Sun City, better known as El Paso, the farthest point in west Texas flanked by the Franklin Mountains on the east and the Rio Grande on the west, has a rich history, which includes the native Tigua culture, notorious outlaw John Wesley Hardin, and Spanish Franciscan friars.
El Paso is also home to first-class museums, art galleries, annual film festivals, farmers markets, Mexican food, breweries, wineries, vineyards, and Margarita trails. Enjoy exploring the St. Patrick Cathedral, El Paso Mission Trail, and the most scenic city view shining brightly at night viewed from Rim Road.
Let’s explore seven day trips from El Paso that enhance the area’s history, culture, and adventure.
1. Las Cruces
Mexican traditions combined with Spanish culture, infused cowboy, and farming roots keep the heritage alive and well in Las Cruces, 45 miles north of El Paso.
For wannabe astronauts, arrange a private tour of Spaceport America in advance through Final Frontier Tours beginning at the Las Cruces Visitor Center or directly with the Spaceport America facility. Read all about the excursion here.
Las Cruces Museum Mile comprises four museums: Branigan Cultural Center with historic exhibitions and the Museum of Art showcasing traveling and invitational exhibits. The Museum of Nature and Science inspires the environment of the southern desert. The Railroad Museum preserves the heritage of railroading in a historic Santa Fe Railroad Depot.
Visit Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park for picnicking, scenic wildlife viewing, birding, stunning gardens, a theater, and a visitor center. Spend an afternoon in Mesilla exploring museums, art galleries, restaurants, and San Albino Church.
The Mesilla Valley Las Cruces Wine Trail features 10 wineries in the oldest wine-producing region in North America. Visit La Vina, New Mexico’s oldest “modern” winery established in 1977. St. Clair Winery & Bistro offers sparkling wines crafted by the Lescombes Family Vineyards. Download the Wine and Ale Trail map here.
Pro Tip: Capturing the Spanish and Mexican colonial history and tradition, Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces offers luxurious accommodations and the Mezcla restaurant and bar.
Deming, named for Mary Ann Deming, is 60 miles west of Las Cruces.
Rockhound State Park boasts a peaceful campground, wildflower displays, unique geology, and hiking trails. Named for the abundance of minerals in the park, search for dazzling quartz crystals, agate, perlite, geodes, and jasper.
In the 1916 red-brick National Guard Armory, Luna County Mimbres Museum houses a tack room, toys and dolls, a quilt display, and military memorabilia. The Mimbres room displays extensive Mimbreno Indian Pottery. Don’t miss the army tank outside.
Pro Tip: For the best steak west of El Paso, this remote place is worth finding. Take Highway 549 SE east and turn right on Lewis Flats Road. Adobe Deli is about 9 miles east down a lonely desert road. Look for an old windmill and a small collection of broken-down buildings. The classic French onion soup is the real thing. Plate-sized T-bones and thick and juicy ribeyes are to die for. For lunch, the mile-high deli sandwiches with a side of potato salad or onion rings need a to-go-box. The hamburger deluxe is a monster, and the barbecue sandwich, yep!
58 miles west of Deming, Lordsburg is the birthplace of the official New Mexico State song “O Fair New Mexico,” written by Elizabeth Garrett, the blind daughter of famed Sheriff Pat Garrett.
Twenty miles north of Lordsburg, Gila Lower Box Canyon is a lush oasis in the desert. Fish for smallmouth bass and catfish, view wildlife and over 200 species of birds, including winterizing bald eagles. Find camping spots under the cottonwoods at Nichol’s Canyon and hiking at Spring-on-the-bluff.
Lordsburg-Hidalgo County Museum features a POW and World War II exhibit plus area ranching heritage, antique tools, mining, rocks, and minerals.
Three miles southwest of Lordsburg, Shakespeare Ghost Town is a gold-mining town and historical site, now privately owned and occasionally open for tours.
Stein’s (Steens) Ghost Town, 19 miles west of Lordsburg, near the Arizona-New Mexico border, is a mining and railroad ghost town with a sordid history and an unsolved murder hanging over it. Beware of trespassing.
Pro Tip: Kranberry’s Chatterbox Family Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Order hearty skillet breakfasts, three-stack pancakes, and three-egg omelets. Savor Mexican food, salads, sandwiches, chicken, or ribeye for lunch or dinner.
Alamogordo means “fat cottonwood.” Download the Alamogordo app for up-to-date activities in the city. The town transformed from a railroad, farming, and ranching crossroads to a vibrant community with military neighbors at Holloman Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range.
The glistening white hills of gypsum at White Sands National Park rise like great surreal waves of bleached sand. Visit at the close of the day. As you take off your shoes, feel the texture of the sand change from soft billows to wind-firmed walkable crusts. The 145,000 protected acres became a national park in December 2019.
Founded in 1994, White Sands Missile Range Museum preserves the artifacts and history of the Army and New Mexico. Oliver Lee State Park features the historic ranch house, hiking trails, wildlife and bird viewing, camping, and an oasis of water pools under the cottonwood trees in Dog Canyon.
The World’s Largest Pistachio is a tribute to Thomas McGinn, founder of PistachioLand, a 111-acre orchard and vineyard started from bare land in 1980. You’ll find over 12,000 pistachio trees and 14 acres of wine grapes, McGinn’s Country Store, and Arena Blanca Winery.
575 Brewing Company offers house brews, wine, and alcoholic slushies. Tall Pines Beer & Wine Garden serves brewed beers at three Alamogordo, Ruidoso, and Pagosa Springs locations.
Cloudcroft is known for its 9,000 feet elevation, comfortable cabins, excellent fishing, horseback riding, hiking, camping, biking, and winter downhill and cross-country skiing.
Ski Cloudcroft, the country’s southernmost ski resort, has a base elevation of 8,400 feet with a 700-foot vertical rise, ski classes, and equipment rentals.
New Mexico Rails-to-Trails converts abandoned railroad lines in the Sacramento Mountains into multi-use, multi-access recreational trails. A 68-mile-long trail leads to Sunspot, Alamogordo, La Luz, High Rolls, and back to Cloudcroft.
Rebecca’s At The Lodge, named after the resident ghost, serves the award-winning chef’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The Lodge Resort and Spa at Cloudcroft is a charming historic hotel with 59 luxurious guest rooms plus antique furnishings offering a Victorian combination of charm, intrigue, and history. Visit the haunting presence of the resort and explore its ghostly past.
Step into history at The Western Bar and Café, serving Cloudcroft for over 100 years. Order the green chile cheeseburger with sweet potato fries or the turkey bacon green chile sandwich, all with your favorite local brew.
6. Silver City
Located in the sunny southwest corner of New Mexico, Silver City thrives on Old West heritage, distinctive arts, and a vibrant “small-town” style. The downtown historic district has more than a dozen restaurants, murals, galleries, and artist studios. At 6,000 feet elevation, the town boasts clear mountain air and a combination of desert and mountains. Plus, it’s the gateway to the Gila wilderness.
City of Rocks State Park looks like gigantic boulders dumped in a one-square-mile area in the desert. This must-see park offers hiking, mountain biking, camping, and wildlife viewing. Visit the monthly Star Observatory programs in this Dark Sky place.
In the late 1200s, the Mongollons built rooms, crafted pottery, and raised children for about 20 years, forming the Gila Cliff Dwellings, then they moved on. 44 miles from Silver City, the trail is a one-mile round trip taking two hours to complete. There is no cell service in the region, so make self-sufficient plans for hiking in the area.
The 1938 Murray Hotel offers 53 Art Deco guestrooms and suites. Your stay includes a complimentary continental breakfast each morning.
Hire Joe Saenz, a legendary Apache guide with Wolfhorse Outfitters, for a horseback tour of the Gila wilderness, experiencing Apache history, petroglyphs, and a new connection with the land you won’t forget.
Pro Tip: Diane’s Restaurant, Bakery & Deli, serves brunch, lunch, and dinner. For brunch, enjoy hatch Benedict or lemon blueberry pancakes, plus burgers, hot and cold sandwiches, or stir-fries for lunch. Savor steamed mussels or clams, shrimp scampi, or New York strip at dinner with an extensive collection of beer, wines, Diane’s signature chocolate cake, plus pies and pastries.
7. Truth Or Consequences
Cowboys named the town Palomas Hot Springs, then Hot Springs. The city changed its name in 1950 to Truth or Consequences (locals call it TC) after Ralph Edwards’ successful game show on NBC radio.
Hot Springs Historic District features over 10 thermal springs at 98 to 115 degrees, 38 trace minerals, and a neutral PH of 7. The water’s main ingredient is chloride, ensuring the purity of the water, plus there is no unpleasant odor.
Choose from various Lodgings with Hot Springs offering hot spring baths and pools. Take the 21 Day Soak to cure anything that ails you if you have time.
Sierra Grande, a Ted Turner Retreat, offers a charming 17 guestroom lodge with southwestern accents, historic décor, or the luxurious casita. Spend a day on the 360,000-acre Armendaris Ranch exploring bison, desert bighorn sheep, or African oryx. Climb the Fra Cristobal Mountain Range or hike the canyons or caves. Take the bat flight expedition to see a million free-tailed bats exit the Jornada lava flow caves at sunset. Wander the mountain ranges and canyon creeks on the 156,000-acre Ladder Reserve amid a conservation legacy. With over 550,000 acres, explore the four peaks in 5 days of Vermejo hiking events during the summer. Elephant Butte, 10 minutes north of TC, is New Mexico’s largest lake. Visit glistening coastline views, diverse marine life, and water activities like paddleboarding and chartered fishing excursions.
Before venturing out on day trips, be sure to experience all that El Paso has to offer: