A village in Otero County, in southeastern New Mexico, high in the Lincoln National Forest, Cloudcroft is located 20 miles east of Alamogordo. Known for the iconic Cloudcroft Lodge, the haven boasts excellent hiking, camping, biking, horseback riding, and fishing. The mild summers at 9,000 feet elevation make the village a destination for Texans headed to cooler weather, and Cloudcroft is famous as the southernmost ski area in the U.S. Cloudcroft boasts two large ground terminals for the tracking and data relay satellite system, a source for high-technology employment.
A century ago, the Eddy brothers organized the El Paso and Northeastern Railroad and constructed the line from Alamogordo to Toboggan Canyon by 1898. The railroad crew suggested the name Cloudcroft for “a pasture for the clouds.” John A. Eddy opened the Pavilion at the summit the following summer with 40 tents set on wooden platforms, a kitchen, dining room, parlor, and entertainment hall, early glamping as we know it today.
The resort received much publicity in El Paso, and surrounding areas and crowds began to visit the place. The railroad reached Toboggan Canyon, and then a stagecoach brought visitors up to Cloudcroft. After the railroad reached Cloudcroft in early 1900, the daily festivity in the village was meeting the train at the depot. As cars and trucks replaced the trains, the railroad closed in 1938 for passengers and 1947 for freight.
As you drive into Cloudcroft on Highway 82 from Alamogordo, you’ll see the Mexican Canyon Trestle, a historic wooden trestle bridge listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, with a plaque describing “The Cloud Climbing Railroad.”
1. Hiking In Cloudcroft
The Trestle Recreation Area, a shady picnic area for day use only, features a beautiful overlook. You’ll find restroom facilities, water, interpretive information, and easy access to hiking trails.
The New Mexico Rails-to-Trails Association established and maintained over 90 miles of connecting trails, converting abandoned railroad lines into multi-access, multi-use recreational trails. The All-Trails App features 113 treks.
Rim Trail winds through the fir and pine trees, aspen, and green meadows for 30.5 miles, a combination of old Native American paths, railroad grades, homestead trails, and logging routes linked together. See spectacular views of the Tularosa Basin at various points, over 4,000 feet below.
Bluff Springs Waterfall, a partially developed picnic area 8 miles south of Cloudcroft off the Sunspot Highway, offers dispersed camping next to the waterfalls for tents and camper trailers.
2. Ski Cloudcroft
Ski Cloudcroft, the southernmost ski resort in the U.S., gets some of the best snow anywhere. A favorite for over 50 years, you’ll find 25 excellent trails with eight beginners, seven intermediate, eight advanced, and two expert trails. Get quickly up the hill with the double chair lift, rope tow lift, and hand tow lift, almost as much fun as heading down the slopes. Come ski, snowboard, and tube with the top peak at 9,100 feet and a vertical drop of 700 feet.
Enjoy the Cloud Nine Ski School offering affordable professional private and group lessons for skiing or snowboarding. You can rent from a massive inventory of professionally maintained equipment.
Snow Tubing in two-hour blocks is incredible fun with costs including the lift ticket and tube rental. You can tube on three lanes, 700 feet long with 70 feet of vertical drop. It’s a super ride!
Pro Tip: For snowshoeing among the aspen and Ponderosa pine, try Foam Snowshoes made by Crescent Moon, made of military-grade Velcro material with hook and loop bindings and durable rubber lugs and ice spikes that are so lightweight that it feels like you’re walking on clouds, and they are entirely silent. The flexible rocker platform bends and rolls with your foot, like a favorite pair of athletic shoes.
3. Cloudcroft James Sewell Ice Skating Rink
The only natural ice-skating rink in the southwest, The James Sewell Ice-Skating Rink, is outside in historic Cloudcroft. Put on your skates in a nice warm room with a fireplace. Hot chocolate and snacks are available, along with great music and good-quality skates.
4. Play Golf At The Lodge Resort In Cloudcroft
Play the Lodge 9-Hole Golf Course twice, under the Scottish tradition of playing different tees and separate flags, open April 1 through October 31. The historic course, over 122 years old, was established in 1899, the 7th highest globally. The great thing about the altitude, your drives soar longer than you’ve ever experienced.
5. The Lodge Resort And Spa At Cloudcroft
Towering high atop the 9,000-foot mountain, the Lodge Resort and Spa at Cloudcroft is a charming historic hotel with intriguing ghostly stories of the past, where some feel a haunting presence. You’ll find 59 Victorian-style guestrooms and suites with no two alike. Note that the hotel with three floors does not have an elevator. Some renovations are still ongoing.
Pro Tip: Ask for the bell tower key at the front desk to climb to the breathtaking view, and see signatures of former guests like Judy Garland and Clark Gable.
6. Mountain Biking And Outdoor Recreation
The High-Altitude Race Loop is a winding 8.2-mile single track starting from the High Altitude Bike Shop, to Pines Campground, through Bailey Canyon on the left for a long descent, then two long climbs on Forest Roads and loop back to the village.
There are more than 240 Geocaches in the Cloudcroft area, some hidden as far back as 2004. Using GPS-enabled devices, the real-world outdoor treasure hunting game Geocaching allows participants to navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and attempt to find a hidden geocache container. The custom is to log your experience at the geocaching website or the app and record your find in the cache logbook.
Pro Tip: Keep the caches hidden from “muggles” or non-geocachers.
8. Sacramento Mountains Museum & Pioneer Village
Visit the museum for the history of the village whether building a railroad, harvesting timber or making peace with the Mescalero Apaches who called the area “Pisacah,” a place of plenty. You’ll see photos of the old lodge in its hay day, the pioneer village, early farming and ranching, and life living in a rugged log cabin. Shop the General Store for handmade souvenirs.
9. Wine And Beer Tasting
Noisy Water Winery, whether you like chardonnay, pinot noir, petit sirah, or the double gold medal Ruidoso Bubbly, you’ll enjoy these wines and more from Noisy Water Winery with five area locations.
Pro Tip: For a most unique wine, try the award-winning Besito Caliente Green Chile Wine.
The family-friendly microbrewery Cloudcroft Brewing Company offers local onsite microbrews along with wood-fired pizza, soups, and salads in a historic venue with a large outdoor patio hosting live music.
10. Cloudcroft Light Opera Company
Cloudcroft Light Opera Company features the dashing hero, dastardly villain, or beautiful heroine in light family-oriented comedy entertainment at the Zenith Park Pavilion. It all started in 1991 when two old theater friends decided to put on a show on the back porch of the Chamber of Commerce. Hats were passed, funds were raised, and it’s been melodramas ever since. The CLOC presents Santaland celebrating the holidays with a bonfire, hot chocolate and cider, holiday music, games, and Santa.
11. More Cloudcroft Events
Cloudcroft Christmas Market, and Lighted Christmas Trail and Tree Lighting celebrate the holidays with Santa. Bring an ornament to decorate the tree. The Mardi Gras in the Clouds hosts an annual February Cajun cooking contest, children’s parade, food vendors, and entertainment. The fall Lumberjack Competition features food vendors, arts and craft displays, and adults and children’s axe throw, chainsaw competition, block chop, and relays. Sign up for the 2022 Cloudcroft Art Workshops in June, July, and August.
12. Sunspot Solar Observatory
A premier facility for solar research since 1947, The Dunn Solar Telescope at Sunspot Solar Observatory is still one of the best ground-based observatories in the world, available by reservation only. The visitor center hosts a museum with exhibits and a gift shop. Walk the half-mile loop around the grounds referencing the Walking Tour brochure.
Places To Stay In Cloudcroft
The Crofting Inn hosts six bedrooms with balconies, microwaves, and free breakfast. Stay at the Cabins at Cloudcroft, 13 fully decked out cabins with king or queen beds, kitchen, recliner, fireplace, cozy living area high in the aspens and Ponderosa pines. The Dusty Boots Motel & Café is a different type of B&B, a haven for Texas escapees to cool mountain weather, with snow and skiing in the winter. Guests enjoy homemade banana bread each night.
Just a half block from unique shops on the Boardwalk, Burro Street Boardinghouse takes you back to an updated version of a log home furnished with century-old antiques, decks overlooking the village, wood-burning stove, and an old-fashioned breakfast served daily.
Places To Eat
Burro Street Bakery, home of Cloudcroft’s famous Mountain Top Pies, offers pastries, breads, pies, hot and cold espresso lattes, frappes, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and more. Pre-order whole pies like the favorite caramel apple walnut pie.
A go-to spot for a hearty breakfast and a hot cup of coffee, Dusty Boots Café also serves great burgers at lunch, and country dinners like chicken fried steak, meatloaf, and fish-fry Friday.
Brother-in-Law Barbecue, two brothers-in-law from central Texas offer barbecue brisket, pulled pork, baby-back ribs, or smoked chicken, sausage, or turkey plates or sandwiches with all the trimmings.
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