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Whether you're coming up from El Paso or down from Albuquerque, I-25 and I-10 make it easy to hit the highlights of southwestern New Mexico. Although hilly, the area's roads aren't mountainous until you get onto NM 152 between I-25 and Silver City or up into the Gila National Forest, making most travel fairly quick. In the northern part of this region, many off-the-beaten-path treasures await via U.S. 60 heading west from Socorro.
Along the Camino Real. History, rich and deep, accompanies this well-trod route, from the earliest indigenous traders who first marked it, to Spanish colonists and frontier settlers, to the space-age scientists who ply the interstate today. Find remnants of missions, pueblos, and 19th-century military forts, and spectacular avian wildlife (Bosque del Apache), delicious hot springs (Truth or Consequences), rural charm (and chile) in Hatch, and memorable wineries in Old Mesilla.
Heading west on U.S. 60. From the town of Socorro, you can follow scenic and solitary U.S. 60 all the way into Arizona. The route passes through a handful of small, quirky villages. Enjoy fabulous pie in Pie Town; gape at expansive mountains, and marvel at the giant antennae at the Very Large Array. Touring this immutable area often feels like a trip through the Old West.
Gila National Forest area. In the central part of this region, starting about 10 mi north of Silver City, lies a vast wilderness—diverse and immense. You'll want to allow lots of time to explore the area. From the famed Gila Cliff Dwellings, to abandoned mining towns, to lush canyons replete with waterfalls, plan to devote a fair amount of time here; you won't regret a moment of it.