Adventure Gold in the Land of Enchantment: 72 Hours in Silver City, New Mexico

Backpacking, mountain biking, hot springs and canyoneering in the hidden heart of the Land of Enchantment.

They say just getting to Silver City, New Mexico is an adventure and that the locals prefer it that way. At least four hours from Albuquerque, three-and-a-half from Tucson, and nearly three from El Paso: the colorful, creative, and eccentric Silver City is an outdoor paradise well off the beaten path, and a world away from more polished Southwestern tourist towns like Taos and Sedona. 

Located on the southern edge of the Mogollon Mountains, the Continental Divide Trail, and the oldest designated wilderness area in the United States - the Gila Wilderness - Silver City is a great basecamp for all manner of adventures and exploration, from mountain biking to canyoneering to hot springs. 

Here is one way to spend 72 hours of food and outdoor adventure fun in Silver City, New Mexico.

Day 1

Built in 1882 The Palace Hotel is located in the heart of Silver City's historic downtown, and serves as a great initiation into the colorful and rich history of the area. Check in, lace up your running shoes, and head out for an evening run or hike on Boston Hill.

Named for Irish Immigrants that first staked out mining claims in the area, the Boston Hill trail system is a great way to take in sweeping views of downtown Silver City, to peer into long-abandoned mines, and to enjoy excellent single-track.


For dinner head over to Revel, the organic, sustainable, farm-to-table culinary brainchild of Minnesotan transplants Jesse, Brian, and Kelsey. The Tennessee Hot Chicken in the Nashville tradition does not disappoint and the meatloaf is pretty damn close to what grandma used to make.

For after dinner drinks head over to the Little Toad Creek Brewery but on the way, be sure to check out the impressive neon of the Silco Theatre, continuously open since 1923 and features an excellent bit of Art Deco architecture. 

Day 2

Checkout of the Palace and head over for breakfast at the Javalina Coffee House and then swing by the Murray Ryan Visitor’s Center for the latest trail beta (and maps). Be sure to load up on grub from the Silver City Food Co-Op in the heart of downtown.

From there take Highway 15 north out of the City into the Gila Wilderness to the Little Bear Canyon Trailhead at the TJ Corral, following the signs for the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, for an epic hike and overnight at Jordan Hot Springs.


The hot spring itself is about 20 yards uphill above the Gila River, has a max temp of about 94 degrees and actually flows down as a waterfall into a large built-up pool.


Day 3

Hike out and on your way out of the wilderness check out Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, which was home to some 10-15 families and represent the northernmost reaches of the Mogollon People for which the surrounding mountains are named.


Once you arrive back in town check into the recently-restored Murray Hotel and then head over to the Brazzas Grill taco truck for some of the best Mexican street food this side of the border. If owner Johnny is grilling out back check to see if he is making his Sonoran-style tri-tip for something truly special.


No visit to Silver City is complete without a walk along the “Big Ditch”, which was built to hold the enormous runoff into San Vicente Arroyo creek during monsoon season. Note the higher-than-expected sidewalks and for a bit of history head up to the Silver City Museum for photos of the massive flood in 1895 which completely destroyed the downtown and was the impetus for drastically increasing the height of the walls around the creek.

You can also schedule a tour of Syzygy, one of the last remaining hand-made tile makers in the world. For a taste of the southwest the Tatiana Maria Gallery has beautiful Navajo, First Nations, and Mexican blankets, rugs, and artwork.


For sunset head up to the top of Chihuaha Hill to photograph La Capilla, a chapel built in the early 2000’s to commemorate the original chapel built there in the 19th century in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe.


For dinner head to Diane’s which has a wonderful bar with an excellent wine list including several local wines from New Mexico. The ribeye with buckshot butter was a surprise and unique to this fan of a good steak.

For after dinner drinks head up to tiny town of Pinos Altos to the Buckhorn Saloon & Opera House. It feels like you are stepping back in time and a rye whiskey, neat, is always appropriate. 

Day 4

Get up early, check out of the Murray, and head around the corner for breakfast at the Jumping Cactus. Then head over to Gila Hike and Bike for the latest beta on the impressive mountain biking trail systems in the area. They also rent bikes and sell other gear, but Martyn and the team have a near encyclopedic knowledge of which trails are the best on any given day.

A great intro to the trail system is the Picnic Loop near Mt. Gomez which in addition to intersecting with several other loops also connects to the Continental Divide Trail.

Before heading out of town swing by the Tapas Tree Grill for a surprising southwestern take on Thai & Vietnamese street food. The Vietnamese Pork Crepe is something else!

For more information see Visit Silver City

Published: December 7, 2017

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