We Dare You To Take This Road Trip To New Mexico’s Most Abandoned Places
Derelict places are inherently intriguing, making us wonder about their history. There is no shortage of such spots in the Land of Enchantment. From ghost towns to abandoned forts and disused bridges, this road trip takes you on a journey to many
abandoned places in New Mexico.
Since this route spans 949 miles and takes a little over 16 hours without stops, it’s a weekend getaway at the very least, and it would be best to space the drive over three or four days.
Here is the map, which includes driving directions. Remember, you can start the loop at whatever point on the loop is nearest to you.
1. Kelly (near Magdalena)
Kelly, New Mexico
is a ghost town close to Magdalena, which is popular with rockhounds and those interested in mining history.
When Kelly was at its most prosperous, 3000 people lived here. The mining town offered a range of amenities from churches, to schools, and hotels. After the ore was fully mined, the town couldn’t survive.
Now, you can view the remains of walls, mining equipment, and a cemetery. When visiting this ghost town, take Kelly Road from Magdalena. Most people park at the little church and continue from there on foot.
2. Fort Craig (near Socorro)
A flag still flies over what’s left of
, a military installation designed to protect travelers on El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, a 1600-mile trade route that once stretched from Mexico City to New Mexico’s San Juan Pueblo (Ohkay Owingeh). It’s hard to imagine from these scant walls that 4000 troops used to be based here. The fort supported a hospital, school, and stables. It remained important up through the Civil War, but was eventually abandoned in 1885.
3. Percha Creek Bridge (near Hillsboro)
Travel roughly two miles west of Hillsboro, along NM-152, and you’ll drive over Percha Creek. Running parallel to the current bridge is its predecessor. Constructed in 1927, this structure is on the National Register of Historic Places. This is one of several
abandoned bridges in New Mexico
and it's a sight to be seen.
4. Fort Bayard (near Santa Clara)
is an eerie experience. This vast complex has served as a fort, a POW camp during World War II, and a tuberculosis hospital; Buffalo Soldiers were also stationed here to battle the Apaches.
Now, the place is deserted. You can drive around and view buildings that look functional and well preserved from a distance but which, upon closer inspection, are clearly suffering from the effects of time and neglect.
Thankfully, efforts are underway to preserve the fort and tours are available.
is a privately owned railroad ghost town, which recently reopened to tourists (you need to book a spot on one of the limited tours in advance). The town got its start in 1880, when the Southern Pacific Railroad decided to create a pass through the Peloncillo Mountains. Lack of water spelled the end for Steins, but what remains of the town is in good condition. Residents literally left with what they could carry, abandoning everything else.
6. Dripping Springs Natural Area (Las Cruces)
Dripping Springs New Mexico
is part of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument and the name refers to Dripping Springs Resort, which Colonel Eugene Van Patten constructed here in the 1870s. After the venture went bankrupt, the new owner converted the structures into a sanatorium. If you hike the trails in this canyon, you can still view the abandoned buildings.
This drive takes you through the
ghost town in New Mexico
known as Organ and, while the town isn't an official stop on the map, it has more than its share of derelict places.
8. Cloud-climbing Trestle Trail (Cloudcroft)
Next, your journey takes you to Cloudcroft, a town set high in the Lincoln National Forest. Be thankful you can drive up here - until the 1940s your only options were train or pack mule! Although the old
Mexican Canyon Trestle
pictured is no longer used as a railway bridge, you can hike to an observation point looking over this 323-foot-long structure. The 1.2-mile trail is of moderate difficulty and the trailhead is located off NM-82, on the way into town.
is a virtual ghost town that contains abandoned houses, cars, and churches, some of which still contain possessions. When I-40 divided this railroad town in two, it began to falter; there are currently a mere 58 residents. Cuervo made the news after explorers discovered what seemed to be a criminal’s trophy room. Creepy.
10. The Rail Yards (Albuquerque)
The Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Rail Yards complex is vast, consisting of 18 buildings. Incredibly, a quarter of Albuquerque’s population once worked here when it served as a maintenance facility for the railroads. Now, the public has access on Sundays between May and October, when a market is held in
Although the point of this drive is to visit abandoned places, you’ll need access to amenities along the way. The route passes through Socorro, Truth or Consequences, Silver City, Lordsburg, Deming, Las Cruces, Alamogordo, Cloudcroft, and Santa Rosa, where you can find restaurants, hotels, or campgrounds. We’d recommend staying at one of the
hot springs hotels in NM in Truth or Consequences to soak away any sore muscles you might have from driving or hiking.
Also, if you’re in this area and interested in forgotten places, check out this drive through
New Mexico ghost towns for some added inspiration.
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