9 Most Charming Mountain Towns in New Mexico

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New Mexico is known for its rich history, natural beauty, sights, and great weather to enjoy all the quintessential adventures. These charming small towns offer unique atmospheres with a myriad of activities and active attractions to experience all facets of this culturally rich state.

Aztec

The ruins of an ancient Pueblan Aztec civilization in Aztec National Monument, Aztec, New Mexico.

The city of Aztec is home to incredible history and stunning natural scenery within its small perimeter. This cityscape that suits all tastes comes with the Crow Canyon Pueblito Ruin, which harkens back to when it was used in the 17th and 18th centuries as a defense mechanism by Native Americans. Aztec is also a dream destination for mountain biking, with some 30 miles of premium trails. There’s the popular Alien Run, with mountain scenery including the Angel Peak Scenic Area and the Bisti Badlands with “out of this world” rock formations.

The Pioneer Village invites exploration of the land with a farmhouse, village church, school, and more, while the Aztec Museum displays early tools, equipment, and clothing from the area. There are also the famous Aztec ruins on places dating from the 11th to 13th centuries. Other must-sees include the Aztec Ruins National Monument and the 900-year-old Puebloan Great Ancestral House. The latter includes 400 masonry pieces, original frameworks, ancient walls and the centerpiece of the large reconstructed ceremonial kiva.

chimayo

El Santuario de Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico
El Santuario de Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico.

Chimayo is a charming little town 35 minutes north of Santa Fe that enchants at first sight. The laid-back cityscape includes a relaxing getaway, as well as a myriad of interesting things to see and do. The quiet country town was first settled by Spanish farmers, while the latter inhabitants practiced traditional blanket weaving, raised cattle, as well as orchards and grew chili peppers. Today, Chimayo is still inhabited by his descendants, who maintain the heritage with the Chimayo Museum, the traditional arts of Centinela and the Rancho de Chimayo restaurant.

The most popular Santuario de Chimayo is an old Catholic church with unexplainable miracles throughout its long history of existence. There’s the wooden crucifix that disappeared and reappeared on a local priest and the allegedly healing Chimayo Holy Dirt that locals love to collect. The annual Holy Weekend brings people from all over the country to the doors of the church to worship and seek divine intervention.

Cloud Croft

The Lodge Hotel in Cloudcroft, New Mexico, after a winter snowstorm
The Lodge Hotel in Cloudcroft, New Mexico, after a snow storm. Editorial credit: FiledIMAGE / Shutterstock.com

Cloudcroft is a charming upstate mountain town in the beautiful Lincoln National Forest. It was founded with the old expansion of El Paso and the Northeastern Railroad into the area around the turn of the last century. There’s the Trestle Recreation Area which recalls the city’s railroad history, and the Sacramento Mountain Museum in a historic building with information and artifacts about the city.

Fun annual events include the Bad Ass Mountain Music Festival and the July Jamboree Arts and Crafts Show during the summer, as well as seasonal winter sports with the compact Ski Cloudcroft. The resort is also home to the renowned upscale hotel The Lodge from the turn of the 20th century which has hosted many famous guests, including Judy Garland and Clark Gable. The nearby White Sands National Monument is known for its incredibly bright and rare white sand.

Sources of Jemez

The archaeological remains of a Native American pueblo of guisewa and a Spanish colonial mission at the Jemez Historic Site in Jemez Springs, New Mexico
The archaeological remains of a Native American pueblo of guisewa and a Spanish colonial mission at the Jemez Historic Site in Jemez Springs, New Mexico.

The quaintly charming town is known for its natural hot springs and deep history dating back to 2,500 BC. Today, Jemez Springs maintains a historic ring in the air as well as heritage preserved on its streets and in the ruins of the Jemez State Monument left by the pueblo.

Numerous natural hot springs in the Jemez Valley attract wellness enthusiasts and those who want a relaxing getaway. The waters rise to the Earth’s surface from deep volcanic aquifers and contain various minerals with supposedly instant healing properties. The springs are a short walk down the valley, while the Jemez Springs Bath House is right downtown for relaxation. The spa offers the same mineral waters for rejuvenating baths, as well as body scrubs, waxing, and more.

Madrid

Pretty colorful wooden store in Madrid, New Mexico, during a cold winter day.
Pretty colorful wooden store in Madrid, New Mexico, during a cold winter day. Editorial credit: Anne Richard / Shutterstock.com

The hip town is located halfway between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, just off scenic State Road 14, also known as the Turquoise Trail. The town, pronounced “mad-drid”, has a population of just 150 and a bustling strip of colorful buildings that house shops, art galleries and restaurants. Must-see stops include the Trading Bird Gallery for locally made turquoise jewelry, the Indigo Gallery, and Shugarman’s Little Chocolate Shop. The Mine Shaft Tavern features an award-winning green chile cheeseburger, live local music and roaming biker encounters, plus the nearby Old Coal Town Museum.

The unique city with a famous art scene is a community of local artists who make a living through entertainment and inspire others to create. The picturesque cityscape becomes incredibly atmospheric at sunset, while nature lovers take advantage of the many nearby hiking trails, biking trails and viewpoints. Cerrillos Hills State Park has many trails winding through wide expanses of golden brown between bright green forested areas.

red river

Timbers Restaurant, a steakhouse on W Main St in downtown Red River, New Mexico
Timbers Restaurant, a steakhouse on W Main St in downtown Red River, New Mexico. Editorial credit: PICTOR PICTURES / Shutterstock.com

The small town is known for its fair share of outdoor activities in a scenic location in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The town’s historic district has a Wild West setting and atmosphere reminiscent of Red River’s mining roots. Well known to skiers, the Red River Ski Area is also great for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling, while in the summer it turns into a hiker’s and biker’s dream with trails and trails.

There are all kinds of winter adventures at Enchanted Forest Cross-Country Ski Area and fun in the snow at Red River Sled Shed. Other recreational activities include horseback riding and off-roading at Rouge River Stables and Rouge River Offroad, as well as the scenic nature spots of Greenie Peak and Goose Lake, which are must-sees.

raccoon

Downtown Raton, New Mexico
Downtown Raton, New Mexico. Image Credit: Billy Hathorn via Wikimedia Commons

Charming Raton is a less visited small town located in the eastern part of the state. It offers many outdoor adventure areas to enjoy in peace, solitude or in good company. There is Climax Canyon Park, Sugarite Canyon State Park, as well as the famous Capulin Volcano. The latter reveals the ten million year old geological history of the region and highlights the volcanic formations. There is also the historic downtown area worthy of a stroll and the fascinating Raton Museum.

Nearby landmarks include the Raton Range, Raton Basin, and historic Raton Pass which Spanish traders used for centuries. Before them, Native Americans took the pass to cut through the rugged terrain of the Rocky Mountains. The city is surrounded by rugged landscapes with great hikes like the Climax Canyon Nature Trail and Sugarite Canyon State Park, showcasing the best of it through spectacular natural brutality.

Ruidoso

Ruidoso, New Mexico
Ruidoso, New Mexico

Ruidoso is picturesquely perched 6,729 feet above sea level amidst the magnificent pines of the Sierra Blanca Mountains in southern New Mexico. The most charming and rewarding cityscape imaginable also comes with the sparkling and refreshing Rio Ruidoso. The city was named after this beautiful “noisy river”, as its name suggests. There’s plenty of scenic fishing and hiking in the mild summer temperatures of this part of the state. The once sleepy mountain town has become a thriving and growing dream community for tourists and lovers of the great outdoors.

Ruidoso is surrounded by wilderness with incredible hiking opportunities through raw nature. There are also plenty of shops and restaurants in town, while the nearby Mescalero Apache Reservation features preserved nomadic Native American culture. Those who enjoy fine drinking will love visiting the Noisy Water Winery to unwind with a glass of vino in the surrounding natural beauty.

taos

The native pueblo of Taos, New Mexico
The native pueblo of Taos, New Mexico. Editorial credit: Gimas / Shutterstock.com

The city considered the “City of Gold” thousands of years ago by nomadic tribes may not have the riches in the form of slates, but is located in one of the most naturally rich in the state. The immense beauty has inspired many renowned artists, including Georgia O’Keefe and Aldous Huxley, while adventurous tourists love the myriad opportunities to explore the natural sights. Active historians will greatly appreciate Ghost Ranch for its hiking trails, museums on the area’s history, and hands-on workshops.

The famous Historic Taos Pueblo Village is a traditional pueblo village that is a designated National Historic Site and World Heritage Site, as well as the home of several Taos Indians. One can see and learn about the daily life of the locals, as well as visit historic Pueblo homes that traditionally come without running water or electricity. The Taos ski valley is populated in winter with many ski slopes suitable for all levels, snow tubing, ski schools and many restaurants. It is located on supposedly sacred lands which are a place of great cultural significance.

These charming small towns in New Mexico generously offer their historic hearts to settle down and explore the immense natural beauty that surrounds them. Unique cityscapes with prominent characters come with various attractions and sights to discover through adventures and never a dull moment on a laid back getaway.

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