New Mexico is unique to other states for its diverse landscapes of rugged deserts and modern cities, cultural heritage, and historic attractions. From the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Taos to the hot springs and natural beauty of Truth or Consequences, the Land of Enchantment isn’t the first place that comes to mind when thinking of vibrant small communities to explore, yet these 12 most scenic New Mexico Towns are some of the best, underrated destinations to visit in the United States. New Mexico hasn’t always been exclusively American, as it was under Spanish rule in the 16th century, then became part of independent Mexico before being ceded to America in 1848.
Silver City is rich with natural resources of Gold, Copper, Silver, and more; it sits in Southwestern New Mexico and is known state-wide for being a cultural and artistic hub. Its downtown area enjoys an old-school atmosphere that provokes feelings of the wild-west. The secret behind its scenic charm lies in the surrounding mountainous backdrop of the Pinos Altos and Mogollon Mountain Range. The dry, deserted setting allows for an array of outdoor activities like hiking, off-road exploration, and rock climbing, while its quite calm ambiance calls for a relaxing getaway with friends or family to escape the big city bustle. Indulge in community events that add to the city’s heartwarming feel, like The Silver City Blues Festival, and browse the eclectic art galleries, like Light Art Space, and Blue Dome when visiting.
Adding to the artistic charms, New Mexico is one of the oldest art colonies in the Area. Taos’ beauty is depicted through local creativity with over 70 privately owned galleries and a range of public museums. Like many other towns in New Mexico, Taos also enjoys a rugged landscape and is renowned state-wide for being a major ski resort destination in the winter. However, the fun doesn’t stop here, as the town conveniently sits 2.9 miles away from the UNESCO world heritage native American Community of Taos Pueblo, a historic residential area of multi-storied homes entirely constructed with Clay. Visit the picturesque San Francisco de Assisi Mission Church in the historic district of Ranchos de Taos, browse creative local displays like the Charles Collins Sculpture Gallery, and head out to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge located 12 Mi from the town for some memorable photos and vistas.
Commonly known as a winter wonderland among state locals, Ruidoso is a resort town renowned for having some of the best slopes in the area, with its scenic characteristics attributed to its year-round alluring nature. The famous winter resort town shifts to a green oak-covered land in the summer as its lakes, like Grindstone Lake, melt into crystal clear waters, allowing for a range of watersport activities while being surrounded by endless acres of lush forest lands. Visit Ruidoso During the first week of September to catch live horse races throughout the month at Ruidoso Downs Race Track. Visitors can indulge in a western small-town feel in downtown Ruidoso while catching live art venues at Spencer Theater.
Not to get confused by the mega-resort and entertainment city of Nevada, Las Vegas, New Mexico, is a calm, historically significant town and a less popular New Mexico town than others on this list. The town sits 66.4 mi from the famous Santa Fe and stands out with historic architecture that depicts tales of the wild-west and Gold Rush era, like the Hotel Plaza from 1882, the Old City Hall, and the Masonic Temple. Head out 6 miles south to embrace the deserted prairie atmosphere, cruise the Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge, spanning over 3700 acres, and catch a sunset at Lake McAllister while you’re there.
While each of the most scenic towns in New Mexico stands out with its unique advantages, Los Alamos is an inclusive balance of all the different atmospheres found in New Mexico. Its natural beauty can be attributed to East Park, Ashley Pond, and Urban Park, where you can catch views of beautiful pink sunsets; there is also a significant recreational side to the town. From the expansive Los Alamos County Golf Course to the Graduation Canyon Trail and Western Soccer field, the community of 12,978 residents in 2020 enjoys a small-town feel that is supported by big city amenities, making it one of the most relaxing places to go on a family trip in New Mexico. It is also a gateway to three national monuments: Bandelier National Monument, Valles Caldera National Preserve, and Manhattan Project National Historical Park.
Aztec is yet another scenic town in New Mexico renowned for its Unesco World Heritage sites and abundant natural attractions. Offering over 300 documented natural arches and the infamous Aztec Ruins, the town attracts thousands of visitors annually and is one of the most popular towns on the list of the 12 most scenic towns in New Mexico. In addition to history and natural beauty, the Aztec Museum and Pioneer Village, along with the small town’s main street, are a few other destinations worth exploring when in town. Support small local businesses of the area on the stretch of Main Ave, like the Lil' Aztec Flower Shop, and take photos of the Italianate Brick Style buildings like Odd Fellows Hall and the 1907 J. M. Randall Building.
Truth or Consequences
Once named Hot Springs, Truth or Consequences has long been a go-to destination among state locals for its healing natural springs and is known amongst locals as T or C. Waterbodies of ponds and rivers in the town add a unique edge to the deserted town, inspiring the greenery and growth near dry areas, adding to the town’s scenic and mind-calming properties. Visitors of T or C can learn more about the town’s history at Geronimo Springs Museum after visiting the main wellness resorts of Riverbend Hot Springs and relaxing at the mineral spa of Charles Springs. The town has ten commercial bathhouses, with popular wellness resorts like Sierra Grande Lodge & Spa and Blackstone Hot Springs.
Beautiful for its old-school ambiance, rich history, and endless public murals, Tucumcari boasts a range of picturesque Instagrammable landmarks that will take you back in time to the 50s and 60s. The town has long played an important role as one of the main stops for travelers cruising down the mother road of Route 66, building its entire tourist experience around its geographical importance as a resting stop offering family-friendly entertainment destinations. Visit the New Mexico Route 66 Museum, take a snap of the murals around the corner of Second Street and Tucumcari Boulevard, and spot vintage cars and old gas stations that depict the town’s prominent role throughout history.
Madrid is one of the smaller communities on this list, and it stands out with its population of creatives that showcase their town artistically. While the town is fully explorable within a day or two, it lists the 12 Most Scenic New Mexico Towns for its colorful houses, boutiques, and restaurants between rocky hills. The town that once relied on the coal industry was abandoned during the decline of coal production and then repopulated by veterans and retirees longing for a peaceful town to call home. While Madrid is more of a village than it is a town, its quirky atmosphere and abundance of art galleries, like the Johnsons Of Madrid Galleries of Fine and Fiber Art, Belle Of the West, and Firehouse Studio, make it a must-see destination, escaping the common norms of a typical American town.
Belen is a historic town with remnants of Spanish culture and some of the best mountain views in Valencia County. With a history dating back to the 1600s, you can find everything from Art Deco architecture to creative galleries like Judy Chicago’s Through the Flower Art Space and Studio 508. The breathtaking views of the Manzano Mountain range make for an excellent scenic cruise heading south on State Road 47, and their peaks can be accessed through the Kaisar Trail number 80, followed by Trail 170. Visit the local wineries and breweries of Belen, like the Black’s Smuggler Winery and Hub City Brewing, and don’t miss visiting Bugg Lights children’s museum if visiting with family.
One of the most beautiful towns in New Mexico for its array of attractions and diverse setting, Santa Rosa boasts a desert landscape yet is rich with bodies of water like the Blue Hole swimming lake that is connected underground to water systems, Santa Rosa Park Lake, and Rito Creek. The abundance of water bodies allows for a mix of green and brown landscapes, differentiating the town from other desert-setting communities on this list. Aside from the abundance of natural attractions, visitors can visit the Route 66 Auto Museum, appreciate the desert scenery at Santa Rosa Lake State Park, and grab a bite at the 60-year-old Route 66-themed diner Joseph’s Bar & Grill.
Wrapping up the list of most scenic New Mexico towns is the northern town of Cloudcroft, a destination that is popular among campers, hikers, and nature lovers alike. The vibrant towns boast a range of mountainous recreational opportunities and brim with wooden front shops, pubs, and restaurants to recover from a long day of outdoor activities. Embrace mother nature’s beauty at the Trestle Recreation Area, one of the best picnic spots in town, go for some comfort food at Mad Jack’s Mountaintop Barbecue, and visit the Sacramento Mountains Museum and Pioneer Village when in Cloudcroft.
Finally, New Mexico is the perfect destination to learn about American history, from the Spanish colonial era to the American-Mexican war and the Guadalupe Hidalgo treaty. The Land of Enchantment is the fifth-largest state by area, and its scenic towns are a blend of quirky landmarks, stunning forests, and dry, scorching deserts. Whether you are a nature enthusiast, history buff, or traveler looking for your next road trip, this is your sign to head out and explore the 12 most scenic towns of New Mexico.