Several forest roads and single-track trails in this region are favorites with mountain bikers. In the Ruidoso area, near Cloudcroft, the Rim Trail, a 17-mile intermediate trail that offers views of the White Sands, is considered one of the top 10 trails in the nation. To reach the trail, take NM 130 from Cloudcroft to NM 6563, turn right, and look for the Rim Trail signs. The Cloudcroft area offers three other good trails: La Luz Canyon, Silver Springs Loop, and Pumphouse Canyon. For directions, contact the Cloudcroft Ranger Station (tel. 575/682-2551). The paved road up to Carlsbad Caverns National Park is scenic, and the auto traffic drives slowly, but it's very hot in the summer.
Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge (tel. 575/622-6755), northeast of Roswell, is particularly good for watching migratory waterfowl, and Bluff Springs (tel. 575/682-2551), south of Cloudcroft, is popular with turkeys and hummingbirds. If you find turkey vultures particularly fascinating, Rattlesnake Springs (tel. 575/785-2232), south of Carlsbad, is the place to go.
Boating, water-skiing, jet-skiing, and sailing are permitted at Carlsbad Municipal Park, which runs through town for just over a mile along the west bank of Lake Carlsbad. The lake also has a beach that's open to swimmers. Brantley Lake State Park (tel. 575/457-2384), 15 miles north of Carlsbad, is popular with windsurfers who favor its consistent desert winds. (To find information on New Mexico state parks, go to www.nmparks.com.)
Bonito Lake and Rio Ruidoso are popular destinations for trout fishing. The scenic Oasis State Park (tel. 575/356-5331) just north of Portales, also offers fishing.
This region has plenty of golfing opportunities. In Ruidoso, Cree Meadows Country Club, Country Club Drive off Sudderth Drive (tel. 575/257-5815; www.playcreemeadows.com), is an 18-hole public course. Also public in the Ruidoso area are the 18-hole courses at the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino, 287 Carrizo Canyon Rd. (tel. 800/545-6040 or 575/464-4100; www.innofthemountaingods.com); and the Links at Sierra Blanca, 105 Sierra Blanca Dr. (tel. 575/258-5330; www.thelodgeatsierrablanca.com). In Cloudcroft, the 9-hole Lodge at Cloudcroft Golf Course (tel. 800/395-6343 or 575/682-2566; www.thelodgeresort.com) boasts an elevation of 9,200 feet; it's one of the highest courses in the world and one of the oldest in the United States. Alamogordo's Desert Lakes Golf Course (tel. 575/437-0290; www.desertlakesgolf.com) has views of Sierra Blanca and the Sacramento Mountains.
More than 225 miles of trails weave a web through the Smokey Bear Ranger District of the Lincoln National Forest. From Ruidoso, a favorite destination of hikers is the White Mountain Wilderness, with nine trails, and the Capitan Mountains Wilderness, with 11 trails. Smokey Bear Ranger District office, 901 Mechem Dr., Ruidoso (tel. 575/257-4095), has excellent and inexpensive maps of each wilderness area. Monjeau Lookout is a popular destination off Ski Run Road (NM 532). Carlsbad Caverns National Park has an extensive trail system as well (outside the caves, of course).
Horseback riding is popular in Ruidoso. Try the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino (tel. 800/545-6040 or 575/464-4100; www.innofthemountaingods.com) or Cowboys Riding Stables (tel. 575/378-8217; www.cowboysridingstables.com).
Southern New Mexico's premier ski resort is Ski Apache (tel. 575/257-9001 for snow reports, 575/336-4356 for information; www.skiapache.com), only 20 miles northwest of Ruidoso in the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation. Situated on an 11,500-foot ridge of the 12,003-foot Sierra Blanca, the resort boasts a gondola, two quad chairs, five triple chairs, one double chair, a day lodge, a sport shop, a rental shop, a ski school, a first-aid center, four snack bars, and a lounge. Ski Apache has 55 trails and slopes (20% beginner, 35% intermediate, and 45% advanced), with a vertical drop of 1,900 feet and a total skier capacity of 16,500 an hour. Though its location seems remote, a lot of skiers fill this mountain during weekends and holidays. Because the mountain is owned and run by the Apaches, you can experience another culture while skiing. All-day lift tickets cost $51 for adults, $45 for seniors, $43 for teens (13-17), $25 for children 12 and under. The mountain is open Thanksgiving to Easter daily from 8:45am to 4pm. Lift-and-lodging packages can be booked through the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino (tel. 800/545-6040 or 575/464-4100; www.innofthemountaingods.com).