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The Rio Grande flows through the fertile Mesilla Valley, known for its plump green chile peppers and acres of thick, shaded pecan groves. Try leaving I-10 and following the green agriculture fields along NM 28, which begins just north of El Paso and ends at Old Mesilla. The shops and restaurants in Old Mesilla's historic plaza make for an easy, leisurely afternoon of wandering. The adobe buildings are virtually unchanged from the way they appeared a century ago. From Las Cruces, just north of Old Mesilla, take NM 185 north through the farm valley on the route that leads to Hatch, where you can stop for lunch or dinner to sample some of the famed chile.
You could easily spend several days (or weeks) exploring the old, but still lively, mining town of Silver City and the vast Gila National Forest, which surrounds it. New Mexico's largest lake, Elephant Butte, begins at the hot springs haven of Truth or Consequences and tracks north for miles alongside I–25. The Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge near Socorro provides a haven for countless species of birds. Heading west at Socorro on U.S. 60, you'll find rural villages such as Magdalena and Quemado. On the Plains of San Agustin, look for the awesome array of giant, gleaming, white radio antennae that are part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.