Come to the Silver City CLAY Festival and stay a few extra days to explore Silver City and its surroundings. August is a beautiful time of year in Southwest New Mexico, with warm days, occasional thunderstorms, and cool evenings. Below are a few attractions you will not want to miss. For details regarding lodging, dining, and other useful information, please visit Silver City Tourism.
Galleries & Shops in Silver City
The historic district of Silver City can be enjoyed in a walk of an hour or two. Adobe and brick houses and commercial buildings span the centuries from the late 1800s. Stop by the Murray Ryan Visitors’ Center, 201 N. Hudson Street at Broadway, for area maps, walking guides, and local information.
Downtown Silver City has more than 30 art galleries, and several more are a short drive from downtown. The town has an unusual complement of antique and second-hand shops, bookshops, restaurants, and coffee houses, with performances of folk, blues, jazz and classical music. The Silver City Museum is an outstanding small museum housed in the Allman House, one of the town’s well-preserved historic homes. The Western New Mexico University Museum houses one of the nation’s best collections of Mimbres pottery.
Trail of the Mountain Spirits National Scenic Byway
The Trail of the Mountain Spirits is a 93-mile journey through the beauty, heart, and soul of New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness. This is where miners, homesteaders, Indians, Spanish explorers, and mountain men left their mark and where nature has chosen to forge its convergence of major ecosystems: the Chihuahuan Desert, the Sonoran Desert, the Rocky Mountains, and the Sierra Madre Mountains. Experience this glorious scenic byway as it takes you through New Mexico’s true Old West.
Gila Cliff Dwellings
A national monument a little over an hour’s drive north on NM State Route 15, which winds into the Gila National Forest, the Gila Cliff Dwellings are a wonderful specimen of prehistoric life in the area. Take a tour through the many chambers of the dwellings, and learn some of the theories about its inhabitants.
Gila National Forest
The Gila National Forest, which includes the Aldo Leopold Wilderness and the Blue Range Wilderness, is the largest continuous wilderness area in the lower 48 states. Enjoy hot springs, hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, horseback riding and birding in this beautiful, unpopulated region of our country. For a superb adventure on horseback into the Gila Wilderness, pack in with Gila Wilderness Adventures.
Birding & Local Hikes
Southwest New Mexico is one of the premier birding areas in the United States, situated on the migratory path of numerous species of wintering birds. It also offers year-round rewards to birders with its riparian valleys, forested mountains, box canyons and summer grasslands. Silver City’s Greenways Walking Trails (PDF) offer three local hikes – La Capilla, Boston Hill, and San Vicente Creek – which allow noteworthy sightings of numerous species including Great Horned Owl, Montezuma Quail, Common Black Hawk, Hepatic Tanager, Vermillion Flycatcher and Bald and Golden Eagles, to name a few. A scenic drive along the Trail of the Mountain Spirits will reward the avid birder with a variety of habitats to explore.
Silver City’s Grant County, as well as the surrounding counties of Catron and Hidalgo, are rich in naturally occurring mineral hot springs. These vary in accessibility from hot springs resorts complete with soaking tubs and lodging facilities to remote bubbling holes in the ground by a river in the Gila Wilderness. Come soak in the healing warm waters and feel the soul of New Mexico! Visit natural hot springs, the Wilderness Lodge, the Wildwood Retreat, or Faywood Hot Springs.
The U.S. Army established Fort Bayard, just east of Silver City, in 1866 to protect settlers and miners from Apache raids. The first all-black regular army units, called Buffalo Soldiers, were organized here. Soldiers from Fort Bayard battled such Apache leaders as Victorio, Nana and Geronimo, and later went into Mexico with General Pershing against Pancho Villa. Because the fort has seen continuous use since its establishment–as a veterans’ hospital and recently as a state-managed medical facility– it has been preserved much as it looked in the 1800s. The Fort Bayard Historical Preservation Society leads tours of the fort.
Southwestern New Mexico was the heartland of the Apache people from their arrival in the American Southwest, sometime between 1000 and the late 1500s. Geronimo was born near the headwaters of the Gila River. Great Apache leaders–Victorio, Cochise, Mangas Coloradas, Nana, Natchez, and Geronimo–raided white settlements and mining towns and in turn were killed, or rounded up and confined to reservations, by the Spanish, the Mexicans, and the U.S. Army. The Apaches’ resistance ended only after the final surrender of Geronimo in 1886. Joe Saenz, a local Warm Springs Apache, leads wilderness trips into Apache country and teaches Apache history and culture.
Billy the Kid
People with an interest in The Kid should know that he was living in Silver City when he got in trouble for the first time at age 15. His mother had died of tuberculosis, and his stepfather threw him out of the house. Billy and another boy robbed two Chinese of some laundry, and Billy was supposed to hide the bundle. Billy was caught, and the county sheriff put him in the Silver City jail overnight to teach him a lesson, but he escaped up the chimney and was never seen in Silver City again. Next to the Silver City Visitors’ Center on Hudson Street at Broadway is a replica of Billy the Kid’s mother’s log cabin, and the site of the former jailhouse is across Hudson Street to the east.
Located on the Continental Divide at an altitude of 6,000 feet, the area in and around Silver City offers spectacular views of the heavens on clear summer nights. Climb another 1,000 feet to the tiny town of Pinos Altos, and the stars seem close enough to touch. Visit the Star Observatory at City of Rocks State Park, and sleep under a canopy of heavenly bodies.
Mimbres Culture Heritage Site
There are several Mimbres village sites near Silver City. The only site open to the public, which includes an interpretive trail, is on Highway 35 in the Mimbres Valley approximately 30 minutes’ drive east from Silver City. A pithouse village was inhabited from approximately 500 CE; and later a pueblo of 200 people was built on top of it and was inhabited until approximately 1140 CE. The Mimbres people produced beautiful black and white painted pottery that art historians consider the most distinctive prehistoric pottery tradition in North America. Pottery bowls recovered from this site include some of the finest examples of Mimbres work. The Mimbres Culture Heritage site is managed by the Imogene F. Wilson Education Foundation and is open from 11 am to 3 pm daily.
Pinos Altos, with its tall pines, is 6 miles north of Silver City on NM 15 and is 1000 feet higher in elevation. Pinos Altos had its own gold rush in 1860. Buildings from the 1800s are still inhabited, and you can get a good steak and evening entertainment at the Buckhorn Saloon and Opera House on Main Street.
City of Rocks State Park
City of Rocks is an unusual and beautiful spot about 45 minutes south of Silver City. Drive south on US 180, then northeast on NM Highway 61 about 4 miles. The “city” was created by a huge volcanic explosion and subsequent erosion that formed smooth pinnacles in fantastic shapes. Desert animals, birds and plants are plentiful, and the dark night skies are famous for observing the heavens. Picnicking and camping sites beckon in the private-feeling spaces among the rocks.