This post wraps up the highlights of our time in Las Cruces, except for any mountain bike trail reviews. This is a diverse area with so many fun things to do and see!
If you’re up for a long day trip, go to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. Located in the Gila National Forest, it’s a little over 3 hours drive from Las Cruces, and about 45 miles north of Silver City. The drive takes you from the desert floor up through twisty/windy mountain roads into high pine forests. Part of the trip includes traveling the Trail of the Mountain Spirits scenic byway, which is incredibly beautiful. We enjoyed the long day trip on the motorcycle.
The cliff dwellings are homes that were built into several large caves, halfway up a cliff face. Archeologists say that the structures were built by Puebloan people between AD 1276 and 1287. They farmed the fertile Gila River valley and hunted area game. During a time of many migrations, they moved on around 1300, however others used and lived in the structures after that time period. The caves are accessed by a steep 1 mile (round trip) loop trail that takes you up and through the largest caves. The cave roofs are stained by years of camp fires and 700 year old corn cobs still litter the floor of storage bins. It’s literally a walk through time. Cost is $5, free with the National Park Pass.
Closer to home, Las Cruces hosts a downtown Farmers Market every Saturday morning. It literally takes over 7 blocks of Main Street and is home to a multitude of vendors including fresh produce, arts/crafts, food items and household goods. One of the vendors makes THE very best kettle corn that Jeff and I ever tasted. I watched as the owner made batch after batch as quickly as possible, never quite catching up to the long line of people patiently waiting for the sweet/salty goodness. I’m serious. Best. Kettlecorn. Ever. And Jeff is a popcorn expert, so that’s saying something! A huge overflowing bag of still-warm goodness cost only $7. We went twice.
We don’t go out to eat a lot, but it’s always nice to sample the regional cuisine. La Posta Restaurant in nearby historic Mesilla serves New Mexico cuisine in a 1840’s historic pueblo building. The portions were massive, prepare to take home a doggie bag! Sparky’s is a burger joint located in nearby Hatch NM, the chili capital of the world. Sparky’s is like a kitschy fast food burger joint – you order at the counter and take your tray to any table. But they serve their “world famous green chili cheese burger” to a constant stream of people eager to have it. Jeff found it to be a bit on the spicy side, but I thought it was just right!
And, then, you have to celebrate the little holidays. It just so happened that we visited the Heart of the Desert pistachio farm on Feb 26, National Pistachio Day. The following day, Feb 27, was National Pancake day. Naturally, we had to celebrate that at IHOP with a free pancake short stack. It’s only patriotic to celebrate national holidays, right?
Good-by Las Cruces, you were fantastic! We’ll be back ……