Cloudcroft cloud in a field
Last updated on Sunday, December 29, 2002
Cloudcroft, at an elevation of 8,650 feet, population 750, draws its name from its height: It is one of the highest towns in New Mexico. In 1899 Charles B. Eddy built a branch line of the El Paso and Northeastern Railroad to Cloudcroft from Alamogordo. The Railroad built a lodge for its workers which was also used as a summer resort for El Pasoans. The village grew around The Lodge. It burned in 1919 but was rebuilt and is still open, complete with the ghost of Rebecca. The nine-hole Lodge golf course at 9,200 feet is the highest in the state. It is said golfers are warned not to feed the bears on the ninth green.
Cloudcroft is a lush mountain villiage Photo by Phyllis Eileen Banks
Approached from the west from U. S. Highways 70/54 via U. S. Highway 82, the highway follows the path of the railroad spur that climbed 4,700 feet in 27 miles, an incredibly vertical railroad. The tracks are gone but some of the curved trestle remains. Between Cloudcroft and Alamogordo the highway passes through six of the seven life zones of the United States: Arctic-alpine, Hudsonian, Canadian, Transition, Upper Sonoran and Lower Sonoran.
Cloudcroft also boasts the southernmost ski area in the U.S. with four lifts and an average annual snow fall of 89 inches. Summer temperatures range from 48 to 73 and in winter from 19 to 41. The summer season begins Memorial Day weekend with the Mayfest, which features hay rides, chuck wagon dinners, horseback riding and art shows. Two art schools are located here and are open for the summer. The season closes with the Aspencade the first weekend in October. Motorcycle races, an arts and crafts fair, a community barbecue and western-style dancing are some of the activities offered.
In cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce, the Lincoln National Forest personnel lead nature walks. For museum lovers, the Sacramento Mountains Historical Museum is located on the highway. Nearby are the small towns of Mountain Park and High Rolls known for their apple, peach, pear and cherry crops. A Cherry Festival is held when the fruit is ripe. West of Mountain Park is the only highway tunnel in the state. New Mexico Road 6563 from Cloudcroft leads to Sunspot, home of the Sacramento Peak Observatory, a delightful side trip. Here astronomers can study sun gases and sun spots. There are self-guided tours year round and guided tours Saturday afternoons May through October.
In Alamogordo, 19 miles away, is the International Space Hall of Fame housing artifacts of space pioneers. Near it is the Tombaugh Space Instruction Center featuring movies on a four story wrap-around screen. Another sixteen miles southwest of Alamogordo is the White Sands National Monument. Cloudcroft and surrounding areas are yet another of the hidden secrets of Southern New Mexico.