8 Outdoorsy Things to Do in Ruidoso, New Mexico

There are so many amazing, adventurous things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico. This USA travel destination is a hidden gem and a paradise for outdoor lovers!

Ruidoso, New Mexico is quaint little village tucked up in the Sierra Blanca Mountains. It’s an outdoor lover’s paradise and a total hidden gem in the southwest USA. I say hidden gem, but everyone who lives within a few hours of this beautiful little mountain town knows and loves Ruidoso. For the rest of us? Discovering the tucked-away outdoor playland of Ruidoso felt like stumbling upon a jackpot. There are SO many adventurous, outdoorsy things to do in Ruidoso! How did we not know about this place?! From hiking to skiing to the some of the best zip lining in the USA, here’s why you need to rent a cabin and escape to Ruidoso ASAP!

When is the best time to visit Ruidoso, New Mexico?

As with most outdoor destinations and mountain towns, the things to do in Ruidoso change seasonally. In the winter, there’s skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and even sleigh rides. In the summer, there’s everything from hiking and biking and fishing to horse racing and rodeos. So the best time to visit Ruidoso really just depends: are you more of a snow bunny, or a sun goddess? You might just have to visit Ruidoso a few times to figure out which season you prefer!

The Best Things to Do in Ruidoso, New Mexico

Beautiful Alto Lake is an awesome place to hike, bike, or get in touch with your inner woodsman and one of the most adventurous things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico!
Beautiful Alto Lake is an awesome place to hike, bike, or get in touch with your inner woodsman and one of the most outdoorsy things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico!

Swim, Kayak, or Fish in an Alpine Lake

Although Ruidoso is named for the rushing river running straight through the village – “Ruidoso” means noisy – the Rio Ruidoso isn’t the only source of water fun. Where there are mountains, there are alpine lakes! And Ruidoso has several beautiful lakes to explore. I love alpine lakes: the water is always crazy-colored, totally free of pollutants and crystal clear. Looking to swim or hike? Head to Grindstone Lake. Like to fish? Alto Lake is filled with rainbow trout.  Want to rent a kayak? Hit up Mescalero Lake. Want to camp or rent a cabin by a lake? Silver Lake Campground is right up your alley. There are endless water-related things to do in Ruidoso!

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Zip Line on the Apache Eagle Zip Liner

Located at Inn of the Mountain Gods – which like, with a name like that, you KNOW it’s gonna be epic – the incredible Apache Eagle zip line is hands down one of the best in the United States. Soar up to 55 MPH (OMG) for nearly 9,000 feet (AHH!) over the crystal clear waters of Lake Mescalero. We can only assume that the name of the lake is a hint, and suggest that you take a sip or 10 of Mezcal before you get your adventure sports on. (You guys, we’re kidding. Safety first, Mezcal after.) If a zip line is a bit too intense for you (no shame. I’m terrified of them) you can appreciate the view safely in the comfort of the gondola instead.

Majestic deer in Ruidoso, New Mexico.
Sometimes the majestic wildlife gawks at you.  Original photo credit: “Ruidoso Labor Day 2006 162” (CC BY 2.0) by PhilipsPhotos

Gawk at Majestic Wildlife

Ruidoso is an animal lover’s paradise, and one of the coolest and most unique things to do in Ruidoso is to head out to watch some truly majestic beasts basking in their natural habitat. And yes, I do mean majestic: Ruidoso is the home of bears, deer, elk, bald eagles, and even wild horses. So like, the who’s who of Awesome American Animals (the only thing missing here is bison – where you at, bison? Join the party!). Your best bet for seeing wildlife is on a hike: here are the best ones.  You can also find loads of wildlife lounging about majestically at the Bosque del Apache wildlife refuge. Check out this guide to Ruidoso wildlife to learn more and gawk at majestic wildlife photos (the next best thing, I guess).

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Chase Ghosts in White Oaks Ghost Town

I freaking love ghost towns. Nothing is more fascinating than exploring an old, abandoned frontier town and imagining how things used to be. These towns popped up all over the West when gold was discovered, and most of them vanished when everyone realized the whole gold thing was pretty much a bust, too. But they left behind the skeletons of how things were back then (I don’t mean like, LITERAL skeletons, that’s a metaphor. But how cool/creepy would that be?!?!) Apparently White Oaks was quite the lively town back in the day, filled with saloons – like the famous No Scum Allowed saloon – and gun-toting miners who were, inexplicably, almost all named Billy, apparently.

Hiking is one of the most outdoorsy, adventurous things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico! Or like, anywhere.
Hiking is one of the most outdoorsy, adventurous things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico! Or like, anywhere. Original photo credit: “” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Samat Jain

Go Hiking, Biking, or Horseback Riding

There are SO many beautiful wilderness areas to explore in Ruidoso! Whether you’re a hiker, a biker, or you prefer to let something with 4 legs do the work for you, get out there and enjoy the scenery. We recommend exploring beautiful Lincoln National Forest, Nogal Canyon,  or Grindstone Lake or hiking up Argentina Peak, but seriously, there are hella options. Take your pick!

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Visit the Mescalero Apache tribe

Before white people and their diseases wiped out most of the indigenous population of the Americas, there were incredible, advanced civilizations living all over North, Central, and South America. Unfortunately, their impressive history has long since been re-written to make them all sound like nomadic tribes who barely knew how to plant potatoes much less engineer massive swaths of land for technically advanced farming or develop mathmatical theories that rivaled any European invention. But I’m getting off track – if you’re curious, you should read the excellent book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. Here in Ruidoso, there is still a native population, the Mescalero Apache Tribe, which is thriving despite the overwhelming terribleness of the American government when it comes to respecting their historical agreements. You can ease some of your white guilt and help support the tribe by respectfully visiting and supporting their tribal enterprises, which also just so happen to be some of the best attractions in Ruidoso, such as the stunning Inn of the Mountain Gods and Ski Apache. Spending your money here will go directly to support the Mescalero Apache tribe and help to fund things like outreach programs, education, and government.

In the winter, Ruidoso, New Mexico turns into a snow-covered wonderland complete with skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and even horse drawn sleigh rides!
In the winter, Ruidoso turns into a snow-covered wonderland complete with skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and even horse drawn sleigh rides!

Ski, Snowboard, or take a Horse-Drawn Sleigh Ride

In the winter, Ruidoso changes from a summertime outdoor playground to a winter wonderland. The entire town is blanketed with snow. Hit the slopes at Ruidoso Winter Park. Or, if you’re less athletically inclined (or more clumsy & accident prone … or all of the above, like me) head to Ruidoso Winter Park for tubing or Grindstone Stables for a horse drawn sleigh ride! At night, you can relax in your cabin by the fire with a hot chocolate. I’m getting all warm and fuzzy just thinking about it.

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Go Sledding Down a Giant Sand Dune

Yep, even when it’s not winter, you can go sledding in Ruidoso! Er, well, some would probably call it sandboarding. The beautiful, enormous dunes at White Sands National Monument are totally unique and a stunning natural feature of New Mexico’s diverse landscape. You can grab a sled at the gift shop. We have a small amount of experience with sandboarding thanks to .5 of us (Jeremy) attempting to sandboard in Huacachina, Peru, so here’s our advice: HOLD ON FOR DEAR LIFE. Have fun!


One of the coziest things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico is to rent a cabin in the mountains. Just look at it! How serene is this?!
One of the coziest things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico is to rent a cabin in the mountains. Just look at it! How serene is this?!

Where to Stay in Ruidoso, New Mexico?

When visiting Ruidoso, you absolutely have to rent a cabin. Picture it: you, a cabin, and the crisp mountain air. Can you imagine anything more peaceful? Add in a crackling fire and some pine trees and maybe a hot cup of something and holy sh*t, you described my ideal vacation. There are about a million rustic cabins available in Ruidoso, so take a look at the options or search by date. Honestly, sitting around in a cabin looking out over the pine trees and mountain vistas is one of the best things to do in Ruidoso, even if it’s not terribly outdoorsy.

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Where to eat in Ruidoso, New Mexico?

There are a ton of great options for food during your trip to Ruidoso! Start at Log Cabin Restaurant or Cornerstone Bakery to fuel up with a massive breakfast.

Stop by Cafe Rio for some delicious New York style pizza. Hit up The Village Buttery for an incredible sandwich.

Craving southwestern food? Grab a Green Chile Cheeseburger at Hall of Flame Burgers, Green Chile Enchiladas at Casa Blanca, or Green Chile Chedda Bread at Cornerstone Bakery. I’m noticing a pattern here …

Ready for dessert? Back to Cornerstone Bakery for some alfajores, peach pie, or Italian Cream Cake. I’m so hungry now.


Are you packing your bags and heading to Ruidoso, NM yet?! Save this post on Pinterest to reference later! Please note: you can pin full-sized versions of the images below by clicking the “Pin It” button.

Ruidoso, New Mexico is an outdoor lover's paradise! This mountain town is a USA travel destination for anyone who loves adventure, hiking, camping, fishing, staying in cabins, mountains, and that yummy pine smell. Here are the best outdoorsy things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico! United States Travel | Adventure Travel | New Mexico Travel | Things to do in New Mexico | Things to do in Ruidoso | Ruidoso Food | Southwest Travel Destinations | US Southwest Travel | USA Travel Destinations Ruidoso, New Mexico is an outdoor lover's paradise! This mountain town is a USA travel destination for anyone who loves adventure, hiking, camping, fishing, staying in cabins, mountains, and that yummy pine smell. Here are the best outdoorsy things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico! United States Travel | Adventure Travel | New Mexico Travel | Things to do in New Mexico | Things to do in Ruidoso| USA Travel Destinations

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Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Discover Ruidoso. All opinions, bad jokes, and feelings about the government’s shameful treatment of First Americans and other indigenous peoples are entirely our own.

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10 Comment

  1. I have to admit that I wasn’t familiar with Ruidoso before reading your post, but man, how cool is it?! I LOVE ghost towns, so you’d find me over in White Oaks, but when I’m done with that, I’m heading over to the Apache Eagle Zip Liner for some thrills. Plus, White Sands sounds AWESOME… and thanks to your advice, I’ll hold on tighter than I ever have in my life. 🙂

  2. Omg snow in New Mexico?! Who knew? This place is gorgeous! I’d love to visit

  3. This is such an in depth guide to the city, it’s amazing! I’m also very sad to say that I had no idea about this incredibly beautiful town until reading your post! I’m in need of a cabin weekend up in the mountain ASAP! Officially added to my bucket list 🙂

  4. Nikki says: Reply

    New Mexico looks amazing. I feel like it is not that high up there for travelers to the US, but it looks incredible!!

  5. I had no idea there was snow in New Mexico. You live and learn I guess!!! I also now have 1491 on my reading list sounds like a fascinating book!

    1. Lia says: Reply

      It is EXCELLENT. One of those books that just sticks with you forever. And same with the sequel, 1493!

  6. Olivia says: Reply

    I have to admit, I had no idea it snows this much in New Mexico! I am pleasantly surprised. It looks like a winter-lover’s paradise.

  7. Matea says: Reply

    Our next destination is New Mexico. Thank you so much for this post! I love it and it will come handy on our trip! I’m pinning this! Beautiful images by the way!

  8. Ruidoso looks like my kinda place! Also surprised that there’s snow in New Mexico, but I guess the mountains explain it?! It would probably be much better than the time I went snowboarding somewhere in Massachusetts with artificial snow! (The best place I’ve been to for snowboarding is Japan, though. Powder snow AND you get to relax in an onsen afterwards. Perfect! Highly recommend it if you ski or snowboard!)

    1. Lia says: Reply

      Ooooh I’ll tell my husband! He’s very spoiled living a few hours driving from Lake Tahoe, but I think I can tempt him with Japan 😛

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