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Silver City & Piños Altos

New Mexico

The former and present mining town is one of the great undiscovered places of the Southwest. It's a picturesque little community with a history, lying next to one of the most remarkable primitive areas in the country, the Gila Wilderness in the Gila National Forest.

Silver City is a stop on a favorite loop tour of southwestern New Mexico, with the Gila Wilderness (north of the town) as the prime destination. The community is at an elevation of 5,850 feet, 44 miles northeast of Lordsburg and Interstate 10. If you're traveling from Lordsburg, take New Mexico Route 90. This is the most direct route from the freeway. From Texas, Silver City is about 3 hours from El Paso, and 40 miles from Deming, New Mexico.

Tourism is catching up with this early silver mining center which began its existence in the 1880s. The silver boom lasted only ten years but the state Normal School, built to train teachers and later becoming Western New Mexico University, was established by the time silver mining became uneconomical. Cattle ranching and lumber helped save the community. The discovery of large copper deposits south of town gave new life to Silver City.

The city has an historic business district and close to downtown is a collection of Victorian houses and other buildings which are on the chamber of commerce self-guiding tour.

The town information center is located at 201 N. Hudson Street (call 575-538-5555). There are a few places to stay in town including a couple of chain motels. There are two RV parks, and forest campgrounds are located north of town.

Piños Altos, a few miles north of Silver City, is smaller, and in the midst of the Gila National Forest. History jumps out at you in this old gold mining town, and visitors come here not only to enjoy forest hiking, but to cycle, eat, and take in the local melodrama theater scene.

What to See & Do

In Silver City

There are two museums that provide information on the early mining days in this area as well as displaying art and artifacts. The Western New Mexico University Museum is at 12th and Virginia Streets and has collections of African folk art and Indian pottery and jewelry, as well as photographs showing life in the old mining camp. The Silver City Museum (312 W. Broadway St., downtown) is a preserved 1881 silver magnate's mansion that holds exhibits on the history of the mining town of Tyrone. There's a recently built annex that houses other exhibits on the region.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

This remarkable historic site, 44 miles north on N.M. Route 15, offers a glimpse into prehistoric Mogollon Indian life. Seven natural caves hold more than 60 rooms built by the Mogollon about ad 1200. A 1-mile self-guided trail leads to the cliff dwellings from a trailhead a short drive from the monument visitor center.

There are two campgrounds and trails lead to two hot springs located along the west fork of the Gila River. The Gila Wilderness that surrounds the monument is one of the most pristine and beautiful natural areas in America. Information -- on accessing the trails (including those that will lead you to the hot springs and others that lead into the Gila Wilderness) -- is available at the visitor center.

Piños Altos

This village is 7 miles north of Silver City, on the way to the Cliff Dwellings. It became a gold mining camp in 1860 and was the first county seat. The main street is a gallery of original buildings. Santa Rita del Cobre Fort is a three-quarter-scale scale reconstruction of a fort that sat at the Santa Rita copper mine in 1804 to protect the operation against hostile Apaches.

The Pinos Altos Opera House is a replica of an 1860's opera house and is part of the Buckhorn Saloon (circa 1860) and Opera House. It is complete with opera boxes, cabaret seating and full bar service. In its fourth season, the Pinos Altos Melodrama Theatre performs hilarious spoofs every Friday and Saturday at 8pm, February through November. Audience members of all ages are encouraged to boo the evil villains, cheer the stalwart heroes and throw popcorn to their heart's delight. The comedy troupe has spoofed everything from science fiction to Dracula with Sherlock Holmes and Burns and Allen falling somewhere in between. The Opera House contains an extensive artifact collection. For melodrama reservations, and information on the area, call (505) 388-3848

For atmospheric dining, try Buckhorn Saloon. It's the premier dining experience of the area and many theater goers choose to dine before the show. Reservations are a must for this restaurant as it definately is the place to eat. The saloon and dining rooms contain a pictorial history of the area. It's open daily except Sundays. Steaks are the focus of this historic adobe restaurant from the 1880s, with fireplaces and a perfect pioneer ambience -- with class.

Many visitors come to the area just to get away and try their hand at gold panning. After a rain, gold can be found in the streets and Bear Creek and Cherry Creek are always sources of many hours of gold panning pleasure. Pinos Altos also plays host to the last day of the Tour of the Gila, an annual mountain bike race that brings world class cyclists from all over the world.

 

New Mexico Destinations

Alamogordo

Albuquerque

Aztec

Bandelier National Monument

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Chaco Culture National Historic Park

Chama

Cloudcroft

Las Cruces

Los Alamos

Mesilla

Ruidoso

Santa Fe

Silver City & Piños Altos

Taos


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