Earlier this fall my wife and I took a drive up to our favorite place in the El Paso area, which is the Sacramento Mountains. These mountains are located about an hour and fifteen minute drive north of El Paso. We planned on visiting the small village of Cloudcroft and seeing the autumn leaves in the mountains:
Highway 54 from El Paso travels north to the city of Alamogordo, which lies at the base of the Sacramento Mountains. These mountains are densely forested, but you would never realize it when viewing the mountains from the desert floor. Here is view of the mountains from just outside of Alamogordo where you can see the mountains’ impressive cliff faces, but appear very arid:
You probably can’t see it in the picture above, but if you look closely you can see a large telescope that is perched on one of the peaks of these mountains:
My wife and I would actually drive up to this telescope later on during our day trip. We continued up Highway 54 to Alamogordo and from there we turned east on the smaller Highway 82 that lead us up into the interior of the Sacramento Mountains and the small town of Cloudcroft. When we were driving up Highway 82, I stopped and took a picture of this sign because I thought it was humorous to see a prevent forest fire sign in an area with no trees:
However, later on as you will see, there are plenty of trees in these mountains. However, when first ascending up these mountains there is little indication of the lush forests to come:
Eventually Highway 82 slowly, but surely begins to be cloaked in first pinon trees and then finally lush ponderosa pine forests:
One of the most prominent landmarks located along Highway 82 just before reaching the village of Cloudcroft is this old railway trestle:
In the 1890’s the El Paso and Northeastern Railroad completed a rail line to the newly established city of Alamogordo. Soon after the line was completed survey crews were already trying to see if it was possible to construct a spur line into the Sacramento Mountains in order to harvest wood from the thick forests up there. It was determined that the line could be made up the mountains and this trestle was part of that railway line that was completed in 1900.
Here is a closer look at the railway bridge:
With the construction of the railway line it was also determined that a village of some sort would need to be constructed to support the timber and railway industries being developed in the mountains. Additionally it was believed that the mountains would make for a great tourism area considering its incredible views at it’s 9,000 feet of altitude. Thus a catchy name for this new village was needed and so that is how the name Cloudcroft, (pasture of the clouds) came to be.
Cloudcroft is now a city with all the modern admenities, but the village has kept its old west image:
Nearly every buidling in the downtown area is of a historical vintage and really gives the village a really nice charm:
This village was so charming in fact that a number of famous people in the village’s early days visited the Lodge in town such as Judy Garland, Clark Gable, Pancho Villa, and Conrad Hilton.
There is probably not a whole lot of famous people visiting Cloudcroft now a days, but it does get plenty of tourists who make the drive up into these mountains to visit the village’s various shops:
Located just outside of downtown is this nice stone church
Of course with so many trees up here at this high elevation, there are plenty of woodcarvers selling their wares at various stores in Cloudcroft:
Cloudcroft really is a great place to spend half a day checking out the shops and grabbing a bite to eat before setting out to explore the surrounding mountains. My wife and I have been up here many times due to its proximity El Paso. Anyway after eating lunch at one of the local restaurants we headed out to see the autumn leaves here in New Mexico’s high country.
Next Posting: Autumn in the Sacramento Mountains