At one point in time these towns were a place to call home for many weary miners and travelers alike. Today, they are little more than ruins, left behind to be eventually forget. New Mexico ghost towns are both rich with history and educational opportunities, not to mention are a bit thrilling to visit. Their ruins, decrepit structures, and folklore are enough to prompt any outdoor explorer to visit them.
New Mexico is home to over 400 ghost towns, but we’ve rounded up the top 10 we’d recommend venturing to.
Cabezon | Sandoval County
Unlike most New Mexico ghost towns on our lists, Cabezon was started in the 1870’s for farming and raising livestock. It also served as a stage stop between Santa Fe and Fort Wingate. Cabezon stayed strong for over 70 years, until the Rio Puerco dried up. The post office for the town finally closed in 1949, marking the end of a steady era.
Today, much of Cabezon remains. However, it is difficult get a close glimpse because it is on private property. Visitors must admire the ghost town from a distance behind a fence. Do not enter Cabezon or ignore the “No Trespassing signs”.
Chloride | Sierra County
Chloride technically is not a ghost town. There are 11 residents of the town, but before that it was a ghost town. The town came to be in 1880, after Briton Harry Pye found silver ore, a secret that eventually got exposed. Soon after, the town boomed to multiple saloons, a restaurant, a pharmacy, two hotels, a school, and much more.
When the Silver Panic hit in 1893 followed by a large cut in the price of silver, Chloride’s boom eventually came to an end. Today, one can still see many of the town’s original structures. Harry Pye’s cabin is also available as a vacation rental should you wish to get the full Chloride experience. Of the many mines established near Chloride, St. Cloud is still in operation, however silver is no longer mined.
Elizabethtown | Colfax County
After the Civil War came to an end, Indians began to arrive at Fort Union in hopes of trading rocks for supplies. Captain William H. Moore of Fort Union had once had a close encounter with one of the Indians. After an Indian was wounded, he took care of him until he was on the mend. The Indian gave him rocks in exchange for his hospitality, which Captain Moore realized were rich in copper. The Indian lead Captain Moore and other soldiers to the copper, which would be the first of many claims in the area.
Word of the areas riches spread and soon, others came to find their fortune. The town was named after the captain’s daughter, Elizabeth Catherine Moore, and quickly boomed to include saloons, stores, and gambling houses. By 1870, Elizabethtown had rapidly grown to 7,000 residents. Now, only a few buildings remain, overlooking Moreno Valley.
Glenrio | Deaf Smith County
Glenrio almost didn’t make our list because it straddles both Texas and New Mexico, however it is one worth mentioning. Its Main Street is a Historic District and the town can be found along the infamous Route 66. The native Comanche and Kiowa Indians were the first to inhabit the area until the white settlers moved and caused a war from 1874-1876.
A station was built in 1906 as a place for local ranchers to ship their produce. The station itself was in Texas, however the town reached across the state line. By 1920, the town had grown to include a hotel, cafes, stores, and service stations. When U.S. Highway 66 was created in 1926 it even passed through Glenrio. When I-40 was completed in 1973, Route 66 was moved out of the town and thus began its decline. By 2000, only five people lived in Glenrio.
Gran Quivira’s origins extend back over 1000 years ago. The Pueblo people lived here in pit houses with wood roofs, that still can be seen today. Close to 2,000 people lived in Gran Quivira, and it served as a pinnacle trade center, and continued to serve as one even after the Spanish arrived. The village left for ruins is just one of three in the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. The other two villages, Abo and Quarai, are located approximately 30 miles north of Gran Quivira.
By Nov. 1, 1909, Gran Quivira was designated as a national monument, a few years after the National Antiquities Act was passed. Today, visitors are able to see the ruins of the village, an abandoned school house, as well as the remnants of mission churches built by the Spanish in the 16th century.
In the early 1870’s, prospectors made a grand discovery in the hills of the Little Hatchet Mountains. They found turquoise, lead, copper, and silver. The mining district became known as Eureka after this discovery as a place for miners to settle. In late 1880, the Southern Pacific Railroad extended to come within 45 minutes of Eureka for easier access to civilization. By 1882, the town was officially registered as Hachita and grew to a population of 300 residents after just a few years.
Hachita’s boom lasted just a few years as the ore played out. By 1890, the town was only home to 25 people. The post office stuck around for a few years longer, eventually shutting down in 1898l In 1902 when tracks were laid nine miles east of Hachita nine miles east of Hachita, the town became divided between “Old Hachita” and the new Hachita. Today Hachita is still home to around 30 or so people. One can still find crumbling adobe buildings in Old Hachita.
Pinos Altos (Spanish for ‘tall pines’) was once a bustling mining town back in its glory days. The town came to be in 1860 when three men discovered gold in Bear Creek. Word ran rampant and soon men flocked to the town in hopes of striking it rich. Additionally, the area was known for its ranching, and some of the largest ranches in the United States were found not far from town.
Today, Pinos Altos still leaves behind some of its most infamous structures. The town still has a main street; some of the structures have been restored with original memorabilia and artifacts over the years. It is also home to about 300 residents. Check out the town, learn about its rich history, or try your hand at gold panning when you check this New Mexico ghost town off your bucket list.
Santa Rita was once a bustling mining town that started as just a fort with a church. Soon after more buildings were erect, and the Sante Fe Railroad eventually connected the mine to New Mexico. From here, the town began to soar and at one point, 6,000 people called Santa Rita Home.
Native Americans were very familiar with the copper in the area for some time before the Spanish caught on. Once they made the discovery, the Spanish enslaved the Native Americans and had them mine for the copper. By 1901, the town was forced to move several times when the Santa Rita mine was converted to an open pit. By the 1950’s the pit grew so large, that the town of Santa Rita got in the way. By 1967, the town was abandoned for good. Today only the large pit remains to be seen in this ghost town.
Shakespeare went through a few names prior to 1879, at the start of the town’s second mining boom. The area was attractive for miners because of a small spring located in the arroyo just west of town. The town was a rebirth from a crooked past, and in 1879 Colonel William G. Boyle sought to change that by renaming the town Shakespeare. He started the Shakespeare Gold and Silver Mining and Milling Company and the town experienced its second boom.
When the new railroad town of Lordsburg sprung to life, the end of Shakespeare was near. Businesses began to move down to the clown to be closer to the rail station. Shakespeare eventually was declared a National Historic Site in 1970. Today, the town is privately owned and can be toured one weekend a month.
With the discovery of gold, silver, lead, and copper in what is known as Hidalgo County came numerous mining camps along the base of the Peloncillo Range. Nearby Steins was known as a railroad town, where the Southern Pacific Railroad ran through. By 1880, when the railway was complete through the area, the station became known to be located in the town of Steins. By 1905, Steins had a Post Office, schoolhouse, restaurant, and saloon. It is speculated that more than 1,000 people lived in Steins at its peak.
Steins met its demise at the end of World War II, when the Southern Pacific Railroad discontinued its stop to the town. The railway offered residents free transport to anywhere they desired, and most took advantage of the opportunity and escaped town. Not much remains of Steins, aside from a few adobe ruins and buildings restored from a fire in 1964. Steins may be gone but the railway still continues to run past the town even to this day.