By Arlan Ponder
Everyone who plans a trip to Cloudcroft considers all of the things to do in and around the area. Whether it be shopping or spending time with the family, the options are limitless 9,000 feet “above stress level”. Before you leave our Village you will have traveled to places people from around the globe come to visit, photograph and enjoy. Whether you are a first time visitor or have been coming here since you were little, you’ll find something during your seven days in Cloudcroft that you might not have ever done. All of the events listed will have you starting in the Village of Cloudcroft and returning at the end of the day, exhausted, to your room or home here in the Village. For additional information on things to do while in Cloudcroft call the Chamber of Commerce at 1-877-UPHIGH7 or visit their web site at www.cloudcroft.net. Throughout our tour we will also include contact information for many of the places. So enjoy your stay in Cloudcroft and, if you can’t do it all this year, make plans to come back next year.
Day One – The Cloudcroft Experience
Morning: After a good breakfast at one of our local establishments you are off for a tour of the Village of Cloudcroft. Your first stop should be in Cloudcroft at the eclectic shops in an old west fashion. You’ll discover treasures from beautiful artwork and hand crafted jewelry, antiques and collectibles, designer fashions and leather products, and the list goes on and on. Also, don’t forget to make your way down the side streets.
Noon: Stop in for lunch at one of the many restaurants on Burro Street. Who knows, you just might run into someone you know, or someone who knows where you live. You’ll find an assortment of food from barbecue to pizza to grilled chili burgers to homemade baked goods to vegetarian.
Afternoon: If you’re ready for tales of how Cloudcroft got its name and a little bit of history then you’re ready to visit the Sacramento Mountains Historical Museum located on the east edge of the Village on Highway 82. As you stroll through this “little village” on a self-guided tour, you’ll feel as though you’ve actually gone back in time. Displays of photos, furniture, tools and other memorabilia are available to educate the young and old. You can even see where one of our presidents left his mark on a piece of Cloudcroft when he was a youth. The museum is open Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm and Sunday from 1 pm to 4 pm. Admission is $3 for adults and $1 for children. For more information on the Museum, call (505) 682-2932 or e-mail them at [email protected]
Day Two – Walking In The Sands
Morning: Today you’re off to see the world-renowned White Sands of New Mexico, which is approximately 45 minutes west of the Village of Cloudcroft. As you make your way down the 16 miles between Cloudcroft and Alamogordo be sure to take in the Trestle just outside the Village of Cloudcroft. This was used during the early days of Cloudcroft to bring visitors from as far away as El Paso and Las Cruces. Another interesting site is the tunnel just past the Village of High Rolls. From the viewing area you can see portions of Holloman Air Force Base, the Tularosa Basin and the San Andres Mountains.
Noon: Have lunch at one of Alamogordo’s many restaurants, or better yet, pack a lunch and enjoy it at White Sands.
Afternoon: White Sands National Monument was created by the world’s largest deposit of gypsum sand. The sands are approximately 300 square miles in size and can be seen by astronauts from space. The sands have been used, and continue to be used, in a number of motion pictures, television dramas, commercials and photo shoots. The park is open daily from 7 am to sunset. The cost is $3 per person and there are picnic areas available, not to mention the number of sand dunes you can slide, roll or walk down. Visitors can explore this vast landscape on their own or in a guided tour, but be sure to pack your sunscreen and water because the sun will dehydrate you. For visitor information, call (505) 679-2599 or visit www.nps.gov/whsa.
Evening: As you drive back up the mountain toward Cloudcroft be sure to watch for deer and elk, especially around dusk just past Mountain Park where they love to graze in the orchards off to the right of Highway 82. On your way back to your room or cabin don’t forget to pick up a to go order or some refreshments at one of our local establishments.
Day Three – Visiting Ancient Sites
Morning: Again you will be headed down Highway 82 toward Alamogordo, but at the intersection of US 54/70 you will take a right and head toward Tularosa. You’re destination this morning is the Three Rivers Petroglyphs Site. As you go through Tularosa be sure to stay north on US 54 and go 17 miles to Three Rivers, New Mexico. Three Rivers Petroglyph and Picnic Area is a prehistoric Native American Indian rock preservation. There are about 20,000 carvings among the rocks that outcrop the area. This is one of the largest locations found in the Southwest, but beware rattlesnakes are prevalent in this area so stay alert with children and pets. Three Rivers Petroglyphs is always open and can be reached at (505) 525-4300.
Noon: Pack a sack lunch for this trip because you’ll have the opportunity to eat at Three Rivers or at your next stop — The Valley of Fires.
Afternoon: As you leave Three Rivers you will make a right on Highway 54 and head north to Carrizozo. As you drive you will pass Sierra Blanca — the tallest mountain in southern New Mexico and a doormat volcano. This volcano is not the source of the lava flows in the Valley of the Fires. At Carrizozo turn left onto Highway 380, heading west. The area is approximately four miles down the road. The Valley of Fires is located in the Malpais Lava Beds, which is an area that has volcanic flows with nature trails constructed over some unique lava formations. The flows were formed when the ground cracked open and allowed the lava to come to the surface.
Evening: Make your way back up the mountain toward Cloudcroft and stop just outside the Village limits to see the historic Mexican Canyon Trestle, which was used in the early days of Cloudcroft to bring visitors from as far away as El Paso and Las Cruces. A short drive up US 82 and off to the right you will find the Trestle Recreation Area where you will be headed tomorrow. By this point you’re probably tired, so go ahead and stop at one of our restaurants and just eat dinner.
Day Four – Observing The Mountains
Morning: Put on your hiking shoes this morning because you’re about to see some of Cloudcroft’s best sites and you can’t get there without using your feet. Before you leave, stop by one of Cloudcroft’s stores and pick up plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen and whatever else you might need on the trail. Also be sure to pack a lunch to eat on the trail, but make sure you pack out your trash so others can also enjoy the beauty. You will depart from the Trestle Recreation Area and return back to this spot, making a 2.5 mile loop on the Trestle Trail. The Trail is a moderate, barrier-free trails that takes you into deeply shadowed old-growth forest and gives you a close look at the landmark Mexican Canyon Trestle. If you are interested in more challenging trails try the Cross-Over Trail, Grand View Trail, Switchback Trail and the OSHA Trail -all within a short drive of the Trestle Recreation Area.
Noon: Stop off and listen to the wind or just smell the clean air as you enjoy lunch in the Ponderosa and Pinion Pines of the Sacramento Mountains. If you listen you just might hear an eagle cry or see a deer stroll past you. Depending on the season, you might also want to take along a whistle because this is bear country.
Afternoon: A short drive south of Cloudcroft takes you to Sunspot home of the National Solar Observatory, one of the largest solar observatories in the world, and Apache Point Observatory, an astrophysical research consortium. This short drive takes you on a National Scenic Byway with breathtaking landscapes. Be sure to stop off at the overlook on NM 6563, which is the number of the ultraviolet ray that hits onto this road. From this vantage you can see the villages of High Rolls and Mountain Park as well as the Organ Mountains. Visitors to NSO can take self-guided walking tours from sunrise to sunset or wait for the guided tour that begins at 2 pm in the Visitor’s Center. Scientists at NSO view the sun, while Apache Point scientists perform night viewing of the stars. Apache Point Observatory offers visitors a self-guided tour through the area. For more information on the NSO log on to www.nso.edu/sunspot or call 505-434-7000. For more information on Apache Point log on to www.apo.nmsu.edu or call 505-437-6822.
Evening: As you can guess we will again suggest you return to Cloudcroft in time for dinner and drinks at one of our local establishments. If you happen to be here during the summer months you might consider taking in a melodrama in Zenith Park or a street dance sponsored by the Cloudcroft Chamber of Commerce.
Day Five – Below The Surface
Morning: Start off the day with a hearty breakfast Ð you’ll need plenty of energy as you head to the “Eighth Wonder of the World” about three-and-a-half hours away. Heading east on US 82 you will go 95 miles toward Artesia and then south on Route 285 to Carlsbad. Unfortunately, the caverns aren’t actually in Carlsbad. You still have another 27 miles to go. In Carlsbad, look for Route 62 that takes you to White’s City – where the caverns are actually located. Nature has set the thermostat of the caverns at 54 degrees, so be sure to bring a jacket. You can take an elevator down several stories to the bottom of the caverns and explore rooms with names like The Big Room and the King’s Palace or you can walk down into the caverns along paved, well-lit trails, whichever you prefer. You will also need to be careful and use the handrails because the paths do get slippery with moisture. For more information on the Caverns visit www.nps.gov/cave or call 505-785-2232. Entry fees are $6 for adults age 16 and over, $3 for children age six and over and free for children age five and under.
Noon: Eat lunch 750 feet below the ground at the cavern’s restaurant before preparing to return back to Carlsbad and the Living Desert State Park.
Afternoon: Just outside of Carlsbad going toward Artesia you will find the Living Desert State Park, home to many species of wildlife common to the Southwest. You’ll be able to experience the lsisrely 1.3-mile self-guided tour of the park which takes approximately 1.5 hours. Located in the Ocotillo Hills this wonderful park overlooks the city of Carlsbad and the Pecos River. The park is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm with the last entry at 3:30 pm. Summer hours are 8 am to 8 pm with the last entry at 6:30 pm. Admission fees are $4 for persons 13 and over, $2 for children 7 to 12, and free for children 6 and under.
Evening: As you make your way back toward Cloudcroft you will go from the desert of the Pecos River Valley through the rolling countryside with the apple and cherry orchards and eventually back into the mountains. If you watch carefully you could see elk or deer as you make the turn at Mayhill and head toward the quiet Village of Cloudcroft.
Day Six – A Cultural Exploration
Morning: Before you leave again have a hearty breakfast, but don’t eat too much because you’ll want plenty of room for lunch in Juarez, Mexico. Your drive to El Paso will take approximately two hours and have you passing through portions of two military installations — Fort Bliss and White Sands Military Range. If you watch close you just might see a squadron of helicopters doing maneuvers overhead.
Noon: The best way to visit Juarez is via an El Paso-Juarez Trolley Company’s Border Jumper Tours trolley. The trolley leaves the Civic Center in El Paso every hour from 10 am to 4 pm, seven days a week. The trolley will take you to eight different stops where there is food and, if you desire, vendors. Being on an hourly schedule, you can catch the trolley and ride back across the border with ease. Trolley fees are $12.50 for adults, $9 for children over 4 and free for children under 3. For more information on the trolley tours, visit www.borderjumper.com. If you wish to not travel to another country for lunch, El Paso does have a number of restaurants with a variety of foods.
Afternoon: El Paso is a city rich with cultural history. Visitors can chose from theater, museums or a number of other attractions. The influence of Spain, Mexico and the United States can be experienced anywhere you look. For more information about Juarez and El Paso call the El Paso Chamber of Commerce at 915-534-0500 or visit their web site at www.elpaso.org.
Day Seven – Wrapping Up Your Stay
Morning: After a good breakfast at one of our local establishments you’re ready to visit the New Mexico Museum of Space History located in Alamogordo. At the junction of Highway 82 and Highway 54/70, you will need to take a left. As you go down White Sands Boulevard, you will need to look for Indian Wells. After taking a left on Indian Wells, head two miles east toward the gold mirrored building straight in front of you. The Space Center includes the Space Hall of Fame, the Tombaugh Imax Dome Theater and Planetarium, the John P. Stapp Air and Space Park and the Astronaut Memorial Garden. The museum is adjacent to New Mexico State University’s Alamogordo campus. For additional information, call (505) 437-2840 or 877-333-6589.
Noon: Come back up the hill for a quick bite at one of our local establishments before an afternoon of relaxation and another round of shopping.
Afternoon: By this point you must be tired of spending all of your time with the family, so how about a split afternoon? Ladies send your men off to a round of golf in the thin mountain air, while you make another pass through all of the shops in town for those items you didnÕt pick up the first day you toured the Village. If you don’t want to shop, there are several places you can “pamper” yourself while you wait to meet back up with the family. There are three golf courses for golfers to choose from The Lodge Golf Course, which is one of the highest golf course in the continental United States, the Ponderosa Pines Golf Course, which is located 30 miles down Route 130 to the south, or the Timberon Lodge and Golf Course, which is about 30 miles from Cloudcroft. Cloudcroft also has several parks for those little ones to play and run off some of that nervous energy. One is located behind the post office and is mainly for little ones, while Zenith Park is located in the middle of the Village and has tennis courts, basketball courts and a frisbee golf course. The Cloudcroft Elementary playground also has swings, slides and other equipment for kids of all ages. Who knows, you might happen to be lucky and get to see the “clouds croft” if a little afternoon shower passes over the mountain.
Evening: Spend your evening enjoying the cool mountain air with your family and friends as you pencil in your day planner your next trip to the stress-free Village of Cloudcroft.