If you’re looking for things to do in Ruidoso, simply turn to the outdoors. When’s the last time you sat and listened to nature? Like really listened? I’ll be the first to admit I fly through places just to check them off a list, snap a photo and move on. With a finite amount of vacation days and a seemingly endless world to see, traveling fast is the only way I know how to cram it all in. Like so many others who struggle to maximize their time off, there’s simply not enough time to do it all.
But some point, it no longer becomes a vacation. It’s a trip you feel like you need a vacation from. And as someone who has a tendency to go, go, go until they crash, I urge you, stop running. Start appreciating. Slow down. You can make the time. I promise.
That’s one of the reasons I fell in love with Ruidoso. You don’t have to have a packed itinerary. Posting up on a cabin porch with a good book is encouraged. Lingering at a lake doesn’t feel like a wasted day. Staying five extra minutes to watch a deer amble is a way to get to know the real locals. Waking up for sunrise and staying out until sunset feels like you made the most of a day, and is just as fulfilling as checking something off a list. It’s a retreat. And a much-needed one at that.
Here are some of the best places to get back to nature in Ruidoso:
Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge
You hear a lot about national parks, but national wildlife refuges, not so much. Why is that? We pay top dollar go on safaris in other countries when there are accessible options right in our own backyard. As the mid-point between Albuquerque and Ruidoso, Bosque is a wetland habitat, a shiny oasis amongst the sweeping Southwest landscape. It looked like the Sahara or a scene straight out of the Lion King. There’s a scenic loop to drive, but you could also spend hours hiking the trails if you have time. The cooing, cawing, and rustling play a syncopated rhythm of the brush that’s calming, yet feels so ALIVE. I think I fascinated the creatures just as much as they intrigued me. Admittedly I didn’t see very many animals, but you could tell that they’re there, taking shelter from humans. The area is known to be one of the best places to see the Sandhill crane migration if you time your visit in the winter.
White Sands National Park
White Sands is like no place on earth because it looks like it belongs on another planet entirely. Blindingly and shockingly white gypsum dunes stretch and wave as far as the eye can see. You’d expect it to be a sensitive and protected environment, yet somehow we are allowed to play on them like any other beach – camping, sledding (they rent toboggans in the gift shop), and even horseback riding. Feel the sand between your fingers and toes and marvel at the unique ecosystem that thrives in this Seussville-like world.
Robert Frost said, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that made all the difference.” Pity Mr. Frost didn’t come to Ruidoso because Grindstone Lake has a trail that fork three ways, each ending up with incredible water and forest views. It’s absolutely my favorite spot to get back to nature with wildflowers and wildlife that change with the seasons and truly no two visits are the same.
The drive through Lincoln National Forest is one of my favorite alpine drives in the country. Every bend has a view more breathtaking than the last with wildflowers, hombre skies, and trees changing colors and shedding their leaves. Drive as far as you can until the road runs out and you’ll reach the incredible Mojeau Lookout. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the rustic tower was built in 1940, and according to the sign is the most unique lookout in the southwest. You can see for miles over the hills and valleys, and I had the entire place to myself. Plan accordingly though: the drive is a narrow mountain pass with tight turns and loose rock so make sure you have an appropriate vehicle (my poor rental didn’t fare too well…).
There’s an inherent calm about being near water. Watching the ripples glisten and the ducks dive down stalking the fish life below feels like a secret world you shouldn’t be privy to. The perfect New Mexico skies duel out cloud porn, the shapes moving and shifting with the breeze. Off in the distance, the ski hills wait patiently for the seasons to change, the wiz of the fisherman’s cast the only thing to break the silence. Alto Lake isn’t large, but it’s exactly the kind of place you want to visit every day and it’s totally feasible to make it part of your morning routine.
Looking for more outdoorsy things to do in Ruidoso? Practical Wanderlust has some ideas.
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