Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway, New Mexico
Located in the southwestern corner of New Mexico, the Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway is a great place to hit the road in the southwest. Travelers on this byway have a chance to enjoy national forests, rivers, national monuments, and much more. The byway even crosses the Continental Divide. When you drive the Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway you can spend a single day enjoying some of the main attractions or travel at your leisure, soaking up the history and sights of the area.
The Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway is a federally designated scenic route. It encompasses about 100 miles of highway in southwestern New Mexico, making a sort of triangle. The southern leg of the byway stretches from San Lorenzo on the eastern end to Silver City at the western end. This southern leg lies along SR 152, which merges with US 180 at Santa Clara, New Mexico. From San Lorenzo it travels north along SR 35 until it merges with SR 15. From Silver City, the byway travels north along SR 15. At the point at which SR 15 and SR 35 meet, the two legs of the byway connect, making the triangle. After the point where SR 35 and SR 15 meet, the byway continues north along SR 15, until it ends at the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.
Most of the Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway passes through the Gila National Forest, and then continues into the Gila Wilderness. Traveling on this byway is a great way to enjoy the Gila National Forest and all of wildlife of this region. One of the Byway's great attractions is the access to year-round bird watching. This area of New Mexico has a stunning number of species. During certain times of the year, a wide variety of hummingbird species call this land home. Serious birders will especially enjoy hiking along the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, which crosses the byway twice, once on SR 15 and once on SR 35. If you spend time hiking on the trail, you are sure to encounter the amazing wildlife and scenery unique to the region.
Along the byway there are many interesting attractions. Each destination can take up an hour or more of your time, so plan to spend a few days enjoying the byway if you possibly can.
The cities of San Lorenzo and Silver City have plenty of things to do. On the road between San Lorenzo and Silver City, you can stop at the Fort Bayard National Historic Landmark. This is an old US Army Post that was used during the 19th century to protect the region's settlers and miners from raids by the Apaches. Along SR 35, Lake Roberts is another stop you won't want to miss, especially if you enjoy fishing and boating.
While on SR 15 Wild Horse Mesa is a pristine wilderness area in the Gila National Forest. As you continue along SR 15, you will also be able to stop at Copperas Vista. You can also stop to overlook the Gila River, where SR 15 passes by the Forks of the Gila River. At this point the Gila River forks into the West, Middle, and East Forks of the Gila River. If you are looking for a little relaxation, as you continue north on SR 15 you should plan on stopping in Gila Hot Springs. People have been enjoying these relaxing springs for hundreds of years.
At the northern-most point of the byway, you will find yourself at Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. This spectacular destination showcases some of the very interesting history of the region. These cliff dwellings were the homes of the people of the Mogollon Culture who lived in the region from the 1280s to the 1300s.
These are just a few of the destinations to be enjoyed along this scenic byway. The towns of Silver City and San Lorenzo as well as Pinos Altos and Santa Clara also have access to arts, culture, and the rich history of the region. No matter how long you decide to stay in the area, you are sure to find points of interest for everyone in your family.