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6 Small Towns in New Mexico That Will Transport You to the Past

John Ghost

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New Mexico was and is the wild west. And with the gold rushes that occurred in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many small towns in New Mexico were established. Many of these are vacant ghost towns but some still are alive and well and actually quite lovely. I’m going to share the small towns in New Mexico that still stand today that if you visit you’ll feel as though you’ve transported into the past.

1. Cerillos

Cerrillos, New Mexico - Photo by Menno Van der Velde
Cerrillos, New Mexico – Photo by Menno Van der Velde

Originally founded as a gold mining town, today Cerillos, New Mexico offers several shops and galleries, a post office, health center, premier riding stables and the Cerrillos Hills State Park with five miles of hiking trails. Cerillos has survived the tests of time and is still one of the most active small towns in New Mexico.

2. Hillsboro

Hillsboro, New Mexico - Photo by Linda Reeder
Hillsboro, New Mexico – Photo by Linda Reeder

Founded in April 1877 when gold was found in the Black Range Mountains, Hillsboro was one an active and thriving town. It still has life today however, today, Hillsboro is a well-known community of artists, writers, and ranchers. The community hosts the always-popular Apple Festival, Christmas in the Foothills, community Christmas party and monthly music events. Hillsboro keeps its charm as one of the oldest small towns in New Mexico.

3. Lincoln

Lincoln, New Mexico - Photo by Steven Murray
Lincoln, New Mexico – Photo by Steven Murray

Originally called Las Placitas del Rio Bonito by the Spanish families who settled it in the 1850s, the name of the community was changed to Lincoln when Lincoln County was created on January 16, 1869. Named after our famous president Abraham Lincoln, the town was at the center of the Lincoln County War and is the historical home of Billy the Kid. The town holds an annual festival in August featuring a reenactment of The Last Escape of Billy the Kid.

4. Madrid

The "No Pity" cafe in Madrid, New Mexico - Photo by Dean Fikar
The “No Pity” cafe in Madrid, New Mexico – Photo by Dean Fikar

Madrid likes to call it a ghost town but that just isn’t truly the case. It was a town populated by coal miners and their families during the 1920s and 1930s. The coal industry declined and the town became a ghost town for a while. However, today it is resurrected and now Madrid is a creative community with more than 40 shops and galleries, several restaurants, a spa, and a museum.

5. Pie Town

"Pei-O-Neer Cafe" in Pie Town, New Mexico - Photo by Larry Lamsa
“Pei-O-Neer Cafe” in Pie Town, New Mexico – Photo by Larry Lamsa

Pie Town has an incredibly small population but it has a lot of historical importance regarding Native American ruins and artifacts. Today the town is known for its pies. The Pie Town Annual Pie Festival includes a pie-baking contest, games and races, music, food, and arts and crafts.

6. Pinos Altos

Pinos Altos Opera House. Pinos, Altos, New Mexico - Photo by Gary Tucker
Pinos Altos Opera House. Pinos, Altos, New Mexico – Photo by Gary Tucker

The small town of Pinos Altos is the quintessential Old West ghost town in New Mexico. It was founded in 1860 by gold miners and is located along the Continental Divide at an elevation of 7,000 feet in the southern end of the Pinos Altos Mountains of the Gila National Forest.

The area around Pinos Altos is also famous for ranching. It also saw its fair share of warfare during the Apache War of September 22, 1861. Today, with a population of 300, Pinos Altos has a charming main street that feels like an old western movie set. Many of the old buildings date back to the 1800s and have been restored with original memorabilia and artifacts. Tourists can take in the scenery of the Gila National Forest while enjoying various historical tours and even attempt panning for gold.

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