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!
Table of Contents
- 1 When is the best time to visit Ruidoso, New Mexico?
- 2 The Best Things to Do in Ruidoso, New Mexico
- 2.1 Swim, Kayak, or Fish in an Alpine Lake
- 2.2 Zip Line on the Apache Eagle Zip Liner
- 2.3 Gawk at Majestic Wildlife
- 2.4 Chase Ghosts in White Oaks Ghost Town
- 2.5 Go Hiking, Biking, or Horseback Riding
- 2.6 Visit the Mescalero Apache tribe
- 2.7 Ski, Snowboard, or take a Horse-Drawn Sleigh Ride
- 2.8 Go Sledding Down a Giant Sand Dune
- 3 Where to Stay in Ruidoso, New Mexico?
- 4 Where to eat in Ruidoso, New Mexico?
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
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!
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.
- Inn of the Mountain Gods | Address: 287 Carrizo Canyon Road, Mescalero, New Mexico
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).
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.
- White Oaks Ghost Town | Directions: Three miles north of Carrizozo on US Hwy 54
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!
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.
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.
- Ski Apache | Address: 1286 Ski Run Road Mescalero, New Mexico
- Ruidoso Winter Park | Address: 1200 Ski Run Road, Alto, New Mexico
- Grindstone Stables | Address: 523 Resort Dr. Ruidoso, New Mexico
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!
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.
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.
- Log Cabin Restaurant | Address: 1074 Mechem Dr, Ruidoso, New Mexico
Stop by Cafe Rio for some delicious New York style pizza. Hit up The Village Buttery for an incredible sandwich.
- Cafe Rio | Address: 2547 Sudderth Dr, Ruidoso, New Mexico
- The Village Buttery | Address: 2107 Sudderth Dr, Ruidoso, New Mexico
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 …
- Hall of Flame Burgers | Address: 2500 Sudderth Dr, Ruidoso, New Mexico
- Casa Blanca | Address: 501 Mechem Dr, Ruidoso, New Mexico
Ready for dessert? Back to Cornerstone Bakery for some alfajores, peach pie, or Italian Cream Cake. I’m so hungry now.
- Cornerstone Bakery | Address: 1712 Sudderth Dr, Ruidoso, New Mexico
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