Ruidoso, New Mexico is an incredible place for the outdoor adventurer. Well known to both Texas tourists and New Mexico locals, this mountain town is a hot spot for off the beaten path adventures in both summer and winter. While I had an incredible time exploring things to do during the warm weather season, I’d love to return when there is snow and see things in a whole new light. From zip lining to horseback riding to hiking and incredible mountain vistas, I kept my schedule packed.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Discover Ruidoso. a unique mountain village off the beaten path in New Mexico. All opinions and photos are my own.
As an off the beaten path adventurer with only 3 days to explore this mountain town and its surrounding offerings, I packed in as much as I could. During my short visit, I lined up a whole bunch of additional awesome activities to check out on a return visit. This is most definitely an area worth revisiting at different times of the year with a huge variety of activities.
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Things to Do in Ruidoso, New Mexico
Ruidoso has several great options for trail riding. I met up with the wranglers at Grindstone Stables for a nice three mile ride. The trail led our group around the mountain ridge, Townsend Ridge, and offered very pretty views of Grindstone Lake below. The stables offered a huge variety of horse suitable for everyone from people who have never ridden before to experienced riders.
I am align with the beginner category and was given Mad Max. He knew the trail, having done it 500+ times per year for who knows how long. This allowed me to relax and enjoy the scenery, take photos, and converse with the incredibly friendly and knowledgeable guides.
Mad Max seemed apt to take some quick bites of foliage along the trail. I tried speaking Spanish to him, but he didn’t respond and ignored me when feasible. As someone not completely enamored with horses, I had a very enjoyable time on the ride taking in the scenery. I’d love to do it again in the snow.
523 Resort Dr., Ruidoso, NM 88345
$38 per horse plus tip, cash or credit, 1 hour
107 Forest Road, Ruidoso, NM 88345
$25 per horse plus tip, cash, 1 hour
Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort Casino
287 Carrizo Canyon Road, Mescalero, New Mexico 88340
$37 per horse plus tip, cash or credit, 1 hour
Ziplining is a wonderful way to experience fantastic views. Up in the air, perspective changes and adrenaline pumps hard. As much as I love wandering around in the woods, this particular aspect of my trip became a quick favorite. Weather conditions were less than favorable for the standard zipline tour, which immediately made the adventure even more appealing to me. Hanging out at the platform at 11,489 ft above sea level, we waited for the clouds to part just long enough to leap from the platform.
Ski Apache is home to one of the longest zipline experiences in the world at 8,890 feet in length, or 1.6 miles, over 3 lines. With speeds up to 65 mph, this is an incredibly thrilling experience. Ski Apache also offers a night time zipline tour on Saturdays, which I would have loved to partake in. Unfortunately, my schedule didn’t allow for it this time. The guides for the ziplines take safety extremely seriously and go through vigorous nonstop training, some of which I observed.
With the professionalism and safety measures in mind, I made the push to whoosh down the zipline at the first opportunity. Some 45 minutes later, the sun peaked through for a hot minute, we radioed down, and secured ourselves in, and jumped. Oh Shit. Almost immediately clouds enveloped me, taking my breath away with the lack of oxygen this high up and fast change in elevation. It felt like in no time I reached 60mph. I had my camera in one hand, other hand on the brake, and shot from the hip – literally. About halfway down I descended from the clouds and a breathtaking view materialized of the valley My camera was secured to my body, but I didn’t want to drop the phone. The speed of descent and having the clouds part around me was magical. As an added bonus, the eclipse happened during this whole adventure.
Billy the Kid National Scenic Byway – This 3 hour drive over 114 miles starts in the town of Lincoln, about 40 minutes from Ruidoso. Lincoln is considered of the best-preserved Old West towns in the country. Continuing through the bustling ski-town of Ruidoso and the rich history at Ft. Stanton, the byway provides views of the legendary West, both past and present.
Three Rivers Petroglyph Site – With over 21,000 petroglyphs to explore, this is the largest collection of rock art in the Southwest. This is a very unique experience, as you will have direct access to the petroglyphs as a visitor along a one mile trail. Expect to pay $8 per vehicle for entry. Located about 1 hour from Ruidoso. Directions.
Valley of Fires – Twisted basalt lava stretches along an area of 45 miles, formed by nearby volcanoes. Explore lava caves, pressure ridges, and intermittent greenery forcing its way in between cracks of lava. A 3/4 mile loop trail will take you through fascinating scenery from millennia ago. If you’re like me and love to get lost in landscapes, there are plenty of open areas to explore. I drove through this area en route to Ruidoso. At the time, it was pouring rain. The wet black rock and shiny desert plants made this an incredible sight. Entry fees are $3 per vehicle. Located about 40 minutes from Ruidoso. Directions.
White Sands National Monument – One of the most unique places in the world lies here. Miles of rolling dunes envelop nature and create landscapes make one feel like they are on another planet. When planning on visiting White Sands, its highly recommended to explore the areas either when the park opens at 7am or closer to sunset before the park closes at 9pm. If you go here midday, you will feel pretty miserable in the heat. Now, check this out. There isn’t any sand at White Sands. Sort of. The stuff on the ground is actually made up of gypsum crystals. They do not absorb the sun’s energy very well and will feel cool to the touch. You can go barefoot. I went here for the sunset and was treated to some amazing views. The farther north you drive along the paved road, the less plant life you’ll experience. I ended up hiking the backcountry trail and was treated to a quiet serene mix of sparse plant life and empty dunes stretching into the distance. I’d love to return and camp here. Entry fees are $5 per person. Located about 1 hour 15 minutes minutes from Ruidoso. Directions.
Ruidoso is surrounded by breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, densely populated by ponderosa pines. Mountain summits lead the way to vast distances. It is not unheard of to be able to see the mountains of Mexico, Texas, or Arizona on clear days. Its so easy to find one’s self surrounded by beauty at all times of day.
Monjeau Lookout – This dirt road off the route to Ski Apache is well worth the 40 minute detour. The drive ends at a small parking lot with bathrooms and short trek to a lookout building. Bring binoculars for some birding and views which stretch far beyond. This was one location many locals kept recommending as worth checking out and I’m glad I did.
Sierra Blanca Peak – Head up to Ski Apache and take the gondola. From the top, ascend to Sierra Blanca peak at 12,000 feet above sea level for some incredible views. The weather changes often, so bring layers and be prepared. The drive is about 45 minutes from downtown Ruidoso. If you can’t make the hike, the views from the top of the gondola ride alone are quite breathtaking.
Ruidoso is home to many rustic mountainous lodges and cabins. The Story Book Cabins graciously invited me to be their guest where I was treated to a few nights of splendid luxury. The cabin was equipped with multiple fireplaces, a full kitchen, and several bedrooms. I’m pretty sure it was as big as my house back home, if not bigger. I’d like to say I slept in all the bedrooms, but only had time for two out of three! I loved waking up early in the morning, starting the living room fire, getting coffee going, and sitting in front of the fire setting up the final details of adventure planning for my day. Repeat in the evening, but with local beer instead of coffee. Ponderosa pines surrounded the outdoor seating area and barbeque where hummingbirds and squirrels peeked into the windows.
If you are looking to be close to the outdoors and enjoy the mountain living experience in luxury, these cabins fit the bill nicely:
Story Book Cabins
410 Main Rd, Ruidoso, NM 88345
Shadow Mountain Lodge
107 Main Rd, Ruidoso, NM 88345
Ruidoso Lodge Cabins
300 Main Rd, Ruidoso, NM 88345
1204 Mechem Dr Ste 15, Ruidoso, NM 88345
Eat like a Local
Want to experience some of the local food? Green chilies are a staple, so you’ll want to order some dishes which contain them as an ingredient. If you want both red and green sauce, ask for Christmas.
Explore the local beer from New Mexico breweries and play arcade games at Hidden Tap – 2408 B Sudderth Dr, Ruidoso, NM 88345.
Try both wine and cheese at Noisy Water Winery – 2342 Sudderth Dr, Ruidoso, NM 88345.
For comfort food and local beer, check out the offerings at Rio Grande Grill and Tap Room – 441 Mechem Dr Ruidoso, NM 88345.
Southwestern fare burgers and sandwiches will land you at Chef Shawn’s Eatery – 2415 Sudderth Dr Ste 5 Ruidoso, NM 88345.
Creative dishes with unique ways of preparing chilies can be found at Grill Caliente – 2800 Sudderth Dr Ruidoso, NM 88345.
Explore all of Ruidoso’s dining options here.
As someone who lives a fair distance from Ruidoso, New Mexico, I’m so happy I made the trip to explore this wonderful mountain town. A true hidden gem, Ruidoso has so much to offer and is not nearly known enough. There is an incredible amount to explore between rich culture, art, and outdoor adventures, 3 days was not nearly enough. I wish I had a week to see so much more, and I still would have missed plenty. Plan your own week to visit Ruidoso and escape the heat, explore the unique outdoor activities, and relax in a stress-free environment which will take your breath away.