Day 1: Founded in 1870 after the discovery of silver ore deposits, Silver City started off as a rough-and-rowdy mining and cowboy town; Billy the Kid was actually arrested twice within city limits (arresting sheriff Harvey Whitehill claimed he was a likeable kid). Get acquainted with the city by exploring its charming Historic Downtown, home to art galleries, restaurants, and shopping. Also downtown, the Silver City Museum offers exhibits on the region’s American Indian, mining, and ranching history. For dinner, drinks, and entertainment, head seven miles north to the Buckhorn Saloon and Opera House, originally built in 1865.
Day 2:After a breakfast of huevos rancheros at Nancy’s Silver Café, saddle up with WolfHorse Outfitters, an American Indian guide service that specializes in customized day and overnight rides into the Gila National Forest and Aldo Leopold Wilderness. Back in town, grab some grub with the locals at the Jalisco Café, which serves up traditional Southwestern and Mexican fare. Expect to be asked “Red or green?” in reference to the type of chile you want—it’s the official state question of New Mexico. For those who want a little of both, answer “Christmas.” If you’re visiting in early summer, make sure to catch the Wild Wild West Pro Rodeo (June 4–7). Later, get a drink with the cowboys at the Buffalo Bar, a Silver City institution.
Day 3: All the meals at Vicki’s Eatery get high marks, but their breakfasts are especially tasty.Try the delicious French toast and get a sandwich to go. With food and camera in tow, head north on Hwy. 15 to the Gila National Forest, a two-million-acre preserve of rugged mountains, deep canyons, and unspoiled desert. You’ll need the camera to capture the impressive Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, where people of the Mogollon Culture lived between 1275 and 1300 AD. The dwellings—46 rooms among five interlinked caves—are an easy hike from the monument’s museum and visitor’s center. The Gila is an outdoor lover’s paradise, with seemingly endless hiking and biking trails, white-water rafting, and fishing. There are also several hot springs—two of the most popular are Jordan Hot Springs and Lightfeather Hot Springs.
Plan It: On the outskirts of town,Bear Mountain Lodge has been a cattle ranch, school, and country club. Today, the B&B-style inn offers 11 beautiful guest rooms, an art gallery, and plenty of outdoor activities. Corrals are available for those traveling with horses. 575-538-2538, bearmountainlodge.com