After leaving Texas and it's hot summer weather with temperatures of 105, it was so refreshing to arrive in Cloudcroft's cool crisp clean air and temperatures in the high 70s! Loved it. Cloudcroft, an old English word meaning covered or shrouded in clouds, is a small mountain town, rich with history, at 8600 feet above sea level and with a population of around 850 folks.
In the 1890's the Alamagordo & Sacramento Railroad owners became infatuated with the majestic mountains around the Cloudcroft area as they built railroad tracks up the mountain in search of lumber for railroad ties. They sent a search party to explore the area and discovered an untouched wilderness lush with plants, trees, and wildlife and land blanketed by clouds. It's amazing that they could build a rail line up and down the steep rugged mountains, across deep canyons, and along some cliffs. It took several switch backs and a few trestles to make it to the top and several of the trestles still exist.
Thanks to the railroad Cloudcroft was born! It didn't take long after that discovery for an excursion passenger train to reach Cloudcroft in 1900 and tourism to Cloudcroft began to grow. The train continued to take passengers to Cloudcroft and haul logs back down the mountain until 1947.
In 1899 The Lodge in Cloudcroft was built, passengers could get up and down the mountain for a $3 round trip, and Cloudcroft quickly became a cool mountain retreat for thousands of overheated New Mexicans, Oklahomans, and Texans like ourselves. In 1940 the first highway to Cloudcroft was built which ended the value of the train and began to put Cloudcroft on the map as a summer destination for cool weather activities like fishing, hiking, biking, horseback riding, golf, hunting, camping, plus shopping and dining and nightlife as the city continued to grow. In the winter it's a paradise for snowmobiling, cross country skiing, ice skating, or downhill skiing at Ski Cloudcroft.
We had heard a lot of good things about The Lodge Resort so as soon as we got the RV settled in, we headed to the Resort and we were pleased as punch when we discovered it was "Margarita Monday!" Hard to beat a fantastic margarita after a long drive.
The Lodge Resort is very impressive and it's a centerpiece for Cloudcroft and a must (stay overnight if you can) visit for a round of golf, some drinks and appetizers, a delicious meal, or a spa treatment. Read more about our multiple visits to the Lodge Resort for drinks, golf, and dinner. After a couple margaritas we made a reservations at Rebecca's, the fine dining restaurant at The Lodge, and headed a few blocks down the hill to Burro Avenue.
During our visit to The Lodge Resort for margaritas we had to check out the first hole (a 150' drop down to a small green with a moat of water around most of it) and immediately made a tee time reservation for the next morning for a round of golf. The Lodge Resort Golf Course is a nine hole course best described as a true high mountain Scottish links style golf course with dramatic elevation changes, tight tree lined fairways, excellent conditions, and some very fun holes. Read our review of The Lodge Resort Golf Course to learn more. The course is beautiful and fun to play but after hearing several of my golf balls ricocheting off the trees or kurplunking into the water or rolling into the sand, I was ready for another one of those delicious Lodge Resort margaritas!
And walking all over the course made me hungry for some good BBQ. For our first few days in town, we asked several people "what is there to see and do?" and "what's your favorite restaurant?" To a tee the answers were consistently "enjoy some hikes" and "eat the BBQ at Mad Jacks!" We also overheard several people talking about how good the BBQ was at MAD Jacks Mountain Top BBQ so we stopped in for lunch after golf and we had to agree that the BBQ at MAD Jack's is excellent. They use the best quality meats and smoke them for hours and they offer ribs, brisket, pulled pork, beef and jalapeno sausage, chicken, a variety of sandwiches, and lots of sides. Turns out the owners are Texans - James is from the BBQ Capital of Texas (Lockhart) and Harlan is from San Marcos. They opened MAD Jacks in 2015 and they have sold out every day since they opened! Cool setting, great BBQ, and good prices. Since I was starving and everything looked and smelled so good, I tried a small sampling of the ribs (wow!), jalapeno sausage, chile brisket sandwich on Texas toast, and a slice of brisket plus some cold slaw and macaroni - then I loosened my belt a few notches and went home and took a nap! Delicious and a must visit when you're in Cloudcroft.
With my tummy still full of BBQ, the next morning we headed down the mountain to Las Cruces to play the 9th Best Golf Course in New Mexico according to Golf Digest! It was a shocker to get out of the cool mountain air and towering trees and back to the arid desert, rolling tumbleweeds, and 100 degree temperatures - felt like I was back in Texas and I immediately started sweating again! And speaking of the desert we were sure we were lost as we drove outside of Las Cruces and into the desert with nothing but sand and cactus and sagebrush for miles - where is the golf course and who in the world would build a golf course out here and where will they find the water?
And then we saw the lush green contoured fairways, huge sand traps, and blue water pond at Red Hawk Golf Course! What a startling contrast between the dry arid desert and the dark green fairways. Red Hawk was outstanding and well deserving of all the accolades and awards thanks to its wide sweeping lush fairways, challenging green complexes, rolling and contoured terrain, and great golf holes. To learn more read our review of Red Hawk Golf Club. In addition to all of the natural desert sand on each side of the fairway, there are over 75 bunkers at Red Hawk and I seemed to find a large majority of them and left with a lot of sand in my hair, shoes, pockets, and ears. I figured I needed to give some of the sand back so we headed to White Sands National Monument, which is halfway between Las Cruces and Cloudcroft.
White Sands National Monument is 275 square miles of glistening very fine white sand stacked in dunes up to 15' tall. The southwest winds are constantly changing the brilliant white dunes - they grow, crest, then slump and advance up to 40 feet a year providing a home for a variety of plants and fauna and wildlife. You can drive 16 miles through the dunes on sand covered roads, play on the dunes, and enjoy a picnic at one of the picnic tables. I took out some golf balls and my sand wedge and practiced my bunker shots! The visitor center is loaded with lots of great information about the dunes and you can rent a disc for a fun ride down the dunes. A must visit if you're anywhere near White Sands. Even though I left the Red Hawk bunker sand as well as a couple golf balls I couldn't find, I took home a couple pockets full from rolling down the face of a couple dunes.
The next day it was time to wear off some calories so we drove halfway down the mountain toward Alamagordo to take a hike. The mountains around Cloudcroft are home to hundreds of miles of trails suitable for hiking, mountain biking, or horseback riding. The trails range from easy to very strenuous with hikes to waterfalls or the original train trestles, to scenic vistas, or along bubbling creeks. I wore off some calories hiking to one of the railroad trestles but as soon as we got back I had to head back to the Lodge Resort for a couple margaritas and some appetizers.
Here are just a few things I really liked about Cloudcroft and made us very sad when we had to leave:
But all good things must come to an end, so with way too many margaritas sloshing around in my tummy and enough sand from the Red Hawk Golf Course bunkers as well some from White Sands, we set off for Ruidoso to play some golf, win some money at the race track and casino, and enjoy some New Mexico cuisine. Click on this link to read about the rest of our New Mexico vacation.
If you're planning a vacation to Cloudcroft you might check with the Chamber of Commerce and schedule your trip around any of the several fun annual events like the Weed Blue Grass Festival, several art festivals, or the Labor Day Fiesta. During your stay you can visit the Sacramento Mountains Historical Museum & Pioneer Village, play some tennis on the public courts, go horseback riding, play 27 holes of disc golf, hike, bike, and lots more.
In the winter you can downhill ski at Ski Cloudcroft, ice skate at the public rink in town, cross country ski, or snowmobile. There's also hunting, bird watching, fishing, and more. There are lots of cabins for rent, some B&Bs, a few hotels, several campgrounds and RV parks, and the Lodge Resort. Have fun.