Tucked high into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains outside of Cimarron, Philmont Scout Ranch has long been a draw, with some 23,000 scouts and adults leaders visiting the site every summer for hiking, camping and other outdoor activities.
The ranch also features several areas that the general public may visit and find interesting, said Bryan Hayek, marketing manager for the ranch.
The Kit Carson Museum at Rayado pays tribute to Kit Carson and Lucien Maxwell, who founded a settlement in the area in the mid-1800s. In 1950, the Boy Scouts of America built an adobe museum focused on that era.
“Staff at the Kit Carson Museum dress in period clothing and demonstrate frontier skills and crafts,” Hayek said, including blacksmithing, cooking, shooting, and farming.
Each museum room is outfitted with reproduction furniture and objects typical to New Mexico in the 1850s, he said.
While located on the ranch, it’s several miles from ranch headquarters and features the Rayado Trading Company, which will take visitors back in time as they browse through reproduction tools and equipment, moccasins and blankets.
The oil baron Waite Phillips first gave the Boys Scouts its first chunk of what would become Philmont with a 36,000-acre gift in 1938. In 1941, the family gave the Scouts another 91,000.
The 28,400-square-foot, Spanish Mediterranean styled Villa Philmonte – which was the family summer home – remains intact and functions as a museum today. Touring the home with guides gives visitors a sense of what it was like to live in rural New Mexico in the 1930s and how Philmont came to be.
The Seton Memorial Library is dedicated to the works of naturalist, author and illustrator Ernest Thompson Seton.
Seton wrote and illustrated numerous scholarly and popular articles, stories, and more than 40 books about wild animals. The books include “Wild Animals I Have Known,” “Animal Heroes,” “The Biography of a Silver Fox,” “Life Histories of Northern Animals,” “Wild Animals at Home,” and “Lives of Game Animals.”
Among the illustrated works on display, the “Triumph of the Wolves” and “The Pursuit” are two of his most noted.
Next to Philmont, the 11,000-acre Chase Ranch was established in 1869 and remained in operation through 2012 when the last remaining family member died, leaving it to a foundation. A year later, the foundation turned it over to the Boy Scouts in return for an agreement to preserve the heritage and history of the ranch.
The main ranch house and grounds have been turned into an educational museum for both Philmont participants and the general public.
The historic adobe ranch house showcases a way of life from the settler days 150 years ago as it weathered the Colfax County land grant war, territorial and statehood periods and contemporary times.
In direct contrast to the peacefulness at Philmont, nearby Cimarron was a wild-and-wooly Old West town known more for its gunslingers who passed through than its residents of yore.
The St. James Hotel and Restaurant, for instance, was a favorite hangout of folks like Wyatt Earp, Jesse James, Buffalo Bill Cody, Clay Allison, Black Jack Ketchum, Billy the Kid and Thomas James Wright.
In 1872, gunfights were not uncommon. Historians list 26 people killed at the establishment over the years, while plenty of bullet holes remain in ceilings and walls.
Occupants say spirits roam the creaky staircases and spooky halls with tilted chandeliers. The hotel has been featured in several TV programs about the paranormal on the Biography, A&E and SyFy.
While there are no ghosts at the Old Aztec Mill Museum, the stone structure built in 1864 is now a museum featuring the old millstones and other historical artifacts, including pictures of Black Jack Ketchum’s hanging.