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When the coronavirus lockdown is over, Cruces will be looking for you

The Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument encompasses about 500,000 acres of recreational opportunities surrounding Las Cruces.

When at last New Mexicans are freed from COVID-19 bondage and allowed to roam their great state once again, a trip down south might make a fun adventure.

Here’s a sneak peek at some of what Las Cruces has to offer.

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument (organmountains.org), which is celebrating its fifth year, is an almost 500,000-acre outdoor playground, said Patrick Nolan, monument executive director.

The monument rings Las Cruces, starting with the dramatic granite bellows of the Organ Mountains to the east.

Due north of the city, the Dona Aña Mountains include a web of hiking and off-road cycling trails.

“Being so close to urban areas and having this great trail system is pretty awesome,” Nolan said.

Northwest of Las Cruces, the Sierra de las Uvas Mountains offer rugged canyons, arroyos, and distinct Chihuahuan Desert grasslands, coupled with striking views. Circling to the west, in the Robledo Mountains pre-dinosaur footprints and a petrified forest lie buried in the strata, and twisting canyons in the Broad Canyon Country shelter petroglyphs from three distinct Native American cultures.

The venerable Rio Grande Theater is one of the landmarks of downtown Las Cruces.

Across the valley grasslands, stage and wagon tracks trace the Butterfield Stage route, where the diverse cultural influences of the area are so evident.

And in the south, lava flows, wild cinder cone mountains and a grueling landscape shelter hundreds of thousands of acres where remote hunting and other recreation opportunities abound.

Connecting them all, Nolan said, a 300-mile mountain bike loop is not for the faint of heart but can be accessed in small portions as visitors pedal into the heart of the monument.

“It offers a unique way to see a part of the monument that for the most part the public doesn’t visit,” he said.

Visit YouTube and search for Friends of Organ Mountains for a closer look at the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

The heart of Old Mesilla, La Posta de la Mesilla is not just a restaurant but offers a dining experience. (Courtesy Las Cruces Convention And Visitors Bureau)

In Old Mesilla, where a traditional Colonial Spanish town plaza offers strolling and browsing and window shopping, La Posta de Mesilla (laposta-de-mesilla.com) still holds a place of prominence as not just an eatery but a dining experience, owner Jerean Hutchinson said.

Established in 1939 by the legendary Katy Griggs with just four tables, a dirt floor and no running water, La Posta eventually grew from its humble beginnings into a renowned restaurant and so much more.

Using red and green chile grown locally in the Mesilla Valley – “We were farm-to-table long before it was cool,” Hutchinson said – and other area products and meats, La Posta is now a colorful enclave that in normal times can seat up to 400 people.

Because of the nature of its growth by slowly buying the surrounding businesses and residences, La Posta is filled with numerous little dining nooks.

“It gives you the flavor of a small dining experience. The building is circa the 1840s and is an old adobe historical structure,” Hutchinson said. “It used to be a Butterfield stagecoach stop, which I think is an awesome feature. It’s on the national historic registry.”

La Posta houses an aviary where multicolored parrots and other tropical birds. Griggs brought in piranhas decades ago, and that’s a tradition that has been continued.

She also has been credited with the chips and salsa concept, calling it tostadas and chile.

And a meal at La Posta is not complete without a sampling of one of the 100-some margaritas, starting with the headliner cucumber-jalapeño variety. “It’s a tribute to the rich heritage of the farmers around here, with local jalapeños with lime and tequila, and we rim the glass with local honey and green chile salt. And it’s all made in the Mesilla Valley.

Visit YouTube and search for “Visit Las Cruces” for more on La Posta de la Mesilla. And for more on Las Cruces itself, search YouTube for “The LNG Company.”

“One of the selling points of Las Cruces is there are so many outdoor recreation hot spots,” said Paul Dahlgren, executive director of Visit Las Cruces. “The great thing about Las Cruces is everything is so close. From your front door to the mountains, you can be there is 20 to 30 minutes.”

The downtown area has become of activity, with many festivals and cultural events year round, he said.

“We have a new retro arcade that opened about a year ago, with lots of breweries, restaurants and coffee shops that have opened,” Dahlgren said. “The plaza throughout the year is a hot spot for any number of events. It’s an up-and-coming place. It’s part of the art and cultural district where we have lots of interesting buildings and galleries. We’ve had different initiatives centered around creating more art in the area.”

A reddish glow settles over Las Cruces as evening approaches. (Courtesy of Visit Las Cruces)

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