The Cloud-Climbing Rail Trails
A number of sections totaling nearly 10 miles of the historic Alamogordo and Sacramento Mountain Railroad grade (which runs from Alamogordo to Cloudcroft) have been converted to rail trails, and are now open to the public. The sections are individually accessible, and present hikes of varying degrees of difficulty — from easy walking at a grade of less than six percent to an eight-mile loop that includes an elevation change of about 1,000 feet, with a few steep slopes. The rail trail highlights include magnificent panoramic overviews of the surrounding areas, 100-year-old wooden railroad trestles and culverts, impressive geologic formations and running streams. The energetic hiker will experience five climatic and vegetation zones, rising from Chihauhaun Desert to a sub-alpine landscape. Most of the rail trail sections have shelters, benches and large interpretive, educational signs that explain the main features of each area.
Lincoln National Forest
Located in south-central New Mexico, the Lincoln National Forest is known as the birthplace of the world-famous Smokey Bear, the living symbol of the campaign to prevent forest fires. The original bear is buried in Capitan, New Mexico, located 77 miles north of Alamogordo.
The Lincoln consists of three ranger districts: the Sacramento, Smokey Bear and Guadalupe. There are three major mountain ranges (Sacramento, Guadalupe and Capitan) that cover 1,103,441 acres in four different counties in southeastern New Mexico. Elevations of 4,000 to 11,500 feet pass through five different climatic and vegetation zones. Vegetation ranges from rare cacti in the lower elevations to Engelmann spruce in the higher elevations.
Temperatures also vary with elevation. At higher elevations (7,000 feet and up) summer nights are a chilly 40 degrees Fahrenheit and days are a warm 78 degrees Fahrenheit, while winter temperatures can drop to 15 degrees Fahrenheit at night and rise to 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. At lower elevations (6,000-7,000 feet) winter temperatures rarely fall below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, and usually run from the teens to the 50s. Summer temperatures range from 50 degrees to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. At the lowest elevations (4,000-6,000 feet) temperatures are generally 10 degrees higher throughout the year.
Oliver Lee Memorial State Park
Named for Oliver Milton Lee, a pioneer southern New Mexico rancher and state legislator, Oliver Lee Memorial State Park is located at the mouth of Dog Canyon in the rugged Sacramento Mountains, south of Alamogordo. Water flows year-round in Dog Canyon, creating a quiet green oasis in contrast to the surrounding prickly desert setting. The 180-acre canyon was an early Apache stronghold, and records show that at least five major battles occurred in the area between government troops and Mescalero Apaches. For many centuries, visitors have been drawn to this place of surprising beauty. Oliver Lee Memorial State Park is located 12 miles south of Alamogordo via U.S. Highway 54.
Three Rivers Petroglyph Site and Recreation Area
The Three Rivers Petroglyphs Site is one of the few locations in the Southwest set aside solely because of its rock art. The number and concentration of petroglyphs here make it one of the largest and most interesting petroglyph sites in the Desert Southwest. More than 21,000 glyphs of birds, humans, animals, fish, insects and plants — as well as numerous geometric and abstract designs — are scattered over 50 acres of New Mexico’s northern Chihuahuan Desert.
White Sands National Monument
The mountain-ringed valley known as the Tularosa Basin lies at the northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert. Rising from the heart of this basin is one of the world’s great natural wonders — the glistening white sands of New Mexico. White Sands is New Mexico’s number one National Monument attraction. Here, great wave-like dunes of gypsum cover nearly 300 square miles of desert. The dunes are ever changing, growing, cresting, then slumping, but always advancing. White Sands National Monument preserves a major portion of the world’s largest gypsum dune field, along with the plants and animals that have successfully adapted to this harsh environment. The Monument is located on U.S. Highway 70, 15 miles west of Alamogordo.