The small village of Cloudcroft in the Sacramento Mountains is about as far South as you can get in New Mexico and still be in big stands of pine trees and high mountain meadows. It’s a small place with just several hundred inhabitants that is in a beautiful setting at nearly 9000 feet (2700 meters) altitude. The village impresses me as being mostly a summer tourist place, but that isn’t how it got started.
In the 1890’s, a railroad spur was built to climb into the mountains from nearby Alamagordo in order to harvest lumber needed for railroad construction throughout the region and to create a destination resort in the beautiful setting. When completed, the rail spur climbed 4700 feet (1440 meters) over the course of its 30 mile length. More than forty trestles were needed along the route, and various remains of these are still in existence. The spur was used into the 1940’s when it was replaced by highway travel.
The resort quickly became popular and one of the accommodations, The Lodge built in the early 1900’s, still serves visitors today.
The Lodge hosted many famous guests, including Judy Garland, Clark Gable, and Pancho Villa. In the 1930s the resort was managed by Conrad Hilton, who hailed from across the Tularosa Basin in San Antonio, New Mexico.
I was passing through on a roadtrip in the fall and car-camped in the forest before stretching my legs the next morning on a loop hike in Mexican Canyon. I started the hike right in town — there is a small park with a more formal trailhead, but it was behind locked gates in the morning when I wanted to start walking. I found a spot to park with a short trail up to the park.