New Mexico Enchanted Lands - South
On this 576-mile loop, we’ll enjoy the diversity of two areas in New Mexico’s south: the white sands to the east and the Gila National Forest to the west. We’ll even crank over the Continental Divide twice!
Once in the saddle, we’ll intersperse riding and rest days for a balance of pedaling and recovery as we travel through towns that hosted mining booms; learn about the Apache and Mogollon cultures, waves of miners, and infamous outlaws who inhabited the area; and see geological formations that took eons to create. On our off-bike days, we’ll hop in the van to visit natural sites including the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, El Camino Real Historic Trail Site, and the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.
Join us for this new tour in magical southern New Mexico!
"This was my first organized biking trip as well as my first camping experience, and all round it was a very good experience. You must be doing a lot right!"
Day 1. Las Cruces, New Mexico, 0 miles
Our loop starts in Las Cruces (or just plain “Cruces” to the locals). Downtown features a Saturday Farmers Market with numerous food trucks to sample local favorites, including the region’s famous Hatch green chiles. Pop in at several historical and art museums like the Farm and Ranch Museum. Then we’ll kick off our tour of the enchanted lands at our first map meeting where we talk about the logistics for our ride, meet fellow riders, and eat dinner while enjoying a night of indoor lodging.
Day 2. Las Cruces to Alamogordo, 73 miles
Climb and descend St. Augustine Pass (5,719 feet), go through White Sands Missile Range, and touch the southern end of White Sands National Monument with an easy side trip to the visitor center. Ride near Holloman Air Force Base to experience the sound of flight from the ground as the pilots fly overhead before settling into our campground for the night.
Day 3. Alamogordo to Valley of Fires Recreation Area, 61 miles
Just off route, go get an up-close view of one of the Southwest’s best — and most accessible — examples of prehistoric rock art at Three River Petroglyphs Site. Tonight, we’ll be thinking more about rock as we camp in the middle of an ancient lava flow. Approximately 5,000 years ago, Little Black Peak erupted and filled the Tularosa Basin with molten rock six miles wide, 160 feet thick, and covering 125 square miles. We can walk a nature trail showcasing the flowers, cacti, and trees of the Chihuahuan desert. Birdwatchers should keep their eyes peeled for roadrunners, quail, cottontails, great horned owls, burrowing owls, turkey vultures, hawks, golden eagles, and more.
Day 4. Valley of Fires Recreation Area to Socorro, 73 miles
Ride by the White Sands Missile Range Trinity Site, where the first atomic bomb was detonated in 1945. This sparse desert landscape should offer some of the widest skies you’ll ever see en route to our indoor lodging for the next two nights.
Day 5. Socorro, 0 miles
Leave the driving to us, as we offer an optional shuttle over 80 miles roundtrip to visit Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge and the El Camino Real Historic Trail Site. Tens of thousands of migratory birds gather each autumn and stay through the winter at the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge. With its huge flocks of sandhill cranes, Arctic geese, and countless other birds, this refuge is one of the great bird preserves of the world. On your own, visit the mineral museum at the New Mexico Tech Campus displaying collections of minerals, fossils, gemstones, and mining artifacts.
Day 6. Socorro to Datil Well, 64 miles
We climb from the Rio Grande Valley through the Plains of San Agustin. Continue near the awe-inspiring Very Large Array (VLA) of 27 radio telescopes (giant dish antennas), used by more astronomers than any other in the world; the visitor center is just a mile off route. Movies filmed here include Contact, Independence Day, Terminator Salvation, and a rock video by Bon Jovi. You’ll proceed through Magdalena where legend says that in the 1500s, a Spanish soldier saw the face of Mary Magdalene on the north side of the mountain. The “Livestock Driveway” stretched 125 miles to eastern Arizona where as many as 150,000 sheep and 21,000 cattle per year were driven. If your legs are up for it, there is hiking at Datil Well where we’ll camp for the night.
Day 7. Datil Well to Apache Creek, 59 miles
Today we’ll cross both Adventure Cycling’s Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and the Continental Divide (7,312 feet). The terrain will change before our eyes today as we enter the Gila National Forest and make camp for the night.
Day 8. Apache Creek to Glenwood, 46 miles
We’ll ride Saliz Pass (6,444 feet) and begin our circle of the first designated wilderness area in the U.S., the Aldo Leopold and Gila Wilderness Areas. Consider taking a short side trip to visit the picturesque Catwalk Recreational Area near Glenwood before spinning into town for a night indoors.
Day 9. Glenwood to Silver City, 62 miles
Cross the Continental Divide (6,230 feet) for a second time just before our destination for the night. Silver City is where the Great Divide and Southern Tier routes meet, so watch for touring cyclists whether on slick or knobby tires while we spend two nights in this postcard-pretty New Mexican town.
Day 10. Silver City, 0 miles
Enjoy an off-bike day in what the locals simply call “Silver.” Hop in the van for a 90-mile round trip to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, where a settlement was built into the rock walls in the 1200s and hiking trails abound. Or stay in town and mosey through the local restaurants, coffee houses, galleries, and bike shops of Silver.
Day 11. Silver City to Hillsboro, 56 miles
Day 12. Hillsboro to Caballo Lake State Park, 23 miles
It will be a slow start this morning as you can enjoy the serenity at the lodge before pedaling the day’s 32 mostly downhill miles into the Mesilla Valley. We’ll celebrate our unique journey in the southwest at dinner and camp beside Caballo Lake.
Day 13. Caballo Lake State Park to Las Cruces, 60 miles
Ride through Hatch, the Chile Capital of the World, and just try not to stop to sample that local delicacy — impossible! Fort Selden State Monument is close by the route as we pedal back to Las Cruces and head our separate ways after an enchanting two weeks together in New Mexico.