Silver City, New Mexico

You, too, can hide out in this outlaw town

Jan 8, 2004
Outside Magazine
best American towns Silver City, New Mexico

Unique rock formations at City of Rocks State Park    Photo: courtesy, New Mexico Department of Tourism

best American towns Silver City, New Mexico

THERE ARE PLENTY OF 19th-century ghost towns in the untamed mountains and canyons of southwestern New Mexico, but Silver City isn't one of them. It's still thriving. Billy the Kid launched his criminal career here at age 15 by holding up a Chinese laundry. In 1904, a flood bisected the town; the 55-foot-deep, cottonwood-shaded arroyo of Big Ditch Park was once Main Street. The latest flood (more of a trickle, really) is of retirees and artists heading south to join the 1,700 full-time students of Western New Mexico University.

OUTDOORS: Geronimo was once holed up in the side canyons and steep terrain of what is now the 3.3-million-acre Gila National Forest, and it's still a great place to vanish. About a quarter of the forest is designated wilderness, laced by more than 1,600 miles of hiking trails. Mountain bikers make tough singletrack ascents to the nearly 9,000-foot Continental Divide, and rafters, kayakers, and canoeists run a 32-mile section of the Gila River just north of town.
REAL ESTATE: The market is strong, with recently built adobes starting at around $180,000. Listings around $300,000 often include wooded acreage and views of the Gila.
HANGOUTS: The Palace Hotel, an 1882 Victorian with a skylit garden room on its top floor, is a fetching downtown throwback (doubles, $38–$62; 505-388-1811, Bear Creek Cabins, 7.5 miles north of town, is a quieter alternative, nestled in the ponderosa pines at 7,000 feet. Diane's Restaurant, opened in 1996 by a former Santa Fe pastry chef, provides friendly service and dishes like spanakopita, grilled lamb, duck breast, and four-layer chocolate cake.