The Scenic Byway That Leads To Some Of The Most Underrated Scenery In New Mexico
If you have driven from Tucumcari to Santa Rosa, chances are, you took Interstate 40. That’s great for a quick trip, but if you have some time, detour off the Mother Road and treat yourself to some of New Mexico’s under-appreciated roads. There is a little something for everyone along the way — red rock mesas, rolling plains of ranch country, lakes, ruins and a good dose of New Mexico history.
Mesalands Scenic Byway Loops for 320 miles around east central New Mexico.
The snaking route goes out of its way to cover a lot of territory. Starting at Newkirk, it heads north to Conchas Lake. Then, from Tucumcari, it loops west to include Logan, then south, to San Jon and Wheatland. Back in Tucumcari, the eastern loop swings down to Lake Sumner, then up to Santa Rosa. It takes another dip through Puerto de Luna then back to I-40, just outside of Vaughn.
Conchas Lake is one of the state's largest lakes.
This lake has 60 miles of shoreline. Along the shore there are coves, canyons, and spots of (New Mexico-style) sandy beach. The Conchas Lake State Park has hiking, birding and is a good place to throw in a fishing line.
The Mesalands Byway cuts through miles of cattle-country.
The Bell Ranch, near Conchas, got its start in 1824, as part of a Mexican land grant. Since then, the working ranch has made its way into Americana, being featured on Stetson hat boxes. Rumors say some Marlboro Men came from Bell Ranch too -- or at least inspired some of the cigarette brand's campaigns.
Explore the "Age of Dinosaurs" in Tucumcari.
This area of New Mexico was once an inland sea, with lush forests and dinosaurs. At the at Mesalands Community College Dinosaur Museum, look and
touch dinosaur displays while learning about the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.
Get out on the water at Ute Lake.
Water sports are the thing at Ute Lake. From sailing to water skiing, this 13-mile-long lake has room for it all. There is even a small beach. For landlubbers, Ute Lake offers picnicking and hiking as well as horse and mountain bike trails.
Ranches out here produce more than cattle.
You will pass the Caprock Wind Ranch (outside San Jon), while on the Mesalands Byway. It's one of the state's entries into the wind-power business.
Santa Rosa is the "City of Natural Lakes."
The most famous of the lakes is the Blue Hole, a popular swimming hole and New Mexico SCUBA spot. The hole's clear, blue water stays at a constant 64 degrees.
Puerto de Luna offers a look back at Wild West history.
Ruins of the courthouse and jail in this tiny ville remind visitors of the days of Sheriff Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Parts of the Grzelachowsk House and store still stand in Puerto de Luna too. This where the Kid had Christmas dinner before being taken to jail in Santa Fe.
Once you finish roaming Mesalands, try one of these other
9 Beautiful Byways In New Mexico Are Perfect For A Scenic Drive. Happy road-tripping, New Mexico. Be safe out there!
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