Lincoln National Forest
While many know that Lincoln National Forest is the home of Smokey Bear, few are familiar with the diversity that Smokey's home has to offer. This forest encompasses 1.1 million acres, and it ranges widely in almost every feature. Elevation runs from 4,000 to 11,500 feet, and both deserts and sub-alpine forests are located within Lincoln's boundaries. This provides a recreational mecca right at your fingertipsfrom downhill skiing to rock climbing and caving.
Once roamed by the Apache Indians, gold rushers, and Billy the Kid, Lincoln National Forest features the White Mountain and Capitan Mountain wilderness areas, hundreds of miles of scenic trails, all sorts of snow sports, family campgrounds, copious wildlife, and much more.
Hike an Apache Trail
Once used by the Apaches as a prime route for water in the Sacramento Mountains, this trail begins at the mouth of Dog Canyon in Oliver Lee Memorial State Park. Although difficult at times, it provides excellent views of the Tularosa Basin and the San Andres Mountains. This hike through the Cloudcroft Ranger District finishes off on Forest Road 90B.
Caving Lincoln National Forest
The Guadalupe Ranger District is an excellent destination for caving. Originally a part of the ancient Capitan Barrier Reef, this curious collection of limestone canyons was created when the area was covered with water. Make sure not to miss Cottonwood Cave or nearby Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
Ski Apache Resort
Ski Apache's 1,060 acres and 45 trails provide downhill skiing from Thanksgiving through Easter. The resort receives 180 inches of snowfall each season—this is the second largest rate of snow accumulation in New Mexico. Ski Apache is run by the Mescalero Apache Tribe under a special use permit.
Enjoy Southwestern Wildlife
Thanks to Lincoln's greatly varying landforms and climates, over 300 different species can survive and be maintained. Included are over 200 different types of birds, including a wide variety of owls as well as hawks, nuthatches, and vireo jays that can be seen quite often meandering through the forest. Other wildlife includes elk, deer, and turkey, but alas, Lincoln may be most well known for its world-renowned black bear—nicknamed "Smokey Bear" when he was rescued as a cub after a brutal forest fire.
Ride Rim Road
Explore the Guadalupe Ranger District within your own car by traveling on the Rim Road, otherwise known as FR540. This gravel road follows the southern part of the district and offers many opportunities to follow a trail to attractions such as Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Along the way you will also come upon a fabulous view of Dog Canyon and the Brokeoff Mountains.
Camp at Deerhead
Situated among Douglas fir and ponderosa pine, Deerhead Campground is a great place to camp if you're looking to experience the variety that Lincoln has to offer. It has very easy access to scenic hiking trails such as Bluff Springs, which leads to a waterfall, and Cloud-Climbing Rail Trail, which features a replica of a historic train and great scenery. Nearby day trips include the Sunspot Observatory and Trestle Recreation Area.
Climb Sitting Bull Falls
In the southeastern part of the rugged Guadalupe Ranger district lies a curious limestone canyon cliff, spewing water from its summit. Legend has it that the beautiful waterfall was named for Chief Sitting Bull, a late nineteenth century American Indian. The most difficult climb is Custer's Last Stand—an overhanging climb with a difficulty of about 5.13b, but there are easier climbs to find at this site.
Visit the National Solar Observatory
Just off the Sunspot Scenic Byway lies the National Solar Observatory. Located in a perfect setting, tours are offered for those wishing to learn more about research in a currently operating observatory. The observatory's staff is known for their friendly and helpful response to any questions.
Explore the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site
Interested in a glimpse of the past? At this fascinating site, over 20,000 individual carvings lay strewn along the rocky terrain. While some carvings, such as the bighorn sheep, the scorpion, the hunter, and the rattlesnake can be easily recognized, some of the other etchings are less decipherable. This attraction is a must-see while visiting Lincoln. To reach the site, after the intersection of US 54 and US 70, follow US 54 for 17.2 miles north until you reach signs for the petroglyphs.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication