Truth or Consequences is a lovely little town perched along the Rio Grande between Albuquerque and Las Cruces, New Mexico’s two largest cities. Known as ‘T or C’ to locals, you’ll find evidence of the Wild West all over this town of 6,000-plus residents. Formerly known as Hot Springs, thanks to the mineral-rich waters that have been drawing people to the area for centuries, the town’s name was changed to Truth or Consequences in 1950 as part of a publicity stunt. Today, the hot springs are still a popular reason to visit the town and are perfect for a post-adventure soak.

With so much to do and explore outdoors, there are plenty of reasons that an intrepid traveler should add T or C to their bucket list. Here are a few of our favorites.

1. (Almost) Ghost Towns

The T or C area has more than its fair share of ghost towns today thanks to the silver mining boom in the 1800s. The mining towns may be gone, but in many of these places, at least a few people still live there. So while these aren’t technically ghost towns, the buildings and history have been preserved all the same.

Cuchillo earns its status as a ghost town in fine spectral form: ghost hunters say the Old Cuchillo Bar is haunted, so don’t be surprised if you stop in for a drink and hear a whisper in your ear or see something fall off the shelves on its own. The bar was originally a stagecoach stop in 1830, and has been a trading post, mercantile, post office, and hotel over the years, so it’s no surprise that some of its previous visitors decided to stick around.

Visiting well-preserved Chloride feels like taking a step back in time. The Edmund family has kept the town alive, preserving the town’s Pioneer Store with its stock—from spurs to food—straight from the 1880s. Many of the original buildings here still stand, and the 11 residents are more than happy to show you around.

In Hillsboro—once the county seat and now a charming arts town—the former Sierra County Courthouse and its adjacent jail site are crumbling, but the 1879 Hillsboro General Store is still in operation. A little more than 100 people call Hillsboro home, and a trip to the town is like a trip back in time with the old buildings and the Black Range Museum, which was once a brothel.

When the ore was found in Kingston, its population exploding nearly overnight, making it one of the largest towns in New Mexico at the time. But when silver prices dropped, the town was nearly abandoned just as quickly and has been quietly enshrined in the landscape since. Like Hillsboro, there are still a handful of people living in Kingston, and you can even stay at the historic Black Range Lodge, where the brickwork dates back to 1880s. If you get the chance, don’t miss the fully-restored Percha Bank, with its vault that once held millions in silver. (It’s only open during special events.)

2. Elephant Butte Lake State Park

The 40,000 acre Elephant Butte Lake is popular for fishing and water sports.
The 40,000 acre Elephant Butte Lake is popular for fishing and water sports. Photo courtesy of Truth or Consequences

T or C also lays claim to Elephant Butte Lake, a true high-desert oasis just five miles north of town. In 1916, builders dammed the Rio Grande, welling the lake in the midst of otherwise arid surroundings. At 40 miles long and an average of 1.5 miles wide, the lake easily tops lists as the state’s largest, and is also New Mexico’s most popular for watersports.

Sailing regattas launch several times a year, and speedboats towing water skiers zip around the distinctive rock formation that earned Elephant Butte its name. Bring your kayak or stand-up paddleboard to take a more leisurely paddle around the shore. When you’re ready for a break, relax on the miles of sandy beaches or have lunch at a picnic area.

If you just can’t get enough, set up at one of the campgrounds overlooking the lake’s glistening waters. The more secluded camping lies at North and South Monticello Points, but there is primitive camping available off the sheltered coves and islands on the east side of the lake. It may not be the ocean, but it’s convincing enough for the seagulls that nest here.

3. Hiking and Mountain Biking

The terrain around T or C.
The terrain around T or C. Photo courtesy of Truth or Consequences

The rocky hills around Elephant Butte Lake double as hiking and mountain biking terrain, with 15 miles of trails winding through mesas and juniper-dotted lowlands. A 26.5-mile perimeter route is grounds for the annual Elephant Man Triathlon, while road cyclists head for the hills toward the Gila National Forest for sinuous climbs from woodlands to spruce and fir forests at 9,000 feet. The 3-mile Healing Waters Trail near town is a perfect hike for hitting the highlights around town, from views of Turtleback Mountain to the Hot Springs Historic District.

4. Gila National Forest

T or C is a gateway to the 3.3-million-acre Gila National Forest, home to three wilderness areas. The Black Range district is closest to town and gives your first taste of primitive solitude beyond. A large portion of the Aldo Leopold Wilderness, named after the conservation forefather that fought to protect wilderness areas, and the Gila Wilderness, the nation’s first, both lie within striking distance.

In the Aldo Leopold Wilderness, the Continental Divide Trail stretches along the continent’s backbone and is a worthy route for backcountry backpacking. There are plenty of day hikes in both the Aldo Leopold and Gila Wilderness Areas, too, and some trails lead to natural hot springs. The Gila Cliff Dwellings in the Gila Wilderness Area are definitely a must-see. The rooms built into the side of the cliffs date back to the Mogollon Culture in the 1200s.

5. Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway

Named for the formidable Apache leader that held out against the Southern Apache Agency until 1886, this scenic drive encircles his tribe’s former territory and connects many of the destinations that put T or C on your travel bucket list. Geronimo evaded his pursuers long than any other fighter in part because of the rugged stretch of mountains, the Black Range, which he knew better than anyone else.

Technically circular, the drive includes a remote stretch skirting the Aldo Leopold Wilderness area that’s only accessible by high-clearance vehicles—and hiking boots. Reaching like arms north and south from T or C, the drive passes relics of the area’s silver mining days and expansive mesas that beckon exploration. Stop by the Visitor Center in Truth or Consequences before heading out to get all the info you’ll need to plan your trip.

6. Hot Springs

Soak your stress away and take in the views from a hot springs tub along the Rio Grande.
Soak your stress away and take in the views from a hot springs tub along the Rio Grande. Photo courtesy of Truth or Consequences

Truth or Consequences traded in its original name (Hot Springs) in 1950 when emcee Ralph Edwards dared a town to change its name to match his radio show. T or C anteed up, and though its name is different, its geothermal hot springs still flow as they have for some 50 million years.

The town became even more popular for its mineral-rich waters at the turn of the 20th century when travelers flocked to the area for a 21-day soaking regimen that promised to cure all that ailed them. More than 10 hotels/bathhouses pump soothing waters into pools around town, so choosing where to soak doubles as selecting accommodations. Blackstone Hotsprings hitches its room themes to vintage TV shows from The Lone Ranger to The Jetsons, with both in-room tubs and shared soaking pools. Fire Water Lodge has an ambiance Ralph Edwards would find familiar, with motor-court style lodgings and en-suite mineral water tubs. Riverbend Hot Springs offers accommodations but also welcomes passersby for soaks by the hour in private or communal tubs, many perched on the banks of the slowly flowing Rio Grande.

While one list couldn’t possibly cover all of the exciting things to do in and around Truth or Consequences, these six adventures will definitely get you started. T or C has long been known as a quirky town with a unique history, but now more and more people are discovering it as an outdoor destination, too.

Originally written by RootsRated for New Mexico.