She didn’t know it at the time, but becoming the owner of the Lodge Resort & Spa, in the southern New Mexico mountain town of Cloudcroft, connected Lanna Duncan to her family’s past.
“My great grandfather was one of the initial investors in the railroad there in the late 1800s,” she says. “A historian wrote us a letter about him, Edgar Beecher Bronson, afterward. We knew there was something special about Cloudcroft and the Lodge, beyond its unique architecture and location. It’s a great step into the past in a beautiful spot.”
Duncan and her husband, Joe, already owned two small historic hotels in West Texas when they added Cloudcroft’s 1899 hotel, nine-hole golf course, and restaurant to their holdings in 2015. They’ve since embarked on an extensive renovation of the property, which sits near the former Alamogordo and Sacramento Mountain Railway. The trains once supported nearby logging operations, and also delivered vacationers to the cool mountain air. The trains quit running, but the visitors still come.
By the time the lodge reopens in summer 2021, the original Arts and Crafts–era architectural features will gleam anew with rooms brought into that style, more outdoor relaxation spaces, and a gussied-up exterior.
Today, Cloudcroft’s visitors do more than seek a high-altitude respite from the heat of summer. Fun shops, a museum, craft beer, annual events, and myriad outdoor activities—hiking, mountain biking, camping, and abundant wildlife watching—speak to the joys that come with life at 9,000 feet.
As an artist, Duncan loves the light and the landscape in Cloudcroft, and has taken classes through the Cloudcroft Art Society’s summer workshop series. “Certainly, the scenery is the draw!” she says. “They bring in artists and teachers from around the world. I wish I could get out the paint instead of the work gloves all the time.”
The scenery and fresh mountain air also beckon visitors to several spectacular overlooks with panoramic views of the distant San Andres Mountains and the glittering expanse of White Sands National Park. Cloud-Climbing Trestle Trail, also known as Mexican Canyon Trestle Trail, is a partially paved, mile-long path that begins at a replica of the original Cloudcroft railway depot at the western end of town. Hikers first pass what’s left of an “S” trestle that contained two 30-degree curves. But the real payoff is arriving at the 323-foot-long, six-story Mexican Canyon Trestle, built in 1889 and on the National Register of Historic Places. Maps available at the depot show several accessible side trails around other historic former railroad grades, too.
For those more inclined to drive than trek, the Sunspot Scenic Byway starts in Cloudcroft and winds through the Lincoln National Forest. Blue road signs at the beginning of the twisty road note the relative distance from the sun at the Sunspot Solar Observatory to the solar system’s planets. Visitors are welcome into the observing room, where research on solar activities continues. Along the way, stunning views of Hayne’s Canyon and beyond to the Tularosa Basin offer perfect photo opportunities at any time of year.
“There’s plenty to do in the winter, too,” says Duncan. “Cloudcroft has a small ski slope, the southernmost one in the United States, and we’re also close to Ski Apache, outside Ruidoso. You’ve got the benefit of a quiet, beautiful community and a sweet, welcoming little downtown with nice shops and good restaurants. And I love the Chamber of Commerce’s motto: ‘9,000 Feet Above Stress Level.’”