This 48 mile scenic byway beginning in the town of Nutt and just past the chile pepper capital of the world (the town of Hatch) will take you through the gorgeous green countryside of New Mexico. The rolling hills and mountains of this spectacular road will make you think you are in Europe. The byway is void of any substantial housing development; however, you will see the occasional long driveway leading to a farm house in the distance. This is one of the reasons I love the state of New Mexico, no matter where you go, there are no two places alike. There are just so many varying landscapes throughout the state, it is just amazing!
The byway stretches like a half circle from the town of Nutt in the south, through the towns of Lake Valley and Hillsboro and then coming out at Caballo Lake in the northern end of the byway. One of the most incredible sites you will see while driving on this roadway is at the midway point of Lake Valley. Lake Valley was once a thriving silver mining town of approximately 4,000 residents at one time. The town was founded in 1878 after the discovery of this precious metal. The town became an instant success with people coming in from all over the country and Europe hoping to claim their share of the silver bounty.
Unfortunately, the devaluation of silver in 1893 made for a short lived town. Lake Valley became virtually deserted after the mining dissolved with the exception of one couple who actually remained in the town through the early 1990’s. When driving through the area and what remains of the town, you will see several dilapidated building structures that are designated with signage. The signs mostly say to ‘Keep Out’ on the buildings but they are designated by letters as a form of record-keeping by the Bureau of Land Management for tourism. The main building, which is now the Lake Valley Visitor Center, houses remnants of the town that once was including a one room schoolhouse. The building is a museum to the lives and livelihood that once thrived in this old mining town. It is an amazing stop on this byway that takes you back in time to those early days of mining.
In order to get into the Visitor Center, you must walk up the steps and ring the doorbell. There is a couple that lives on the premises in the back of the building that provide travelers with historical information about the area. They are hired by the Bureau of Land Management and in exchange they get to live on the site along with greeting the tourists.
After Lake Valley you will head into the town of Hillsboro. Hillsboro is a quiet town with a few shops and a steady population. After Hillsboro the byway leads you to Caballo Lake and Interstate 25 which means you have reached the end of this scenic route. If you are into American History, then this is definitely a must see when traveling through New Mexico. The sites you see along this beautiful byway are not only historical but truly magnificent!
Activities and Facilities: Activities include scenic driving, viewing wildlife, picnicking, and hiking. There are no restroom facilities throughout most of the byway, except at Lake Valley where you will find a restroom and drinking water available to travelers.
Directions: From El Paso, TX and Las Cruces, NM, take Interstate 25 north to the town of Hatch (Route 26). Drive on Route 26 going west, then at the town of Nutt, travel north on Route 27 for about 12 miles. You will see the signage for the scenic byway.