Welcome to another installment of our “Trail Town” series. This edition was written by Frederic Moras, race director of the Ruidoso Grindstone Trail Runs. This feature first appeared in the summer 2022 edition of our quarterly Trail Times newsletter.
Looking for great mountain scenery, miles and miles of multi-use trails, nice weather, abundant wildlife and a funky mountain vibe? Yep, Ruidoso’s got ‘em. The town of 8,000 is in the Sacramento Mountains in southern New Mexico, an island of cool forests that has drawn visitors from the surrounding desert for a century. Sierra Blanca’s 12,000-foot peak rises west of town.
There are 300 miles of trails within an hour’s drive of Ruidoso. No surprise that Ruidoso is becoming a mecca for outdoor activities like trail running, hiking and mountain biking. Starting in or close to town, explore Cedar Creek Trails (30 miles) and Grindstone Lake Trails (18 miles, designed by the International Mountain Biking Association ). Grindstone Mesa has great views of Sierra Blanca and the Inn of Mountain Gods. Trailheads are located within minutes of midtown Ruidoso, with easy access. Moon Mountain is the town’s newest area to be developed, with a projected 10 miles of trails. Want to really get out there? The surrounding White Mountain Wilderness has 145 miles of trails and elevation from 6400 feet to 11,580 feet. A good choice in winter are the Fort Stanton Trails–90 miles of high desert landscape 30 minutes from town.
Parking & Transit
Parking is free and generally not hard to find. Grindstone Lake can be busy in the summer, but the trails have two higher access points that are much less busy. A thirty-minute drive will access many trails in the Lincoln National Forest. The Crest Trail is accessible at Ski Apache, about 40 minutes from town. There is no public transportation system in Ruidoso but they do have several car-free alternatives.
With a large numbers of retirees in the population, a major horse racing culture in the summer and two casinos year-round, it would be hard to describe Ruidoso as an “outdoor recreation town.” The good news is that this means fewer people on the trails. One can often finish a run (especially in the early morning) and have seen only deer, elk and wild turkeys. A number of artists live in Ruidoso, and several studio tours are held during the summer. Other area attractions include the Hubbard Museum of the American West, the Smokey Bear Museum in Capitan and historic Lincoln, where you can learn about Lincoln County’s most famous resident, Billy the Kid. Ft Stanton is a restored army settlement built in 1855.
Zocca Coffee and Sacred Grounds Coffee house, with ample decks overlooking the Rio Ruidoso.
Beer & Wine
Lost Hiker Brewery has a pub in midtown Ruidoso and brewery in nearby Ruidoso Downs, with live music in the summer. Noisy Water Winery has a great midtown cafe with ample outdoor seating, or venture out to their wine production facility and enjoy a glass of wine and some live music.
Local favorite, Cornerstone Bakery Cafe for breakfast or lunch, Casa Blanca for classic Mexican food, Cafe Rio for great pizza, Grill Caliente for dinner.
The Ruidoso Athletic Club offers a pool, full gym and fitness classes. Daily and weekly passes available. Relax with yoga or a massage at the Blue Lotus Healing Arts Center.
Ecoservants is the non-profit organization that built both the Cedar Creek and Grindstone Trails. They maintain trails and repair areas after fire or flood damage. Paid staff work with youth, adult and military volunteers. Smokey Bear volunteer trail crews do maintenance in the vast White Mountain Wilderness.
The Ruidoso Grindstone Trail Runs have taken place in late July since 2014 and features 4 mile, 8.5 mile and 13.8 mile distance options. This race is a must for novice or experienced trail runners looking for a challenge in Ruidoso. The race is also a benefit for Ski Apache Adaptive Sports. The famous Ruidoso carved bears are awarded to top race finishers. This years race takes place on August 14th. Sign-up here!
Also consider the Cloudcroft Ultras on August 6th. This event features 4.75 mile, 9.5 mile and 53 km races and takes place in the beautiful Sacramento Mountains in Cloudcroft, New Mexico. Cloudcroft is located at an altitude of 8600′ in the southern most part of the Rocky Mountain chain.
To find more trail races in New Mexico, check out the ATRA event calendar.