New Mexico August 10, 2017
The Road Trip Through New Mexico’s Cowboy Country That Is Second To None
Today, ranching remains an important industry for our state. But it’s been significant ever since the end of the Civil War, when cowboys started driving cattle through New Mexico, along routes like the Goodnight-Loving Trail. Nowadays the largest ranches are in private hands, so this drive focuses on stops where you can learn about cowboy life or experience it firsthand, rather than on areas where cattle currently graze.
This 12 hour and 42 minute drive covers the southeastern portion of the state and a little of Northern New Mexico. It’s 761 miles in length. Wild west shows, chuckwagon dinners, and cowboy museums are all part of the journey. Since chuckwagon events tend to be seasonal, this is an ideal drive to take in summer.
Here is the map.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life. While we continue to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, please take proper precautions or add them to your bucket list to see at a later date. If you know of a local business that could use some extra support during these times, please nominate them here:
1. Wildlife West Nature Park (Edgewood)
During June, July, and August, Saturday night at Wildlife West means one thing: a chuckwagon supper show. Tuck into brisket and chicken (veggie options also on offer) then watch a falcon show, followed by live music. This nature park is fun to visit any time but the whole family will adore this entertaining experience.
For more info.
2. Las Vegas (NM)
Head over to the The City of Las Vegas Museum and Rough Rider Memorial Collection (pictured). "Rough Riders" was the moniker given to the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry during the Spanish American War. Although this may seemed far removed from Western life, many of the "Rough Riders" were cowboys and ranchers in their civilian life – that’s how they developed such good riding skills. Some of the "Rough Riders" appeared in Las Vegas’ infamous Cowboys Reunion, which ran from 1915 to 1967 and included a thrilling rodeo.
For more info.
Las Vegas is also significant because Tom Mix spent time here in 1915. Mix starred in Wild West shows and went on to become a star in Western movies. He was initially a bit actor in Selig Polyscope Company and many of his films were shot in Las Vegas.
While you’re in town, grab a bite at Byron T.’s Saloon inside the historic Plaza Hotel.
3. Fort Sumner
Although this town grew up around the fort, it transitioned into a cow town on the Goodnight Trail. Goodnight sold cattle to the U.S. Army on several drives. One of New Mexico’s most infamous residents, Billy the Kid, is buried in the Old Fort Sumner Cemetery. Although he was best known for his misdeeds, he actually worked as a cowboy.
Refuel with a burger at the Rodeo Grill (714 E Sumner Avenue).
Forget aliens. There are many cowboy-themed things to do in Roswell. Stop by the
Roswell Museum and Art Center;
the West of Beyond Exhibit is devoted to the American West. When you’ve finished admiring all the riding gear, embrace the spirit of the West with a meal at Cowboy Café (1120 E. 2nd Street, Roswell) or Cattleman’s Kountry Kitchen (2010 S. Main Street, Roswell) – they have fried pie!
To break up your trip, stay a night in Roswell at Burnt Well Guest Ranch, a working sheep and cattle ranch. There you can learn cowboy skills like roping and herding.
For more info.
5. The Western Heritage Museum and Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame (Hobbs)
Immerse yourself in all things cowboy at this fun yet comprehensive museum. Inside, you’ll find Linam Ranch… and dinosaur exhibits! The Hall of Fame honors those with ties to Lea County who have exceled in rodeo or ranching.
If you cruise along Main Street in Artesia, you’ll spy intriguing public artwork. This collection of bronze statues captures moments in time, from a cowboy hard at work, to a guy in Western wear shooting the breeze with his buddy.
If you’re up for some Western-themed shopping, head to Bennie’s Western Wear (205 W. Main Street, Artesia). Hungry? Grab some tender brisket at Henry’s Barbecue, where the meat is cooked over apple wood (811 W Main Street, Artesia).
7. Ruidoso Downs
If you’re not burned out on museums, check out the Hubbard Museum of the American West for its stellar selection of Western memorabilia, horse sculptures, and wagons (26301 Highway 70 W, Ruidoso Downs). After that, it’s time to go to the races. Horseraces are typically held at the Ruidoso Downs Race Track between Memorial Day to Labor Day.
For more info.
Prefer to get in the saddle yourself? Then take a short detour up to Grindstone Stables in Ruidoso, where horseback riding is available year round.
For more info
or to make a reservation, call (575) 257-2241.
8. Flying J Ranch (Alto)
Swagger through the recreated Old West town at Flying J before chowing down on a (fairly) authentic chuck wagon dinner. These fun evenings take place between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and are capped off with music from The Wranglers. (Reservations recommended.)
For more info.
So, there we have it! Your cowboy road trip is designed to start and end with a chuckwagon dinner. But, of course, you can hop on the loop at whichever point is closest to you and go from there. Are you up for a drive?
You may want to time your trip to coincide with special events like New Mexico’s many
rodeos – the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium is especially good. The New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces is another excellent place to learn about ranching, but it involves a significant detour from the route. If you’re in the vicinity of Las Cruces, definitely check it out.