From Mountains to Prairie and Back Again
This trip will offer you an easy trip “down” the mountain and back again with great scenery and, with any luck great photographic opportunities.
From Angel Fire, take US Hwy 64 northeast to Eagle Nest. Continue on US Hwy 64 through town and over the McEvoy Hill Pass into the Cimarron Canyon State Park. The park is part of the 33,116 acre Colin Neblett Wildlife Area, the largest wildlife area in the state. The Cimarron River is stocked with trout, mainly rainbow. Once you pass the Park Headquarters on the left, there is 1.8 miles of water designated as “special trout waters” with stringent bait and limit restrictions. Fishing in the Cimarron is always a successful day, so stop and wet a hook as you meander down the canyon. All waters require a New Mexico state fishing license.
Along the way to Cimarron, you will pass the small summer community of Ute Park, the historic ranch retreat of Cimarroncita Ranch and Philmont Boy Scout property, all on the right side of the highway. This also leads you out of the mountains and onto the prairie.
Step back in time in Cimarron. Although they do have modern conveniences here, the old west truly does come alive in the museums, art galleries and architecture of the town. Stop in at the historic and haunted St. James Hotel for lunch. Then continue out to the Philmont Scout Ranch. Just a short drive from the middle of town.
When leaving Cimarron, continue on US Hwy 64 toward the historic city of Raton.
This section of the highway passes thru several ranches, mainly the C/S Ranch owned by the Les Davis family and the Vermejo Park Ranch, owned by multi-media mogul Ted Turner. Keep an eye out as both ranches are known for their buffalo and they graze freely in this section of the prairie. While watching for buffalo, you are also sure to see the pronghorn antelope playing in the pastures.
Just before reaching Raton, you will notice the entrance to the NRA Whittington Center on the left side of the highway. This facility was established in 1973 to provide sportsmen from across the country with a world-class facility for competitive shooting, hunting, and firearms safety. Continuing on US HWY 64 you will reach US Interstate 25 which will take you the short distance into the city of Raton.
In Raton, see the 25 preserved historic buildings on First and Second Street. Visit the Raton Museum, the Wells Fargo Building and the restored Shuler Theatre, built in 1915.
Enjoy the afternoon in Raton. Then stay at one of the many lodging establishments in town.
After a good night’s rest and a hearty breakfast, head east on NM Hwy 72. Just off the highway is Sugarite Canyon State Park and the remains of the mining camp of Sugarite, whose coal heated homes as far away as Kansas and Oklahoma. Continue on NM Hwy 72 through the empty farming town of Bell and begin a gradual descent of the mesa. Looking south you will see the world-renowned Folsom Man Site, where a discovery of bones and fluted, spear pointes push back the existence of man on the North American continent to 8,800 B.C. In the town of Folsom, visit the Folsom museum.
Take NM Hwy 325 south to the Capulin Volcano National Monument. From the summit, check out the crater and enjoy the panoramic views of New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas. This volcano was active 60,000 years ago. Leaving the volcano, in the village of Capulin, turn right onto US Hwy 64 and head back toward Raton.
At Raton, head south on US Interstate 25 to the town of Springer and visit the Old Santa Fe Trail Interpretive Center and Museum.
At this point, you need to backtrack 3 miles on US Interstate 25 to the exit for Cimarron, Eagle Nest and Angel Fire. On this 19 mile stretch of road, you will begin a long climb back into the mountains and again be passing through the C/S Ranch where you may see more buffalo.
Once in Cimarron, turn left onto US Hwy 64 and follow the road back into the Moreno Valley and Angel Fire.