The small village of Ruidoso, New Mexico, located in the southeast region of the state, lies nestled amongst the Sierra Blanca range of the Rocky Mountains. Ruidoso is a great tourist destination, which draws thousands of people each year to Ski Apache, the southernmost ski resort in the U.S. Nature lovers will find plenty of hiking, biking, and fishing in the mountains, and history buffs will delight in the local museums, such as the Hubbard Museum of the American West.
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This beautiful reservoir in the Sierra Blanca Mountains is located near Lincoln National Forest. The high altitude of Bonito Lake, at 7,380 feet, means that the water here remains cool and refreshing year round, even in the highest heat of summer, and contains a large population of rainbow trout, making it a great destination for those looking to do a bit of fishing. Bonito Lake is also surrounded by plenty of great campsites and lots of fun hiking trails, including one which shows a glimpse into the past at a wooden pipeline which was built in 1907 in order to provide water for steam engines. Those who go hiking, camping, or fishing at Bonito Lake will find a peaceful and beautiful little corner of the Sierra Blancas to spend some time away from it all.
© Fort Stanton
In 1855, Fort Stanton was built as a military garrison, and served as such for over 40 years. Later, it became a hospital for tuberculosis patients, a CCC camp during the Great Depression, and a German Internment Camp during the war. The unique and storied history of Fort Stanton has been carefully preserved and displayed at the Fort Stanton Museum, which visitors can explore and tour to learn some of the stories and history behind the fort and the people who lived and worked there over the decades. The museum is open seven days a week from 10am to 4pm, and the grounds are always open for visitors. Admission is free, though donations are always accepted.
104 Kit Carson Rd Fort Stanton, NM 88323
3.Fort Stanton – Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area
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This National Conservation Area was created in 2009, but the protection of the land is the only thing that’s recent about the ancient cave system found here beneath the Sierra Blancas. Fort Stanton Cave contains over 31 miles of caverns and is one of the longest caves in New Mexico and the United States. Many of the caves are currently closed to recreational caving to protect the many species of bats which live in them, but visitors can explore some of the cave formations and also go hiking, cycling, horseback riding, or camping in the aboveground natural areas, which are full of trails, mountains, and gorgeous scenery.
Fort Stanton, NM 88323, Phone: 575-627-0272
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Grindstone Lake is a scenic lake up in the mountains. Visitors can make use of over 18 miles of trails by foot, bike, or horse, and the lake is great for swimming, kayaking or canoeing, boating, and fishing, with an abundant population of rainbow trout, catfish, and smallmouth bass. There is even a 27 hole disc golf course at Grindstone Lake, where friends and families can navigate the heavily wooded course for a fun game. Leashed dogs are allowed on the trails and also in the water of the lake, and Grindstone Lake also has plenty of parking as well as public bathrooms available for visitors.
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In 1936, Monjeau Lookout was built in Lincoln National Forest as a lookout tower for forest fires. Today, this tower is on the National Register of Historic Places and is open for visitors during the summer months due to some steep and seasonal roads. From the tower, visitors can get an amazing view of the surrounding forests and ridged mountain formations. It’s a great spot to get a 360 degree panoramic view, and is frequently visited by tourists and locals alike. Monjeau Lookout is accessible by car, but there are also several scenic hiking trails that lead to the top for the more adventurous visitors looking for a hike.
6.Ruidoso River Museum
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In the late 19th century, the Lincoln County War was the center of some crazy Wild West action that today seems straight out of a spaghetti Western film. At Ruidoso River Museum, visitors can learn about that war and some other local wild west history, through a huge collection of photos and artifacts. The museum contains the largest existing collection of items relating to famous outlaw Billy the Kid and Sheriff Pat Garrett, like Garrett’s iconic gold star-shaped badge and his 1877 Colt Revolver, as well as the outlaw’s rifle. There’s a real slice of history inside Ruidoso River Museum, and it’s one that any cowboy or history enthusiast does not want to miss.
101 Mechem Dr, Ruidoso, NM 88345, Phone: 575-257-0296
7.Ruidoso Winter Park
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Every year during the snowy months, Ruidoso Winter Park provides a fun and exciting place for visitors to spend a day and play in a winter wonderland. Up to six guests can zip down snowy, wooded trails and hills in a giant inflatable tube, or a linked train of tubes that can get as long as your imagination and determination allows it. There’s also a great zip line experience so guests can see the slopes from a different perspective, and a Kidz Korral with gentle slopes for little ones and beginners. Groups of up to six can rent a VIP igloo for the day, which provides a warm respite from the chilly outdoors, with seating, pizza, hot cocoa, and even marshmallows for roasting.
1200 Ski Run Rd, Ruidoso, NM 88345, Phone: 575-336-7079
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When people visitors head to Ruidoso, Ski Apache is probably one of the first items on their list of things to do, depending on the season. This huge resort is the southernmost ski area in the United States, and it’s a great place to get some warm weather skiing in. With over 55 runs and trails over 750 skiable acres of land, 11 lifts, and slopes for beginners, intermediate skiers, and also experts, Ski Apache has something for everyone. During the summer, visitors can still get in on the fun by taking a gondola ride to the top of the mountain, or taking a zip line tour on the way down, starting at over 11,000 feet. There are also some amazing trails for hiking and mountain biking.
1286 Ski Run Rd, Alto, NM 88312
9.The Hubbard Museum of the American West
© The Hubbard Museum of the American West
This fantastic attraction is like a peek into the past, at the lives of early settlers of New Mexico as well as the Native Americans who called this land home for centuries. Visitors will see old stagecoaches, covered wagons, and other artifacts of the Wild West, including an amazing section of the museum devoted to the history of the horse. The Hubbard Museum of the American West is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute, and its displays and exhibits will teach visitors about life in the west throughout the centuries for the people who once lived there, as well as teach about specific illustrious figures, like Pat Garrett, Butch Cassidy, and Billy the Kid.
26301 US-70, Ruidoso Downs, NM 88346, Phone: 575-378-4142
10.The Village Buttery
© The Village Buttery
The Village Buttery is a classic Ruidoso spot to enjoy a meal. This comfortable and laid back restaurant and cafe offers delicious sandwiches, soups, and quiches to its customers, and it has been named the Best Lunch in Lincoln County many times by a number of sources. It’s a favorite for tourists and locals alike, and features a delectable selection of not only entrees, but also homemade desserts and baked goods such as pies, cookies, cakes, and more. They are best known for Granny Guthrie’s Buttermilk Pie, but their sticky caramel pecan cheesecake and perfectly baked gourmet cookies are fantastic as well.
2107 Sudderth Dr, Ruidoso, NM 88345, Phone: 575-257-9251
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It’s one thing to see a place from the window of a car, or on foot while hiking, but it is another entirely to see a new area from the back of a horse. At Grindstone Stables, visitors can hop on the back of one of these beautiful animals for a guided trail ride past the scenic lake and up to the top of nearby Townsend Ridge. Trails are accessible for riders of all ability levels, including beginners and children. During the winter months, Grindstone Stables also offers horse drawn sleigh rides through the Upper Canyon, and carriage rides through town.
523 Resort Dr, Ruidoso, NM 88345, Phone: 575-257-2241
12.Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and Casino
© Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and Casino
Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and Casino is a beautiful place to stay on any vacation, but guests and daily visitors alike will love the many amenities on this gorgeous mountain resort. Zip lining over Lake Mescalero, kayaking on the lake, hiking or biking through the surrounding nature, and even hunting for elk or other big game in the Southern Rocky Mountains are just some of the attractions that await, and that’s not even mentioning the ones right at the resort. Inn of the Mountain Gods is home to a full casino, with all sorts of games from blackjack to roulette, and the resort also offers frequent entertainment like concerts from nationally touring artists.
287 Carrizo Canyon Rd, Mescalero, NM 88340, Phone: 800-545-9011
13.Noisy Water Winery
© Noisy Water Winery
At Noisy Water Winery, visitors can try some of their amazing product, like Besito Caliente or Rojo Caliente, two best sellers that are infused with New Mexico chile peppers, or Jo Mamma’s Red, a sweet red that is a little too easy to drink. Noisy Water Winery also dabbles in cheesemaking, with delicious options like Green Chile Jack cheese infused with garlic, or for spicy food lovers, the Ghost Chile Jack, a cheese that Noisy Water claims is the world’s spiciest. Visitors at the beautiful winery can try all their cheeses and wines with some of Noisy Waters’ Balsamic Vinegars and Olive Oils, which are also available for tastings.
2342 Sudderth Dr, Ruidoso, NM 88345, Phone: 575-257-9335
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Whether traveling with family, friends, or even coworkers, Pillow’s Funtrackers is a great attraction for all ages to bring out the kid inside everyone. At this family fun center, visitors can race around a variety of go kart tracks, crash and cause havoc on the spin bumper cars,and in the summer, they can even try their hand at bumper boats, which are each equipped with a water cannon for extra fun. Pillow’s Funtrackers also is home to a challenging and fun 18 hole miniature golf course, and even a giant, human sized maze. There is an indoor arcade with a large variety of games and prizes, and also an option to pan for gems, so there’s certainly no shortage of activities and fun at Pillow’s Funtrackers.
101 Carrizo Canyon Rd, Ruidoso, NM 88345, Phone: 575-257-3275
14 Best Things to Do in Ruidoso, New Mexico
- Bonito Lake, Photo: Courtesy of andrea - Fotolia.com
- Fort Stanton, Photo: Fort Stanton
- Fort Stanton – Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area, Photo: Courtesy of kudosstudio - Fotolia.com
- Grindstone Lake, Photo: Courtesy of ballabeyla - Fotolia.com
- Monjeau Lookout, Photo: Courtesy of zhu difeng - Fotolia.com
- Ruidoso River Museum, Photo: Courtesy of BillionPhotos.com - Fotolia.com
- Ruidoso Winter Park, Photo: Courtesy of Syda Productions - Fotolia.com
- Ski Apache, Photo: Courtesy of Tomsickova - Fotolia.com
- The Hubbard Museum of the American West, Photo: The Hubbard Museum of the American West
- The Village Buttery , Photo: The Village Buttery
- Grindstone Stables, Photo: Courtesy of darekb22 - Fotolia.com
- Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and Casino, Photo: Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and Casino
- Noisy Water Winery, Photo: Noisy Water Winery
- Pillow's Funtrackers, Photo: Courtesy of Joe - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Nancy Olson - Fotolia.com