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Cloudcroft

Cloudcroft is a picturesque mountain village of 765 people high in the Sacramento Mountains, surrounded by Lincoln National Forest. Though only about 20 miles east of Alamogordo via US 82, it is twice as high, overlooking the Tularosa Valley from a dizzying elevation of almost 9,000 feet. It was founded in 1899 when railroad surveyors reached the mountain summit and built a lodge for Southern Pacific Railroad workers. Today, the Lodge is Cloudcroft's biggest attraction and biggest employer. Other accommodations are also available in town, as are lots of recreational opportunities and community festivals. For information, contact the Cloudcroft Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 1290, Cloudcroft, NM 88317 (tel. 866/874-4447 or 575/682-2733; www.cloudcroft.net). It's in a log cabin in the center of town, on the south side of US 82.

The Sacramento Mountains Historical Museum and Pioneer Village, US 82 east of downtown Cloudcroft (tel. 575/682-2932), recalls the community's early days, with several pioneer buildings, historic photos, and exhibits of turn-of-the-20th-century railroad memorabilia, clothing, and other artifacts. Call for hours. Nearby, Lincoln National Forest (tel. 575/682-2551) maintains the unique La Pasada Encantada Nature Trail, a short footpath from Sleepygrass Campground, off NM 130 south of town, with signs in Braille inviting walkers to touch the various plants, leaves, and trees. A new trail is a several-mile moderate hike to the historic Mexican Canyon Railroad Trestle. The trail head is in a U.S. Forest Service picnic area, west of the junction of US 82 and NM 130, where you'll also find a short walk to an observation point offering spectacular views across White Sands Missile Range and the Tularosa Basin. The picnic area also has tables, grills, drinking water, and restrooms.

National Solar Observatory-Sacramento Peak (tel. 575/434-7000; www.nso.edu), 18 miles south of Cloudcroft via NM 6563, a National Scenic Byway, attracts astronomers from around the world to study the sun and its effects on our planet. Actually, three observatories are here, with two open to the public for self-guided tours (allow at least 1 hr.), open daily from 8am to 6pm. Free guided tours are offered Saturday at 2pm from June to October. The visitor center, which is open daily from 9am to 5pm, has a gift shop and scientific exhibits geared toward children.

If you'd like a tasty meal in this mountain town, head to where the locals eat, Dave's Café, 300 Burro Ave. (tel. 575/682-2127). You can order from an array of sandwiches and salads. Try the Coney-style burger with grilled onions or the grilled chicken salad with lots of veggies and bacon. For dessert, pick up truffles or ice cream from the attached sweets shop. Dave's is open Sunday to Thursday 10:30am to 5pm and Friday and Saturday 10:30am to 7pm.

If you like outdoor gear and items such as scented candles and tie-dyed clothes, stop next door at High Altitude, 310 Burro Ave. (tel. 575/682-1229).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.