With a year-round population of around 300 residents, the village of Eagle Nest is small, but that doesn’t mean the area isn’t packed with things to do. It’s a prime home base for adventure—ideal for heading out in any direction in search of secret lakes, ghost towns, haunted hotels, and more. There are the main attractions that everyone comes to see (like Eagle Nest Lake State Park), but here are a few off-the-beaten-path local recommendations if you really want to experience all that Eagle Nest has to offer.
1. Laguna Vista Saloon and Lodge
Eagle Nest has managed to stay true to its Wild West roots, and a perfect example of this is the Laguna Vista Saloon and Lodge. This saloon dates back to 1896 and has been a favorite watering hole for locals and visitors ever since. It’s the go-to stop for film crews shooting in the area, so you might even bump into a TV or movie star relaxing with a cold drink.
While this is an old haunt of many a local and passerby, it’s also rumored to be home to quite a few ghosts and poltergeists. According to patrons, there is a female ghost who lives upstairs and visits the dining room on occasion, and there are plenty of unexplainable mishaps potentially caused by the prankster poltergeists.
2. East Fork to Lost Lake and the Lost Lake Loop
Given its location in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, it’s no surprise that mountain biking is a popular activity in and around Eagle Nest. East Fork to Lost Lake and the Lost Lake Loop are two solid biking trails where you will be able to commune with nature on your trusty two-wheeled steed.
You’ll find these local favorites in the wilderness between Taos Valley Ski Area and Cimarron. Be prepared to climb up rocky switchbacks, and there may be sections that require hiking, as well as creek crossings. Your efforts will be rewarded with an incredible descent with top-notch views of the alpine wilderness (which also means exposure, so be aware of your surroundings as you check out the view). There are some primitive camping options in the area if you want to stay a night or two.
3. Philmont Scout Ranch
Scouts and their families looking to get out of their comfort zones will find the Philmont Scout Ranch to be the adventure destination of their dreams. Backcountry expeditions, trailblazing, and other adventures are aimed at teens with specific age, gender, and Scout affiliation requirements depending on the program you choose.
Highlights include the Summer Adventure and the Winter Adventure, which are for Boy Scouts of America members who are 13- to 14-years old and focus on season-specific skills like shelter-building, search and rescue, and trekking or snowshoeing. There is lodging for family members onsite and trails for parents and siblings to hike while the Scouts go on their own adventure.
Now that the BSA welcomes all genders into its program, this is a fantastic age-specific program for all youngsters to stretch out their wings and test their smarts and stamina in an exciting, supportive environment.
4. Elizabethtown Ruins
Elizabethtown was a booming mining town for only about 35 years. It erupted quickly with the discovery of copper and promise of gold but had problems from the start: The cold winters and dry summers made for challenging conditions for explorers and pioneers, and even with a lengthy aqueduct, lack of drinking water was a constant threat as well. Local Native tribes also took to raiding the town whenever possible, and a fire eventually destroyed the town for good. Elizabethtown is now in ruins, but efforts by Eagle Nest residents have restored parts of the town and even established a museum. (The ruins of the Mutz Hotel with Baldy Mountain behind it makes for a memorable photo op!)
5. Cimarron Canyon State Park and Colin Neblett Wildlife Management Area
On the way towards Cimarron and its haunted St. James Hotel (which may or may not entomb the ghost of Charles Kennedy, the Old West Serial Killer), Cimarron Canyon State Park sits along Highway 64 and is home to some of the prettiest waterfalls in the region. Maverick Falls is particularly impressive and is accessible right off Highway 64. The path to the falls is a closed Jeep road, and you’ll hear the rushing water before you see it. Keep going, and eventually you’ll get to the 30-foot falls tucked into the forest.
Cimarron Canyon State Park is also the gateway to the trails winding through the 33,116-acre Colin Neblett Wildlife Management Area. This area is a great place to for fishing, hiking, and camping among the wildflowers and starry nights. The wildlife here is shy but abundant, with a large population of elk every spring.
One of the most popular hikes here is the route up Touch-Me-Not Mountain. The road to the trailhead is an old, unmaintained logging road, but it’s worth the trek in a 4WD vehicle to hike up this secret gem. You’ll pass through trees and grassy fields, ultimately coming out of the tree line to finish the hike on very rocky terrain with a good amount of wind and breathtaking views on all sides.
After a day of exploring, you’ll have certainly worked up an appetite. Options in Eagle Nest and the nearby towns range from pizza to bison burgers to local New Mexican specialties. Find a full list of restaurants and bars here.
Originally written by RootsRated for New Mexico.