hole with what may be maar-type volcanoes they have seen during unmanned flights to Mars.

 

Leasburg State Park

Leasburg Dam State Park offers camping, picnicking and bird watching. From mid-March to mid-October the park offers fishing, canoeing and kayaking.

 

Old Mesilla

Mesilla is an old agricultural community across the river from Las Cruces. Some of the largest pecan orchards in the world can be found on the backroads around Mesilla. The plaza is a hub of history, with a beautiful church, San Albino, completed in 1906. Though Mesilla is on the Camino Real, the primary trade route between Mexico City and Santa Fe, and the Conquistadors instrumental to the founding of New Mexico passed to and fro, there was no settlement until the 1800s. This region is Apache territory, traversed by Victorio and Geronimo, ground zero for the Apache Wars in the late 1800s. Towns started cropping up in southern New Mexico after the forts were constructed, providing military support for settlers and miners attempting to stake claims on Apache land. Once the Apache were captured and sent to reservations or to concentration camps in Florida, the fertile land along the Rio Grande became a critical commercial and agricultural hub, attracting a litany of legends from the American West. Billy the Kid broke out of jail in Mesilla. The hermit lived in Mesilla briefly before moving into his cave at the base of the Organ Mountains. Mesilla served as the capital of the New Mexico territory after the Mexican-American war, which encompassed the land that would become Arizona. When it comes to history, good food and a picturesque southwestern setting, it doesn’t get much better than Mesilla.

 

Organ Mountain – Desert Peaks National Monument

 

Drippings Springs | Map

$3/day. $25 reservation for group picnic site. The Dripping Springs Natural Area is located 10 miles east of Las Cruces. From Exit 1 on Interstate 25, take University Avenue/Dripping Springs Road east to the end. There are almost 5 miles of easy hiking trails, including the Dripping Springs Trail, which shows off desert scrub and low elevation pinon-juniper and oak woodlands on the way to the ruins of the Van Patten Mountain Camp and Boyd’s tuberculosis sanitarium.

 

Dripping Springs Trail intersects with the Crawford Trail at the ¾ mile mark. Stay on the right fork to stay on Dripping Springs Trail. At about 1.3 miles there is a fork in the trail. Take the right branch. Take a right at the next junction as well. The old Boyd Sanitarium is about 0.1 miles. When looking at the dining hall, look for the rock stairway on the left side. Follow the stairway up and left to the waterfall above the area. Return on the same path. Return to the prior junction and take a right. The remains of the Van Patten Mountain Camp is about 300 feet up the trail. After exploring the camp, continue around the loop trail to the main trail to return to the visitor's center or to hike the other loops.

 

La Cueva Trail has a spur that goes to the Hermit’s cave, an Italian gentleman that took up residence for a couple of years at the end of the 1860s. It didn’t end well. He was murdered, found with a knife through his back. The La Cueva Trail has another spur that goes into a dead end canyon with a nice waterfall that creates a tiny desert oasis.

 

Soledad Canyon/Bar Canyon Waterfall

The trail at Soledad Canyon is every bit as beautiful as those at Dripping Spring, but this trail tends to be less populated. Soledad Canyon Loop is a 3.3-mile loop trail located a few miles outside of Las Cruces. The trail is primarily used for hiking, trail running, horses, and mountain biking, It is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

 

To get to the waterfall, stay to the right when the trail branches, then follow the trail counter-clockwise. Approximately 1.5 miles in there is a junction where the trail divides. You can follow the loop to the left, or continue straight ahead to the old rock house and the waterfall. At just over a half a mile there is an old rock house. Continue on the trail to the waterfall. It will head to the right, up a small hill, then left into a narrow dead-end canyon. The waterfall is all the way at the back. To finish the loop, return to the junction where the trail divided. Turn right. Follow the trail back to the parking area.

 

Pretty Parks | Pioneer Women’s Park, Unidad Park & Veteran’s Park

Pioneer Women’s Park was developed by early members of the Women’s Improvement Association. It was deeded to the town of Las Cruces in 1942 and covers 2.1 acres in one of the most beautiful and historical neighborhoods in Las Cruces. Unidad Park has a great playground for small childrens. Veteran’s Park on Roadrunner Parkway is home to the Doña Ana County Veteran’s Wall and the Bataan Death March Monument. The helicopter at sunset is striking.

 

Perusing the Pecan Orchards

New Mexico is the second largest pecan producer in the United States, second only to Georgia. The vast majority of New Mexico’s pecans are grown in Doña Ana County, relying on water from the Rio Grande to irrigate the orchards. When traveling the back roads of Mesilla, it is not unusual to drive through tunnels of pecan boughs for miles. This is particularly appealing during the fall when the leaves change color. One of the best examples is Stahmann Farms, outside of Mesilla. The Salopek orchards are the largest family owned pecan orchards in the world. Greg and Heather Salopek, brother and sister, are behind New Mexico Pecan and Legacy Pecan (respectively).

 

Prehistoric Trackways National Monument

1800 Marquess Street

Las Cruces, NM  88005-3370

(575) 525-4300

 

The Prehistoric Trackways National Monument was established in 2009 to conserve, protect, and enhance the unique and nationally-important paleontological, scientific, educational, scenic, and recreational resources and values of the Robledo Mountains. The site contains one of the most scientifically-significant Early Permian track sites in the world. The Monument includes a major deposit of Paleozoic Era fossilized footprint mega-trackways over approximately 5,280 acres, including numerous amphibians, reptiles, and insects (including previously unknown species), plants, and petrified wood dating back 280 million years.

 

Roadrunner Overlook of I-10 going into Las Cruces

For a fantastic photo of Las Cruces and the Organ Mountains, as well as a wonderful place to watch the sunrise and sunset, the recycled roadrunner on I-10 is an excellent location. It is located at the rest stop on I-10 just east of Las Cruces. If heading there from Las Cruces, take West Picacho Avenue to I-10 and head east towards Las Cruces. The exit to the rest stop will be within a mile of the W. Picacho I-10 on-ramp.

 

Space Age Technology & Tours

The space age and nuclear age was born in New Mexico, with the Manhattan Project conceived in Los Alamos and the first nuclear bombs tested at Trinity Site outside of Las Cruces. White Sands Missile Range is only part of the large tract of land owned by the government as part of White Sands, which is protected airspace from ground to infinity. This protection extends across most of the Organ spires, which is one reason commercial aircraft don’t fly over the Organ Mountains. There are numerous place catering to individuals who are curious about the development and history of the space age.

 

White Sands Missile Range Museum allows visitors to trace the origin of America's missile and space activity, find out how the atomic age began and learn about the accomplishments of scientists like Dr. Wernher von Braun and Dr. Clyde Tombaugh at White Sands. Displays also include the prehistoric cultures and the rip-roaring Old West found in southern New Mexico. Area map and driving directions.

 

Space Murals Museum – Ever wonder what the scientists and staff packed home from work while creating the world’s first atomic weapon? The Space Murals Museum may provide an answer to that. While the museum has no priceless otherworldly artifacts (it once had a pair of moon boots, but NASA took them away) it does have what is probably the world's most varied collection of pack-rat space jetsam and memorabilia. It is hard to miss. The property is easily spotted from highway 70 heading east out of Las Cruces based on the water tank with a space history motif.

 

There are commemorative t-shirts from shuttle landings, hunks of spacecraft insulation, heat tiles, gloves, helmets, lots of gold thermal blankets, a fireproof suit, an Apollo souvenir beer stein, a 45 rpm record by John Glenn, teddy bears in NASA coveralls, freeze dried macaroni and cheese from the long-gone MIR space station. Autographed publicity photos of astronauts are everywhere.

 

New Mexico Museum of Space History - The New Mexico Museum of Space History is a museum and planetarium complex in Alamogordo, New Mexico, dedicated to artifacts and displays related to space flight and the space age. It includes the International Space Hall of Fame. The Museum of Space History highlights the role that New Mexico has had in the U. S. space program, and is one of eight museums administered by the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs.

 

Trinity Site Tours – Though this is a bit of a drive from Las Cruces, southeast of Socorro, it is essential to anyone interested in the birth of the atomic age. The first detonation of a nuclear bomb occurred at the Trinity site. Twice a year it is open to the public (April & October).

 

Water Towers

All of the water towers in Las Cruces have been adorned with beautiful, often historically significant, murals. Some are more accessible than others. Finding and taking photos of the murals can become a photographic Pokémon adventure.

 

White Sands

Hiking, year-round sledding on the dunes, primitive camping, full moon hikes, spectacular sunrises and sunsets, White Sands is a natural treasure and consistently photogenic. Unlike dunes composed of quartz-based sand, gypsum does not readily convert the sun's energy into heat. As a result, the surface temperature of White Sands doesn’t get as hot as sand on a beach would. The dunes can be comfortably traversed barefoot most of the year. Even when the surface of the sand gets too hot, it is cool just below the surface, because the gypsum retains moisture from the playa of the Alkali Flat. Occasionally the road into the monument can close due to missile testing. Check here for the latest information.

Las Cruces Annual Events

February

Annual for the Love of Art Month

Art exhibits throughout Las Cruces and Old Mesilla Plaza. (575) 525-1955

MARCH

Cowboy Days

The New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum honors the western legacy with a weekend festival of roping and riding demonstrations, “cowboy food,” dancing, and cowboy poetry. (575) 522-4100

Bataan Memorial Death March

The Bataan Memorial Death March is a challenging march through the high desert terrain of White Sands Missile Range to honor the heroic service members who defended the Philippine Islands during World War II.  (575) 678-1134

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

La Viña Spring Festival

A weekend of good music and good wine hosted by New Mexico’s oldest winery. in La Union. (575) 882-7632

Las Cruces Country Music Festival

The Las Cruces Convention and Visitors Bureau presents the Las Cruces Country Music Festival, a three-day celebration of country music featuring up and coming country music acts from Nashville and around the country. (575) 541-2444

MAY

Blazin’ Brew Fest

Live music, food trucks, games and home brewing demonstrations. Full pints and package beer also available.  (575)-523-RENT (7368)

Cinco de Mayo Fiesta

A traditional Mexican fiesta honoring Mexico’s second revolution. Experience traditional Mexican music, food and dancing on the historic Old Mesilla Plaza. (575) 524-3262

Las Cruces Wine Festival

Visitors can sample wine from the many New Mexico wineries as well as enjoy live entertainment and local vendors.

JUNE

Red, White and Brew – Wine & Beer Festival

(575) 522-1232.

JULY

4th of July Electric Light Parade, Celebration and Fireworks

Las Cruces celebrates with a parade of floats decorated with electric lights. Experience live entertainment throughout the day plus a spectacular fireworks display at night. All events are free and open to the public.  (575) 541-2550

SEPTEMBER

Hatch Chile Festival

The Mesilla Valley is the chile capital of the world and the annual Hatch Chile Festival is the place to experience the piquant peppers that serve as the cornerstone for New Mexican cuisine. Sample some of the finest chile, enjoy food, crafts, an auction, live music and more. (575) 267-1095, (575) 993-9393

New Mexico Wine Harvest Festival

Celebrate New Mexico’s wine harvest with grape stomping, wine tasting, and live entertainment. Festival features arts and crafts vendors, children’s activities, hourly wine seminars and a relaxed atmosphere. (575) 522-1232

Diez y Seis de Septiembre Fiesta

Join the village of Mesilla to commemorate Mexico’s independence with folklorico dances, mariachi music and authentic Mexican cuisine. (575) 524-3262

White Sands Hot Air Balloon Invitational

A collection of colorful balloons filling the air over the white gypsum dunes of White Sands National Monument. (575) 437-6120, (800) 826-0294

Southern New Mexico State Fair & Rodeo

The Southern New Mexico State Fair has something for everyone; a midway, an auction, food, music, livestock shows and a rodeo. (575) 524-8602

OCTOBER

Mesilla Valley Maze

Bring the kids and those that are “kids at heart” to the rural fun of the Mesilla Valley Maze. Take a hayride out to the pumpkin patch to look for the perfect Jack-O-Lantern. (575) 526-1919

Trinity Site Tour

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

Mesilla Jazz Happening

Mesilla Valley Jazz Happening will be swinging into historic Old Mesilla at the Mercado Plaza and on the Historic Plaza. The Plazas will host free live jazz music at two venues. Old Mesilla Plaza. (575) 526-2620

Frontier Days

Take a trip back in time with a visit to Fort Selden State Monument to honor the civilians and soldiers who lived at the fort and protected the residents of the Mesilla Valley after the Civil War. Among the groups honored are the Buffalo Soldiers who were among the first soldiers assigned to the Fort. (575) 526-8911

La Viña Harvest Wine Festival

This festival is the oldest wine festival in New Mexico and features food, entertainment and of course, wine produced by New Mexico’s oldest winery. La Viña Winery in La Union. (575) 882-7632.

Dia de los Muertos

Join the candlelight procession on November 2nd at 6 pm as the dead are remembered. Homemade altars on display.   (575) 524-3262 ex. 116

NOVEMBER

Renaissance Arts Faire

Spend a weekend with Kings and Queens at the 36th Annual Renaissance ArtsFaire. Local, state and regional artisans gather to participate in a juried art show and exhibition. (575) 523-6403

HomeGrown:  A New Mexico Food Show & Gift Market

As the holiday shopping season arrives, visitors are invited to come and purchase the best that New Mexico has to offer. The event is a partnership between the Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum and the New Mexico Department of Agriculture with more than 50 vendors from around the state. (575) 522-4100

DECEMBER

Christmas Carols and Luminarias on the Plaza

The historic village of Old Mesilla is aglow with thousands of luminarias and caroling. (575) 524-3262

Farmers and Crafts Market

Farmers & Crafts Market of Las Cruces

7 City Blocks along Main St.

Downtown Las Cruces | Plaza

 

SATURDAY | 8:30 am to 1 pm

WEDNESDAY | 8:30 am to 1 pm

 

The market is full of baked goods, fresh produce, photography, jewelry, crafts, and music.  Everything in the market is locally grown, by the growers of Doña Ana.

ORGAN MOUNTAINS - DESERT PEAKS

NATIONAL MONUMENT