Silver City, New Mexico.

7 Most Scenic Small Towns In New Mexico

New Mexico, one of the landlocked Mountain States in the American Southwest, is renowned for its diverse topography. From forested mountain wildernesses, verdant grasslands, towering snow-capped mountain peaks, reddish-brown deserts, broken mesas, plateaus, and canyons to many sizeable water bodies, New Mexico aptly justifies its nickname, “The Land of Enchantment.” Although the state’s populated cities like Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Rio Rancho, and the state capital Santa Fe draw holidaymakers in large numbers, it is the innumerable scenic small towns that will truly captivate you.

The next time you look for a gorgeous place to spend your weekend escapades or extended holidays, explore these charming towns in The Land of Enchantment.

Silver City

Downtown Silver City, New Mexico.
Downtown Silver City, New Mexico.

The administrative center of southwestern New Mexico’s Grant County, Silver City, occupies the San Vicente Arroyo River Valley at the southern base of the Mogollon Mountains’ Pinos Altos Range, roughly 3 miles east of the Continental Divide. Founded in 1870 just after the unearthing of silver ore deposits at Chloride Flat, Silver City currently houses the principal campus of Western New Mexico University, aside from a thriving downtown arts district that lures artists and musicians alike.

To learn more about the town’s glorious past, visit the Silver City Museum in a restored 1881 Italianate mansion, the Western New Mexico University Museum, and the nearby Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. Outdoorsy types can go hiking, horseback riding, fishing, and camping in the Gila National Forest, while both visitors and locals get to partake in the Silver City Blues Festival, Silver City Clay Festival, Gila River Festival, Silver City Fiber Arts Festival, Red Paint Pow Wow, and various other events hosted by the town.

Las Vegas

Aerial view of the college town of Las Vegas, New Mexico in winter.
Aerial view of the college town of Las Vegas, New Mexico, in winter.

San Miguel County’s seat, Las Vegas, is a teeny town along the Gallinas River in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, about 122 miles northeast of Albuquerque and 65 miles east of Santa Fe. Not to be befuddled by its celebrated namesake city in Nevada, this town in New Mexico’s north-central portion is well-known for housing the amazing campus of the prestigious New Mexico Highlands University, which is located close to many wilderness and recreational areas such as the Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge and the MacAlister Lake. Furthermore, with more than 900 National Register-listed buildings, Las Vegas is noted for its numerous stunning historic structures, including the Castaneda Hotel, Plaza Hotel, Old City Hall, Masonic Temple, Louis Fort House, Carnegie Library at the heart of Carnegie Park, and Dr. H. J. Mueller House (currently the Crow’s Nest Bed & Breakfast).

Participate in various outdoor activities at the neighboring Storrie Lake State Park, or find some time to tour the City of Las Vegas Museum & Rough Rider Memorial Collection and attend Las Vegas’s annual events like the Fiesta de la Hispanidad at New Mexico Highlands University’s Ilfeld Auditorium.


The Lodge Hotel in Cloudcroft, New Mexico
The Lodge Hotel in Cloudcroft, New Mexico. Editorial credit: FiledIMAGE /

Cloudcroft, founded by the developers of the El Paso and Northeastern Railroad in the late 1890s, occupies the central portion of the Sacramento Mountains within the Lincoln National Forest in southern New Mexico’s Otero County. The town’s location at nearly 8,676 ft above sea level, its relatively mild climate during summers, and its forested surroundings make this picturesque alpine village a prominent vacation getaway. Holidayers visiting Cloudcroft must browse the plethora of lively shops, eateries, general stores, and other locally-owned businesses that fill the town’s downtown. The Sacramento Mountains Museum, chock-a-full of artifacts and vintage photographs, is the best place to gain knowledge about the area’s lodging and railroad history.

The Trestle Recreation Area is ideal for hiking and picnicking, aside from providing visitors an opportunity to view the Mexican Canyon Trestle and unparalleled panoramas of the Tularosa Basin. In winter, adventurists are enticed by the ski slopes of Ski Cloudcroft and engage in a variety of winter sports like snow-shoeing, ice skating, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and snowboarding.

Truth or Consequences

Welcome to Truth or Consequences, NM
Welcome to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Image credit: Jimmy Emerson DVM via

Truth or Consequences is a tiny hamlet in southwestern New Mexico’s Sierra County, along the Rio Grande River, approx. 60 miles north-northwest of Las Cruces. Initially settled in the mid-19th century and named Hot Springs as a reference to its notable mineral-rich hot springs, the town was renamed ‘Truth or Consequences’ after a popular NBC Radio quiz show hosted by Ralph Livingstone Edwards. While in town, do visit the numerous spas and hot springs that ring the area, and rest for the night at any of the pleasant hotels that retain a flavor of the town’s bygone days. Also, survey the adjacent Elephant Butte Lake State Park and indulge in hiking, fishing, and swimming activities.


Downtown Ruidoso, New Mexico
The beautiful town of Ruidoso, New Mexico.

An enchanting world-class alpine resort destination, Ruidoso is set amidst the cool mountain pines of south-central New Mexico, in the Sierra Blanca Mountain range approximately midway between the Lincoln National Forest (in the south and northeast) and the Valley of Fires State Park (in the northwest). Christened after the 30-mile-long Rio Ruidoso River that meanders through the town, Ruidoso plays a vital role as the regional economic mecca of Lincoln County. During the cooler months, the slopes of the neighboring Ski Apache, a ski resort managed by the indigenous Mescalero Apache Tribe, offer abundant winter recreation, whereas, in the offseason, one must experience the thrill of racing down on the Wind Rider Zip Line, besides enjoying mountain biking activities.

Visitors should peruse the large number of Native American stores and antique shops in Ruidoso’s walkable Midtown shopping district, stop by the wonderful art galleries, grab some delectable dishes at the hometown cafes and upscale restaurants, and witness top-class performances at the Spencer Theater of the Performing Arts. Less adventurous souls can win big at the Ruidoso Downs Race Track or place their bets at leading casinos like the Inn of the Mountain Gods and Billy the Kid Casino.


Street scene in Madrid, New Mexico.
Street scene in Madrid, New Mexico.

Forming a part of the Santa Fe, NM Metropolitan Statistical Area, this census-designated place occupies a narrow canyon in the Ortiz Mountains in Santa Fe County. With just 247 inhabitants as per the latest US Census, this early 20th-century coal mining and ghost town has rapidly transformed into a funky artistic community. Madrid’s main attraction is the abundant galleries, boutiques, museums, the Shugarman’s Little Chocolate Shop, eateries, and boarding houses that line the New Mexico State Road 14 (popularly known as the Turquoise Trail) running between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Additionally, vacationers should tour the Madrid Old Coal Town Museum, which preserves remnants of Madrid’s past, and taste mouthwatering Green Chile Cheeseburgers at Mine Shaft Tavern & Cantina.

Jemez Springs

 jemez springs, new mexico
Spanish Colonial Mission at Jemez Historic Site in Jemez Springs, New Mexico.

Jemez Springs, called after the abutting Jemez Pueblo, is a serene village in Sandoval County situated completely within the Santa Fe National Forest in the San Diego Canyon along the Jemez River. This town of only 198 residents offers countless outdoor activities such as soaking in the healing waters of the natural mineral hot springs; visiting the Jemez Historic Site featuring archaeological remains of a 17th-century Spanish colonial mission and a 16th-century Native American Giusewa Pueblo; and fishing, camping, horseback riding, hiking, and cross-country skiing activities at the 700-acre Fenton Lake State Park, an all-season retreat surrounded by attractive ponderosa pine forests and the majestic Jemez Mountains. Also, do not miss checking out the Jemez Springs Bath House, Battleship Rock, and the Valles Caldera National Preserve.

From the spectacular alpine communities of Cloudcroft and Ruidoso to the hot spring towns of Jemez Springs and Truth or Consequences, these incredible small towns that dot the nation’s 5th largest and 36th most populous state have something for everyone. Boasting unrivaled mountain vistas, rich cultural heritage, restaurants serving special New Mexican cuisine, and year-round outdoor activities, the small towns in New Mexico are worth checking out.

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