When the El Paso & Northeastern Railroad came to Alamogordo in 1898, businessmen Charles and John Eddy looked into extending a line through the mining town of White Oaks. The brothers Eddy sent a survey crew into the Sacramento Mountains, and the crew reported back that not only was it feasible, but that this “pasture for the clouds” could attract visitors from near and far. The construction of the Alamogordo & Sacramento Mountain Railway began, and visitors started arriving soon after. Train passengers would go as far as the rail was extended, then finish the journey to Cloudcroft by stagecoach.
By the turn of the century, Cloudcroft was a destination for all seekers who wanted to breathe the thin mountain air and connect with nature; more than a hundred years later, this village still welcomes visitors with open arms. Whether you are looking for a full weekend getaway or an active day trip, the 90-minute drive to 9,000 feet above sea level is a short and picturesque cruise from the Mesilla Valley. Fall is a great time to make the journey because you’ll also be rewarded with the beauty of changing leaves.
Where to Stay
The first thing you have to decide, if you are spending the night, is where you are going to lay your head. There are numerous camping areas around the village, but if you plan to spend the night in a tent, I suggest you pack some warm blankets, as even the summer nights can give your tootsies the shakes and shivers. If you’re not into camping, local lodging options include cabins and rental homes, a historical hotel, and special themed motel rooms. Cloudcroft has a population of just less than 700 people, with more than 500 rooms available.
The Lodge Resort and Spa is an extraordinary property with a storied past and has been in its present location since 1911. This historic hotel offers beautiful rooms, luxury restaurant and bar, relaxing spa, and 18-hole golf course. The Lodge offers package options for singles, couples, and groups. Another great place is the Dusty Boots Motel and Café, a side-by-side welcome inn and restaurant that was recommended to me by a fellow tourist. At the Dusty Boots, the individually themed rooms include a complimentary slice of heavenly banana bread served to guests each night of their stay. The trek begins with an upward climb over and through the Organ Mountains, past the pistachio fields and the gypsum dunes, until you reach the first welcome ambassador of Cloudcroft, with a large, red noggin, an even larger smile, flannel shirt, and cozy overalls waving you in.
Food, shopping, Museum
The Old Apple Barn not only looks like the quintessential roadside knickknack shack, but also serves up the best root beer floats, fresh-roasted nuts, homemade pies, and to-die-for gourmet fudges. Once in town, I strongly recommend your first stop be at the modern-day general store known as High Altitude. High Altitude has been in business for nearly a quarter century, and is filled with everything you may need to choose your own adventure in Cloudcroft. Whether it be camping, hiking, socks, shoes, bikes, or trail maps, High Altitude has it, along with a staff that is helpful, knowledgeable, and willing to advise you on your best fit. Downtown Cloudcroft can feed any craving and tempt any indulgence. The Western Bar is the place to stop with friends for a frosty cold beer, or try Noisy Water Winery’s tasting room, where you can not only taste three of their luscious wines for $5, but also experience flavored olive oils and other homemade sundries.
If it’s a sweet tooth that moves your soul, Burro Street Bakery and KennaBelle’s Kreations will knock your socks off. I could smell KennaBelle’s cupcakes three doors down, and I don’t believe my feet touched the ground until bit through the cream cheese frosting and into the carrot cake. Once you have delved into the local food and drink, and need to get your steps in, The Sacramento Mountains Museum & Pioneer Village is a place you will be amazed by. Sitting on 2.5 acres of land, this outdoor museum displays Cloudcroft of yesteryear brimming with history, artifacts, and structures from more than a century ago. If you can make it for Halloween, the museum is transformed into one of the best haunted houses in the state. As of late July, the museum was open from noon until 4 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday. Check for the latest schedule before visiting at cloudcroftmuseum.com.
There are many excellent trails that weave throughout the terrain of Cloudcroft, but the disc golf courses are a great way to hike and play a game simultaneously. The Byron Ligon Memorial course is the perfect course
for beginners, while the Cloudcroft Disc Course is a bit more challenging, both the course and the hike. The courses are well made, marked, and are free to play. “Disc golf is a great way to exercise, get out of the heat, and enjoy the beauty of the mountains,” says Carlsbad resident Rick Salness, who had just finished playing nine holes with his wife, Pam.
At the end of your day, whether you climbed the highest summit, biked the longest trail, or just enjoyed the serene environment Cloudcroft provides, the gathering place for both locals and tourists is the Cloudcroft Brewery. Cloudcroft Brewery started as an idea of the owners, who wanted to have a venue for live music.
“We wanted to provide a place where families, locals, and tourists can feel comfortable and enjoy the best of the Cloudcroft community,” says part-owner Matt Willett. “We started with a cardboard sign and makeshift stage, but when we saw the response, we knew we had something special.” When the time came, the owners used locally sourced timber and transformed the former firehouse into a gorgeous structure, literally in the side of the mountain. Soon after, through a stroke of serendipity, Kasey Bigbee came into the picture, and eventually became the master brewer. A brick pizza oven was built, and Cloudcroft opened for business in June of 2018. The brewery has nine staple beers but can have as many as 15 on draft at any one time. The friendliness of the citizens of Cloudcroft, the beauty of the mountains and clean fresh air are reason enough to make the quick trip, but all the welcoming shops, food, drink, and great activities will make you want to stay forever.
Written by Daniel Gonzales • Photography by Amanda Gonzales
Originally published in Neighbors magazine
Posted by LasCruces.com